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A man in colonial period naval uniform carries a large navigation device in his left hand and a bag under his right arm. In the background is a large body of water, upon which is a vessel.

In the 1700s traditional instruments which helped to guide and track vessels were improved and new ones were invented.

With no land borders, Britain's defence budget flowed mostly to the navy.

Much time and money was spent solving the optical, mathematical, astronomical and practical challenges that had constrained long-distance sea voyaging for centuries.

Right: This 1799 illustration shows a naval officer carrying his octant, an instrument for measuring the angles between celestial bodies that was commonly used by sailors from the 1730s. Courtesy: The Print Collector.

Related link

Artefacts illustrating Captain James Cook's great skill as a navigator have been acquired by the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

Find out more about Captain Cook's navigational instruments

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