– THREE SCOPES
Captain A.M. Knight
Presented is a bronze frame, platinum arc, vintage
three circle “HUSAN” sextant bordering on a quintant by the British instrument
maker, H. Hughes & Son, LTD, London. The instrument was owned by
American Merchant Marine Captain A.M. Knight, Master of the African Pilot from the time he was a third
mate. Its serial number is 40798, and it comes complete with two certificates of inspection.
The first was issued by H. Hughes & Son Ltd on 25/4/44 and the second by Weems Hughes & Plath Navigation Inc. 286
Summer St. Boston, MA on May 18, 1956. Also included are two Farrell Lines baggage cards with A.M. Knights ownership as a
third mate and as captain and the original bill of sale in his name from Kelvin & Wilfrid O. White & Sons, Inc., Boston,
dated March 27, 1950. This is without doubt, the most well documented instrument we have seen.
It has received excellent care over the last 63 years and is in superb condition. All
of the polished brass fittings show their original varnish. The sextant has three telescopes–one of high
power and narrow field of view; the other of low power and wide field of view, and the third which is a sighting tube for
use on terrestrial objects. The telescopes are mounted on an adjustable arm called a rising piece, which allows them to
be moved towards and away from the frame. This is an advanced feature no longer found on contemporary sextants.
The range arc measures from – 5 to plus 130 degrees. It is read by micrometer
drum with a vernier that reads to 10 arc seconds. A quick-release mechanism at the end of the arm engages with worm teeth
cut on the underside of the limb. There is a working swing arm lamp to see the markings at night.
THE RESCUE OPERATION: On Saturday, September 23, 1961 as Hurricane
Esther’s grey clouds covered the sky and in a tumultuous sea, the Bermuda Coast Guard called the S.S. African Pilot to report
a U.S. Navy aircraft had ditched at 35-00 N. Lat and 65-10 W Long. The captain ordered the ship to make speed for that location
and make preparatory action for a rescue at sea. On arrival at the location two empty life rafts were observed, and with the
assistance of a USCG SAR aircraft, three survivors were spotted in the water 700 yards away.
With Force 6 wind speeds and seas of 30 feet, the captain maneuvered the ship to within
40 feet of the three men, creating a safe lee and they were hauled close aboard using heaving lines. One survivor lost
hold and quickly drifted away in what was now increased wind and heavy rain. Ship’s crew went over the side and hauled the
other two survivors aboard. They were Jack M. Dockery, AT 1, USN and LT Jg P.D. Hofstedt, USN the co-pilot of the ditched
It was impossible to recover the third man using the same technique because of the
new sea and wind conditions so that a lifeboat was launched and safely rescued Patrick J. Imhoff, AMS 2, USN who had been
surrounded by sharks at the time of his rescue.
No evidence of the other aircrew was found and the AFRICAN PILOT then headed for Bermuda
where the rescued aircrew were landed.
Complete documentation of this event as
it was re-printed in the U.S. Navy Patrol Squadron 45 Association Newsletter of September, 2003 and a letter from the Farrell
Lines to P.J. Imhof is included with this sextant.
BRIEF HISTORY OF MAKER: Henry Hughes & Sons was founded in
1838 in London as a maker of chronographic and scientific instruments. The firm was incorporated as Henry Hughes & Sons
Ltd in 1903 and in 1923, the company produced its first recording echo sounder. In 1935, a controlling interest in the company
was acquired by S. Smith & Son Ltd resulting in the development of marine and aircraft instruments. Following the London
office’s destruction in the Blitz of 1941, a collaboration was entered into with Kelvin, Bottomley & Baird Ltd, resulting
in the establishing of Marine Instruments Ltd. Following the formal amalgamation of Kelvin, Bottomley & Baird Ltd and
Henry Hughes & Sons Ltd in 1947 to form Kelvin & Hughes Ltd, Marine Instruments Ltd acted as regional agents in the
UK for Kelvin & Hughes Ltd who were essentially now a part of Smith’s Industries Ltd founded in 1944 as the successors
of S. Smith & Son Ltd. The “HUSUN” trademark was
in use starting in the 1920s.
INSTRUMENT CONDITION: Without exception, it is in outstanding
condition with all its metal machinery in exceptional working condition, and only shows next to no wear. The horizon mirror has some minor spotting along the edge separating the clear from the silvered portion and
the index mirror is “as new”.
The index arm clamp works freely, and the micrometer wheel moves as it should.
The shade glasses are complete and in good working order. The wrinkled midnight black bronze frame is in exceptional
condition. The instrument has four shades for its telescopes which are all in excellent condition. The original
adjustment wrench is included. There are two inspection certificates and the original bill of sale. We tested the sextant
and it has no index or side error.
STAR RATING: Everything of the instrument is original
and in good working order and this instrument rates 5 Plus Stars.
THE SEXTANT’S CASE: The sextant is housed in a green felt
lined square case, complete, with a brass handle and a catch on both sides, with lock and key. As strange
as it may seem, these cases were originally configured with the top and bottom made of plywood while the four sides
are the original Mahogany held by hand made dovetails. Its varnish still glistens and there are no age cracks.
SEE MORE PICTURES IN THE GALLERY BELOW
All in all,
a highly desirable and worthwhile example from one of better known English instrument makers.
Telescope 5 x 4 degrees
Telescope 2 1/2 x 7 degrees
Length of index arm 8 3/4″
Width of frame at arc 8 1/2″
Index mirror 30 x 45 mm
Horizon mirror 30 x 35 mm
Instrument weight 3 lbs 4 oz Total weight 8 lbs
OUR QUALIFICATIONS: We are one of the few company’s still selling
navigation instruments that know anything about them. For purposes of judging whether Joel’s opinion counts, he
was the editor of the chapter on sextants of the 1977 Edition of “Bowditch”, The American Practical Navigator, NAVPUB 9; a
member of the U.S. Naval Academy Navigation Symposium Board, 1975 -1978; the author of a book on marine sextants, Cornell
Maritime Press,1975, and the founding president of Nautech Maritime Corporation which partnered with Tamaya of Japan in the
introduction of the MS 733 Spica, the MS 833, Jupiter, MS 933 Venus sextants and the famous NC-2 navigation computer, in the
U.S. market. Joel is also a retired Master Mariner, and held a U.S. Navy “D” Qualification as a Senior Skipper – Oceans. From 1995 through 2000, he served as a Varsity Offshore Sailing Team coach at the U.S. Naval Academy.
Rarely do you find a special instrument with
full documentation owned by a heroic mariner in such remarkable condition. A superior addition to any collection or use it at sea.