Being at sea means having no clear place in the world. Faced with the featureless, boundless ocean, early modern mariners learned that living and working in this space required both conceptual and technical labor. Sailors employed practical navigational technologies including compasses, astrolabes, and maps, and also conceptual frameworks such as Providential theology, literary narratives, and the early stages of empirical science. They needed to navigate complex networks of winds and currents, and they also needed to understand the watery depths that buoyed them up.
This website explores the tools English mariners and writers used—from atlases, sextants, and star charts to prayer-books, symbols, and stories—to find themselves on changing oceans.