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Arthur Dickson Colburn

Setting the Right Course

Captain Arthur Dickson Colburn examined a gyrocompass repeater mounted on the deck of the original research vessel Atlantis in the 1950s. The repeater was connected to the main compass inside the vessel. The small black mirror sticking up, called an azimuth circle, helped determine direction—and compass error—using a few hand calculations. It’s something ship captains still do today. “Good to know if course 342 is 342, or actually 349,” said Colburn’s son, AD Colburn III, master of the current research vessel Atlantis since 2007. (Photo courtesy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Archives)

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