Sailor Speak of the Week – LORAN

Definition

Noun

  • An electronic terrestrial navigation system used for offshore navigation (fixing a ship’s position).

Origin

20th century World War II. An acronym for LOng RAnge Navigation.

Comments

Originally developed during WWII and used by the British and U.S. Navies. Over time, developments in the system led to improvements in accuracy (designated LORAN A, B, and C).

Essentially, it’s a hyperbolic radio navigation system wherein a land-based LORAN station transmits a low-frequency signal which LORAN receivers aboard ships or aircraft can use to determine their position.

In 1958, the U.S. Coast Guard took over operational duties. However, with the rise of the GPS system, the use of LORAN gradually declined and in 2010, both the United States and Canada ceased transmission of LORAN-C.

There has been debate over whether or not to keep the system operational. While LORAN is essentially redundant, many say that it could be a useful backup in the event that our GPS satellites are attacked, fail, or otherwise start falling out of the sky.

References

Rogers, J.G. (1985). Origins of Sea Terms. Mystic, CT: Mystic Seaport Museum.

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