structure in the upper part of the main mast of a ship, used as a lookout point
A crow's nest is a structure in the upper part of the main mast of a ship or a structure that is used as a lookout point.
This position ensured the best view for lookouts to spot approaching hazards, other ships, or land by naked eye or use of a monocular. It was the best device for this purpose until the invention of radar.
It should not be confused with the top, the platform in the upper part of each lower mast of a square-rigged sailing ship.
According to William Scoresby Jr., the crow's nest was invented in the 19th century by his father, William Scoresby Sr., a whaler and also an Arctic explorer. However, Scoresby Sr. may simply have made an improvement on existing designs, and depictions of older ships show similar structures.The first recorded appearance of the term was in 1807, used to describe Scoresby Sr.'s barrel crows nest platform. According to a popular naval legend, the term derives from the practice of Viking sailors, who carried crows or ravens in a cage secured to the top of the mast. 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 the nearest land. However, other naval scholars have found no evidence of the masthead crow cage and suggest the name was coined because Scoresby's lookout platform resembled a crow's nest in a tree.Since the crow's nest is a point far away from the ship's centre of mass, rotational movement of the ship is amplified and could lead to severe seasickness, even in accustomed sailors. Therefore, being sent to the crow's nest was also considered a punishment.
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