Latitude ~ Kamal

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     The Kamal is a device used by Arab navigators to determine latitude. It is a wooden card approximately 2" X 1", with a string with several knots attached through a hole in the middle of the card. It can be used in different ways.
     When a ship was leaving a port to which it intended to return, the navigator would hold string in his teeth, and then hold the card out until the top of the card touched a particular star while the bottom rested on the horizon. He would then tie a knot in the string where it was held in his teeth. To return to the port it was only necessary to use the Kamal to find the latitude and then "sail down" it to the port.
    Another use was more generally to determine latitude. The Kamal  is prepared by typing knots at finger-width intervals in the string. This interval was called issabah in Arabic, and was about 1 36' 25". By placing the bottom of the card on the horizon and the top on a star one could approximate the latitude star by counting the number of knots.

SCN 1943

     The picture on the stamp is incorrect in not placing the bottom of the Kamal on the horizon, which is lower on the stamp than the bottom of the card. In the case shown, the Kamal would be much closer to the user, as in the picture below.

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