fbpx Glossary | LEARNZ


<- Homepage: Navigation from Kupe to Cook to today


A scientist who studies what is beyond planet earth such as planets, moons, stars, galaxies, nebulae, back holes.

atomic clock

Very accurate clock which uses the known properties of certain atoms to record time.

cadastral maps

Maps which show who owns land.


The process of drawing or making maps.


Go all the way around. Often used in sea navigation for going right around the world.

cluster (star cluster)

A star cluster is a group of stars held together by gravity. Matariki is a star cluster, not a constellation.


A distinctive pattern of stars. These stars may form shapes that are recognisable to us here on Earth, they do not usually have any real link to each other, as they are often at different distances from the Earth, and are in fact very far away from each other.


Angular or linear values that give the position of a point on a map.


A set of values used to define a specific geodetic system e.g. MSL - Mean Sea Level.

dead reckoning

The process of calculating your current position by using a known position, or fix, and working out your new position based on known or estimated speeds over the elapsed time and course.


The modern technique used to measure water depth by bouncing sound waves off the sea floor.


The height above mean sea level.


Process of wearing away and transporting of rocks by wind, rain or ice. 


In navigation a fix is a position which is found by using known reference points and measuring from these.


A sport where people use GPS to hide and seek containers called caches or geocaches anywhere in the world.

geographic datum

A datum which is based on the Earth's centre of mass. The advantage of the geocentric datum is its direct compatibility with satellite-based navigation systems such as GPS.


To do with location.

geospatial data

Data or information about the location of specific things.


Global Positioning System - uses the known distance between satellites to calculate exact locations.


Geographic Information Systems - maps that combine sets of information.

hydrographic surveys

A survey which records the physical features of waterways.


The science of measuring and describing the physical features of waterways.


Originating and living or occurring naturally in an area or environment.


Sometimes called triangulation. Where the known angles and distance between points is used to calculate the location of a distant point.


Distance from the equator in degrees, shown as horizontal lines on a map.


Distance east or west from Greenwich, England, in degrees shown as vertical lines on a map.


Sailors - especially to do with navigation.

A star cluster also known as Pleiades or the Seven Sisters which rises in the mid winter night sky and is used to mark the Māori New Year.

nautical charts

Charts or maps of features at sea such as reefs, coastlines, shipping hazards and sometimes water depths and currents.


The process or activity of accurately working out your position and planning and following a route.


An object-detection system that uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects such as aircraft.


Objects which are sent into space to orbit the Earth and send and receive information.


A tool for celestial navigation used to measure the angle between the horizon and a visible object or two objects at sea.

sounding line

A line with a lead weight on the end which is lowered into water to measure the water depth.

star compass
Developed by Polynesian navigators the star compass shows where the stars will rise and set on the celestial equator. Like the Sun, stars rise in the eastern horizon and set in the western horizon. Navigators who know the direction and position in which the stars rise and set can use the horizon as a compass.


People who specialise in making accurate measurements on the surface of the earth to make maps.


An optical instrument used by surveyors to measure angles to give exact locations of distant points.


The shape of the Earth's surface.

topographic map

Shows the shape of the surface, including altitude as well as natural and physical features - sometimes called a contour map.

Transit of Venus

An event that happens less than once every hundred years, when the planet Venus travels between the Earth and the Sun. It was especially important centuries ago because observations helped to work out the distance between the Earth and the Sun and to estimate the size of the Solar System. 


A type of maths that measures the angles and sides of triangles and uses this information and set formula to find the unknown sides and angles. This type of maths can also be used to find the location of distant points.

Tuia 250

In 2019, Aotearoa New Zealand will acknowledge 250 years since the first onshore meetings between Māori and Europeans. 


An activity where people can locate and log interesting locations anywhere in the world.