History of Maritime

Questions relating to the use of oceans and seas for transportation, food, and warfare.

6,337 Questions
History of Maritime
Tattoos and Body Art

What is the history of the nautical star?

Nautical Star HistoryNautical stars were first tattooed on early sailors because they relied on the stars to find their way, therefore they always had a star to be with them and always knew where they were going in their own lives and at sea. It was kind of a sense of security and guidance.

Here is more input:

  • I believe the design you are all talking about is the traditional design for the face of a ship's compass. The 4 longest points indicate the cardinal directions, N, S, E & W. Between these are shorter points for NE, SE, SW, and NW. 8 additional points indicate NNE, ENE, etc.
  • People who have nautical star tattoos have said it is: a symbol to follow your dreams, a remembrance star, something to let everyone know that you rely on the stars to guide you in the specific path you choose, or representing love.
  • Back in the day when being gay wasnt the thing to do, butch females would get the tattoo on the inside of their wrists so they could cover it up with a watch during the day and at night they could take off the watch and other dykes would know.
  • The bit about the nautical star being used as a signal for butch lesbians to find other lesbians in the 40's-60's is true. It fell out of favor in the late 60's with the advent of feminism, when lesbians became more openly visible. It was typically hidden under a watchband.
  • It was used for navigation back in the day now people say its for sense of direction in your life it has nothing to do with anarchy or the pentogram and whoever said that they are an "avid" punk rocker needs to smack themselves very hard in the face.
  • Back in the day the sailors had it tattooed on them, much like they would an anchor. The nautical star is a symbol of guidance. The sailors rely on the stars for navigation, hence "follow the stars." Nowadays, people like to say "follow your dreams."
  • First of all the star represents navigation in the Navy. That is where its original meaning came from. Now days it is a representation of OC = Orange County, CA. Straight edge is a black X not a Nautical Star and straight edge ended along time ago here in Huntington Beach, CA. The gang anyways. Alot of people still say they are straight edge (followers) meaning that they do not do drugs, smoke or have sex. Not that they are in a gang. I also had a Mexican guy come up to me in Santa Ana and ask me where I did 2 years at. I have 2 nautical stars on my shoulders since 1995 not 2000 when MTV put them out and they became trendy so I assume in the Mexican community that it represents doing 1 year for each star. I do not know about the whole lesbian thing. That sounds like a gimmick. I believe dykes have Dolphins tatted on them not stars.
  • The nautical star may be a fad, however there is a real reason it was created to mean what it does. Regardless, it doesn't matter what it really means now, right? Sailors apparently started it, then only lesbians got them, the emo kida had 'em circa 1985, then it went out of fashion, blah blah blah. I have 2 1.5 inch black and dark pink stars tattooed on my lower stomach, on both sides of my hips. I got them because I had a wristband with the exact star on it for about 2 years, and it was my favorite. I love stars too! Don't get me wrong, I'm not a lesbian, I'm not a sailor, and I'm not a hardcore punk chick. I'm not straight edge either. You can compare and contrast the real meaning of the nautical maritime star, but I believe there is no real meaning. Just like the swactica, the cross, and even the middle finger. They were all started somehow, sometime, no one knows for sure. It all comes down to personal interpretation. Whatever you feel is right.
History of Maritime
Tattoos and Body Art
US Navy History and Traditions

What were traditional nautical tattoos and piercings sailors got and why?

Traditional Tattoos and PiercingsI believe that tattoos originated after James Cooke first arrived on Tahiti. Tattooing was very popular in the South Pacific. Fletcher Christian and George Stewart of Mutiny on the Bounty fame both had stars tattooed on the left of their chests. Perhaps these were early Nautical Stars.

