3 Replies Latest reply on Nov 25, 2018 8:17 PM by James Waddell

    Navy sextant log books - how to search their location from before 1940?


      Hello!  I am new to researching naval records and have tried to search the National Archives but need some help.

      I am looking for log books listing sextant serial numbers from before 1940.


      Thank you for any direction you can offer.


      Julie O

        • Re: Navy sextant log books - how to search their location from before 1940?

          Ms. Oakley-Jagger,


          There are a couple of records in which U.S. Navy navigators and quartermaster mates (QMs) could have recorded the serial numbers of the marine sextants they used for celestial navigation.  One source could be what was called the star sight book (I found that in an old copy of All Hands magazine (https://www.navy.mil/ah_online/archpdf/ah196102.pdf ).  Another source could be an equipage log or inventory that was maintained for all bridge equipment by the QMs (items such as binoculars, optical rangefinders, dead reckoning tracers, and so on).


          Unfortunately the Navy considers such publications as temporary records.  According to the Navy's SECNAVINST 5212.5C Change 5 (admittedly an older version, but it captures the Navy's historic treatment of these records), records that fall under Standard Subject Identification Code (SSIC) 3531 (Aids to Navigation Records) says this for "CHARTS, OCEANOGRAPHIC OFFICE PUBLICATIONS, NOTICE TO MARINERS, ETC., AT SHORE ACTIVITIES, ON BOARD SHIPS, AIRCRAFT SQUADRONS, AND OPERATIONAL STAFFS. Destroy when obsolete, superceded, or no longer needed for reference.


          The notation under SSIC 9400 (Command Surveillance (Shipboard Installation) Records includes records pertaining specifically to "non-electrical and non-electronic navigation aids" states "Destroy when 10 years old."


          I'm sorry we were not able to get you the information you were looking for.  The only suggestion I can make to you is to contact maritime museums, especially the smaller local ones.  They sometimes accession the memorabilia of local veterans, and sailors have been known to walk off ships with government property in tow...  Perhaps an old QM left a boon with a local museum.

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          • Re: Navy sextant log books - how to search their location from before 1940?

            Ms. Oakley-Jagger,

            I'm not sure whether you are just looking for a list of sextant serial numbers for US Navy sextants or something with more data than just the serial number.  I'm a collector of US Navy sextants and I've developed a database of sextant serial numbers.  Most of my data relates to the USN Mark II sextant which was produced from 1938-1945 (and which you probably have no interest in), but I have some serial number data for earlier Brandis, Buff & Buff, Keuffel & Esser and some other sextant manufacturers.


            I would also suggest two other sources.  The US Naval Observatory inspected and collimated all US Navy sextants through WWII.  I don't know what records of their inspections still exist, but if any do, it might be helpful.  Also, there is a blog called "The Ghost of Gardner Island" (gardnerghost.blogspot.com) that is devoted to solving the Amelia Earhart mystery.  Much effort has been put into figuring out whether a sextant box found of Gardner Island was a US Navy sextant used by Earhart's navigator - which has led to some data compilation of 1920's & 1930's vintage sextants.  Here's a good link, although you'll have to scroll down towards the bottom to see the chart of sextant numbers.  http://gardnerghost.blogspot.com/2017/12/brandis-sextant-taxonomy-part-six-us.html  Some other blog entries cover their efforts to identify serial numbers which may help you know what's available.


            Let me know what kind of data you are looking for and I can let you know if I have anything that would help you.


            Jim Waddell

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