Marvin Creamer, a Mariner Who Sailed Like the Ancients, Dies at 104 – The New York Times:
“Under cloud-massed skies, he could divine his location from the color and temperature of the water, the presence of particular birds and insects and even, on one occasion, the song of a squeaky hatch.
Skills like these, he long maintained, had let the master mariners of antiquity answer the seafarer’s ever-present, life-or-death question — Where am I? — and in so doing sail safely round the world.”
“It is believed that we rounded the Horn at noon yesterday and have amended our longitude accordingly. We were not able to sight any landmarks so have based our conclusion on (1) the presence of an extremely cold north wind of relatively short duration, and (2) the change of water color from blue to a fairly dark, transparent green to a lighter, less transparent green and back to a quite dark transparent green as we proceeded from west to east at an estimated latitude of 56°55’.”
On one occasion they sat, becalmed, bothered and bewildered, until his geographer’s ears came to their aid. As the wind started up again, a crew member happened to open a hatch. It emitted a loud squeak.
That sound told Professor Creamer unequivocally in which direction the boat was facing: Only dry air from the Antarctic, he knew, would have caused it. Moist air from the opposite direction would have lubricated the hatch, yielding a more congenial noise.
On May 13, 1984, as the Globe Star negotiated the Atlantic, the crew received a visit from a housefly. They recognized it at once as a humble emissary from land. Sure enough, they arrived back at Cape May four days later.