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Author Topic: PORTOLANS  (Read 3405 times)
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« on: September 30, 2007, 07:53:30 am »

                                               P O R T O L A N S

Mariners during the 15th century relied on charts called "portolans" to assist them on their voyages. 'Portolan' comes from the Italian word 'portolani', which were medieval pilot books. The portolans contained maps of coastlines, locations of harbors, river mouths, and man-made features visible from the sea. They were a compilation of centuries of seafarer observations.

As sailors' skills improved and the use of the compass was more widespread, portolans improved in accuracy. Also Columbus used these portolans on his journeys. Portuguese chartmakers added the meridian line, a point useful for latitude sailing as well as for navigating solely by compass.

A geographic feature could now be located through the use of its distance in degrees of latitude from a ship's point of departure. Note that the use of latitude and longitude was understood since the time of Ptolemy, the second century CE.

During the fifteenth century Portugal led the European world in sea exploration. The golden age of discovery for Portugal lasted almost a century until the Dutch eventually seized their trade routes from them.
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