The raven, or crow, was an essential part of the Vikings´ navigation equipment. These land-lubbing birds were carried aboard to help the ship´s navigator determine where the closest land lay when weather prevented sighting the shore. In cases of poor visibility, a crow was released and the navigator plotted a course corresponding to the bird´s flight path, because the crow invariably headed towards land.
The Norsemen carried the birds in a cage secured to the top of the mast. Later on, as ships grew and the lookout stood his watch in a tub located high on the main mast, the name "crow´s nest" was given to this tub. While today´s Navy still uses lookouts in addition to radars, etc., the crow´s nest is a thing of the past.
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|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|