A collection of blogs and musings from the people that work at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum - Florida's Finest Lightstation.

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Day of Discovery, Part 2

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LAMP Volunteer Karen Paradiso holding up her latest discovery!

Well, on Tuesday we had quite a day sorting through dredge spoil from the late 1700s Storm Wreck. We thought she was exceptionally lucky to find a coin in her first hour of sorting, on her first day. She must be, because she made another great find today!

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The small brass object that Karen found in our dredge spoil. Within minutes, LAMP archaeologists identified this as a peep sight or sighting pinulla from a navigational device, probably an octant.

Within just a few minutes, Karen turned up an interesting little object apparently made of brass. Pictured above, it was a flat disk with a cylindrical peg protruding from one end. In the center of the disk is a small hole, tapered so that it is conical in cross-section (ie., the hole is wider on one face than it is on the other). She knew this was something of interest, and our first hunch was that it might be a fitting from a navigational device. After just a few minutes of searching on the internet we confirmed this. We believe this little piece is from an octant!

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Here is a mariner's octant dated to between 1750 and 1800 that we think is similar to the one that went down on the Storm Wreck. The arrow points to the single-hole peep sight that appears to be identical to the one we found yesterday.

The octant, or reflecting quadrant, was a navigational instrument developed around 1730. It had many advantages over navigational devices used up to that time by sailors, and by 1780 it along with the sextant had virtually replaced all other devices used for celestial measuring for navigation at sea. The octant allows the user to determine the angle between two objects, such as the horizon and a star, in order to determine one's location at sea. We found some photos of an octant dated 1795 on the Land and Sea Collection webpage. The peep sight we found appears to be identical to the one featured on this octant, which has been dated to the second half of the 18th century.

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Two detailed views of the mariner's octant pictured above, with the arrows pointing to the single-holed peep sight or sighting pinnula similar to the one from the Storm Wreck.

Click here to read more about the history and use of the octant.


Click here to read more about the Storm Wreck.

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