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Minas Tirith Forums » History of Middle-earth » Compasses?
Author Topic: Compasses?
Andrew of the Guard
Soldier of Gondor
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Hey all,

Does anyone know if compasses exsisted in ME?
thanks,
Andrew

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Earendilyon
Guard of the Citadel
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Dunno. I think everybody used the stars to travel by, especially the Elves, being Starchildren....

PS
The 'if' in your question should be 'whether'.

PPS
I actually posted this answer, just for the sake of the above PS []

[ 08-26-2002, 03:13 PM: Message edited by: Earendilyon ]

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Snöwdog
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Well, there was definite directions...
West - East - North - South

Whether Middle Earth had magnetic properties, and whether any of the races figured out how to make it work for them would have to be considered. I can't say I have come across any mention of these, and so the directions were named and navigated by the stars. Maybe it was the music Lady Varda contributed to the song that brought direction to Middle Earth.

An aside... Wonder if, say, the Numenoreans or the Noldor, wondered where, and how to get to, 'near' Earth, and 'far' Earth?

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Hamfast Gamgee
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That was a good question, asked from many years ago. My guess is that as Tolkien did like a lot of naval things, and as the Navy did use compasses in his time, even from many years before, that compasses, did exist as a navigation tool.
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Snöwdog
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... but is it stated anywhere by him? Not to my knowledge unless I have forgotten.
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Hamfast Gamgee
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Not that I remember, though he does say the Numenoreans were great sailors and navigators. So, it stands to reason that they would have used a compass.
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Snöwdog
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... or the stars and their senses ...
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Hamfast Gamgee
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Yes, and no doubt some of the great Elf ones could navigate on magic alone. But there must have been some sailors that were not necessarily that great, but needed some tool to aid them with, in especial against some of the rough winds and seas of the eastern coasts, and maybe when the Numenoreans were exploring the whole world in the second age and going through uncharted territory.
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Snöwdog
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Speculative though. One could assume they were from what we know of our world.
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Anorgil
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Not every seafaring culture in our history used compasses. I'm pretty sure that the ancient Athenians didn't, and I'm even more sure that the Minoans didn't either. That didn't stop them from building boats and exploring the Mediterranean.

Then, too, there were the natives of the various islands of the Pacific. I would be very surprised if every single one of them knew about compasses before that technology was introduced to them by foreigners.

So it wouldn't surprise me if the Númenoreans didn't either.

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Hamfast Gamgee
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Although the Numenoreans did travel far across the Earth. In some very strange places. Now they were technically far advanced, but most were not actually magical. It would have been very useful to have known were North was when they sailed, obviously, so I think it a fair bet that sometimes compasses were used.
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