The Lost Art (& Science?) Of Nauscopy

Kingsize Wombat

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by Brent Swancer September 4, 2019

Our story revolves around a man by the name of Étienne Bottineau, who in the 1700s was stationed on the island of Mauritius with the French East India Company. He was mostly just a minor member and engineer, and there was not much special about him if it were not for a remarkable and very unusual skill that he claimed to have developed, which he called nauscopy. This talent consisted of being able to predict the appearance of ships far from shore merely by looking at the horizon line, and not only could he allegedly accurately tell how many ships would arrive, but when they would appear, how far apart they were, and even how large they would be, and such was his ability that it is said he could see these ships coming from up to 900 miles from shore. It was all rather remarkable, especially since he needed no special equipment, just his own two eyes, and as this was an era before radar or powerful telescopes he began making a name for himself based on this strange ability.

Although he was loathe to tell anyone exactly how he did it, Bottineau would eventually explain the basic concept and how he had developed it, saying:

It appeared to me that a vessel approaching land must produce a certain effect upon the atmosphere, and cause the approach to be discovered by a practised eye even before the vessel itself was visible. Each boat produces “emanations” in the ocean. These emanations affect the transparency of the atmosphere. Therefore, meteorical effects are produced on the horizon and they can be seen and read by all men who know how.​
After making many observations, I thought I could discover a particular appearance before the vessel came in sight: sometimes I was right, but more frequently wrong; so that at the time I gave up all hope of success. In 1764, I was appointed to a situation in the Île de France: while there, having much leisure time, I again betook myself of my favorite observation. The clear sky and pure atmosphere, at certain periods of the day, were favorable to my studies, and as fewer vessels came to the island, I was less liable to error than was the case off the coast of France, where vessels are continually passing. I had not been six months upon the island when I became confident that my discovery was certain.​

He traveled to France to try and work out a deal to this effect with the Ministry of Marine in 1784, but this did not pan out, and with the coming of the French Revolution Bottineau packed his bags and went back to Mauritius empty handed. There he would spend the remainder of his days continuing with his predictions and even allegedly teaching some lucky few how he did it, but it is largely thought that the secret to nauscopy died with him in 1802, as he never did release a full explanation of how it all worked.

Full story here: https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2019...ienne-bottineau-and-the-lost-art-of-nauscopy/

This could be easily dismissed as a hoax, if he hadn't been so demonstrably successful with it.

Could be a case of remote viewing, I suppose (if I believed in that, which I don't, really).
 
I was sure we had a thread on this, especially since a seafarer was once our busiest poster but the only Bottineau reference I could find was about the town, though in a thread about pre-Columbian anomalies!

I think the above article draws heavily on Rupert T. Gould, who has a chapter on "The Wizard of Mauritius" and Nauscopy in his book Oddities. :cooll:

Edit: Original post assumed Bottineau was a man and the pre-Columbian thread was about navigation. Corrected below!
 
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I was sure we had a thread on this, especially since a seafarer was once our busiest poster but the only Bottineau reference I could find was another man, curiously in a thread about navigation pre-Columbus! ...

It wasn't another person ... Here's the passage:

Moving the smaller rock back to its original hill was a project supervised and carried out by Edward A. Milligan, Bottineau, then president of the State Historical Society.

https://forums.forteana.org/index.p...sailed-the-ocean-blue.6731/page-6#post-451060

Note the commas ...

The news article from which this comes is discussing alleged PreColumbian rock carvings in North Dakota. Bottineau is a town in North Dakota.
 
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Some free-range speculation seems fitting, here.

How much further notice of a tall-ship's presence would a fata morgana effect give?

Or St Elmo's fire? (he appeared to be correct as to numbers-of-masts)

Intriguing as to how this (in a sense, I stress) supports the improvable undemonstrabilities of flat earth proponents (cf the numerous Youtube video showing a blank horizon, thereafter super-zoomed, revealing a hidded ship upon a 'flat uncurved ocean'.

Back to basics.....using a Snell-style relative scale, how much further can someone with the most superb visual accuity see, compared with an average viewer? This is a perfectly-reasonable (yet curiously iconoclastic) question

ps why can I not tell from the references whether he could name the ships, at a distance, or not...?
 
... How much further notice of a tall-ship's presence would a fata morgana effect give?

A fata morgana is a particular case of a superior mirage in which the image is typically distorted in some fashion. Fata morgana mirages are also dynamic - shifting in size, appearing / disappearing, etc.

Given Bottineau's reputed accuracy, it seems to me a basic superior mirage is a more likely candidate explanation for observations that would cue him to approaching ships from beyond the horizon.

Both a general superior mirage and the more particular / rare fata morgana require a temperature inversion (warmer air over cooler air). If conditions consistently such an inversion Bottineau may well have been an astute observer of recurrent mirages seen from Mauritius.

However ... The degree of refraction induced at the inverted atmospheric layers boundary / boundaries' is dependent on the temperature gradient or difference between the layers. Unless the local conditions were stable enough to yield a consistent such gradient out at sea there'd be little or no way to judge the approximate distance of the object(s) being seen in / as the mirages.

The degree of refraction can vary, causing the mirage to appear higher or lower on the horizon. If the temperature gradient / difference were very consistent this might eliminate temperature as a variable and allow reasonable correlation of mirage height with an estimate of distance past the horizon. The higher the image loomed above the horizon, the farther away the object it represents would be.

I suppose the issue most likely to illuminate possibilities would be to evaluate the Mauritius region for recurrent temperature inversion conditions combined with relatively stable gradients / differences for the inversions themselves.,


Or St Elmo's fire? (he appeared to be correct as to numbers-of-masts) ...?

I don't see how St. Elmo's Fire could instigate an over-the-horizon mirage, though I suppose a sufficiently intense St. Elmo's Fire presentation could be visible as part of a superior mirage.
 
I suppose the issue most likely to illuminate possibilities would be to evaluate the Mauritius region
What about the possibility that he genuinely had super-acute vision? Does that actually exist, outwith the pages of superheroes? (I just mean by this, how much better than average can a unique individual see? Could he perhaps actually discern objects that to others were truly non-visible?)
 
What about the possibility that he genuinely had super-acute vision? Does that actually exist, outwith the pages of superheroes? (I just mean by this, how much better than average can a unique individual see? Could he perhaps actually discern objects that to others were truly non-visible?)

Simplistically put ...

There's visual acuity (precision of discrimination within one's visual field) and then there's the limitations of one's visual range.

A visible object's appearance shrinks with distance, per the basic laws of optics. At some distance a viewer ceases to be able to discriminate the object as an object because its size within the viewer's visual field is simply too small. For all intents and purposes this renders the distant object "invisible."

The distance at which this faux invisibility occurs depends upon the object's size, so it need not correlate with the horizon's distance in any way.

However, a horizon imposes a limit on visual range by occluding whatever lies beyond it.

There may well be variations in distance vision owing to variations in eye "apparatus", but there's no such thing as "telescopic vision" in the sense of an innate capacity for seeing objects far more distant than anyone else can discern at all.

It requires additional refractive effects (i.e., "lensing") to extend the visual range. With telescopes (etc.) this additional lensing is provided by the lens(-es). In superior mirages there's also "lensing" magnifying the apparent size of distant objects, provided by the atmosphere rather than polished glass.
 
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