Crow’s Nest

crowWhat is a Crow’s Nest and what is the origin.

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Thanks Anthony, Richard and Jacquie – Your answers are right on.

Military history says that “the crow (the bird, not the rating badge) was an essential part of the early sailors’ navigation equipment. These land-lubbing fowl were carried on board to help the navigator determine where the closest land lay when the weather prevented sighting the shore visually. In cases of poor visibility, a crow was released and the navigator plotted a course that corresponded to the bird’s because it invariably headed toward land.”

“The crow’s nest was situated high in the main mast where the look-out stood his watch. Often, he shared this lofty perch with a crow or two since the crows’ cages were kept there: hence the “crow’s nest”.

It has also been said that the term “As the crow flies” came from British coastal vessels that customarily carried a cage of crows. Crows detest large expanses of water and head, as straight as a crow flies, towards the nearest land if released at sea – very useful if you were unsure of the nearest land when sailing in foggy waters before the days of radar. The lookout perch on sailing vessels thus became known as the crow’s nest.


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