The Science behind Wndsn Telemeters

Kamal, nomography, and slide rules.

Inspired by the medieval Kamal, a celestial navigation tool that greatly facilitated latitude sailing, as well as nomography, an almost lost art and science invented in the late 19th century to provide engineers with fast graphical calculations of complicated formulas, and adding an important slide rule principle, the Wndsn Telemeter combines all three techniques in an easy to use and handy distance measuring device.


1. Kamal

The Wndsn Telemeters take the principle of the Kamal and turn it around, adding a precision scale to the device itself and measuring distances in the sky like one would with a ruler on a map. The string length ensures the correct distance from the eye of the observer and can be further manipulated to measure larger distances or objects. The values measured are the angular size and can thus be converted to the distance to the objects, knowing the actual dimensions.

The Kamal originated with Arab navigators of the late 9th century, and was employed in the Indian Ocean from the 10th century. It was adopted by Indian navigators soon after, and then adopted by Chinese navigators some time before the 16th century.

The Kamal consists of a rectangular wooden card about 2 by 1 inch (5.1 by 2.5 cm), to which a string with several equally spaced knots is attached through a hole in the middle of the card. The Kamal is used by placing one end of the string in the teeth while the other end is held away from the body roughly parallel to the ground. The card is then moved along the string, positioned so the lower edge is even with the horizon, and the upper edge is occluding a target star, typically Polaris because its angle to the horizon does not change with longitude or time. The angle can then be measured by counting the number of knots from the teeth to the card, or a particular knot can be tied into the string if travelling to a known latitude. (Wikipedia)

Wndsn Telemeter in action

The Wndsn Telemeter in action.

Wndsn Telemeter setup

The Wndsn Telemeter setup.

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