Beyond the protocols of the ship's log

Nagivation beyond the ship’s log; a bodily capacity, a ‘bricolage of senses and skills.’

#navigation #senses #skill #colour #technology

Struck by this passage from an article on Dominican spearfishers’ experiences of colour perception and environmental change, by anthropologist Kyrstin Mallon Andrews:

Navigation depends on a bricolage of senses and skills. Luis, who must normally find rocks, reefs, and banks from the surface of the water as he swims, looks to points of relation on land: bearings. Yohán, who worked for decades as the captain of a fishing boat, reads colours on the surface of the water that reflect characteristics of the seafloor. Navigation occurs relative to the bodies of the navigators, but the means of navigation itself (bearings, GPS, colour) are also relative to the conditions afforded by the sea and atmosphere. Blue water allows Yohán to navigate using colour gradients; proximity to the shore allows Luis to use bearings; while dirty water and bad weather would require both Luis and Yohán to fall back on the GPS.

— Kyrstin Mallon Andrews

A sharp but welcome reminder of navigation beyond the protocols of the ship’s log. In Mallon Andrews’ words, this is navigation as ‘a bricolage of senses and skills’ — an ineluctably bodily capacity, a cobbling-together, (presumably) something not easily shared.


Mallon Andrews, K. (2023). The colour of seawater: Colour perception and environmental change in Dominican seascapes. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 3 July 2023. 🔓