FAQ Farmers have offered these:

  • Sailors got their ears pierced because it helps improve eyesight (I think its an acupuncture site).
  • A black pearl earring for survivors of a sinking ship .
  • Golden earrings were used as a means of ensuring they were buried properly should they die at sea or in a foreign port.
  • In modern times a brass earring denoted a survivor of a ship sinking.
  • One left ear piercing for crossing each of the Equator, Artic Circle, and Antarctic Circle.
  • Earrings were thought to keep spirits from entering through the ear, but that's not a purely sailor thing.
  • A sparrow for every 5000 thousand nautical miles traveled,.
  • A sailor would get a swallow tattoo for every 5000 miles he had sailed.
  • A swallow because it will always find its way home.
  • A rooster and pig on the ankles are to prevent a sailor from drowning.
  • The pig and the rooster are tattooed on either the calves or the top of the feet, to prevent a sailor from drowning,. These animals were originally carried on most ships in wooden crates. When a ship goes down these crates would float and then catch currents and wash ashore with the other debris from the ship, making the pigs and roosters often the only souls to survive a shipwreck.
  • A tattoo of a pig on the left knee and a rooster (cock) on the right foot signified "Pig on the knee, safety at sea. A cock on the right, never lose a fight."
  • Tattoos of pigs and chickens were to make sure they always had their ham and eggs so that they never go hungry.
  • A turtle standing on its back legs (shellback) for crossing the equator and being initiated into King Neptune�s Court.
  • A tattoo of King Neptune if you crossed the Equator.
  • Crossed anchors on the web between the thumb and index finger for a bosn�s mate.
  • Royal Navy tattoos of palm trees for the Mediterranean cruises in WWII.
  • Many US sailors have a palm tree or hula girl from Hawaii.
  • The words HOLD and FAST were tattooed on the knuckles to help hold line.
  • Hold Fast across the knuckles to keep them from falling overboard or dropping a line.
  • Anchor tattoo for sailing the Atlantic.
  • Full rigged ship for sailing around Cape Horn.
  • Dragon Tattoo for a sailor who had sailed into port in China
  • A Golden Dragon was for sailors who had crossed the International Date Line.
  • Rope around the wrist for being a dockhand.
  • Two stars to ensure always knowing the way.
  • The anchor usually noted that the sailor was in the merchant marine.
  • Guns or crossed cannon for military naval service.
  • Harpoons for the fishing fleet.
  • Crosses on the soles of one's feet to ward off hungry sharks.
  • A nautical star, or compass rose was to always find your way home.
  • A dagger through a rose signified a willingness to fight and kill even something as fragile as a rose.
  • Many sailors also got pornographic images so that they would always have them with them.

I have a very old book c.1910 where an old sailor be moans the end of the sailors tattoo, yea right. he expounds that. " on the forearm the ports you've visited. on the wrist 'bracelets' on the upper arm the girls name or initials. on the lower leg the initials of all the girls you've 'had'." The "MOM" tattoo became popular during WWII as well as the "death before dishonour" dagger piercing the skin. but that's with the USN in the Royal Navy, and presumably the Commonwealth navies,this is my info; full rigged ship (on the back very large) for rounding the horn (cape horn), The anchor (fouled or not) for service in the Atlantic. All remaining tattoos except since 1970 are in this discussion. Many 'modern' sailors have put tattoos of their specility or of the distinctive badge they had earned. like having crossed hammers with wings for aircraft carrier mechanics, or the divers helmet for a diver,etc. As for crossing the line. None of us Shellbacks want to repete this trial! You get a card. but some of us wisely have the longitude and date as well as ship on our upper leg. So if we ever get mistaken for a pollywog we can "show a leg" (naval term for 'get up out of bed!'.). 119deg 6min 54sec East USS SAMUEL GOMPERS 19 SEP 1991

History of Maritime

What day did the Titanic sink?

The Titanic sunk on Monday, April 15th, 1912, at 2:20am.

History of Maritime

What’s the oldest shipwreck ever found?

In 2017, the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project discovered a wrecked Greek merchant ship from 400 B.C. The 2,400-year-old ship rests just over a mile deep in the Black Sea. Due to the lack of oxygen at that depth, the ship is remarkably well preserved for its age. Previously, researchers said, ships like it had only been seen in ancient Greek art.

History of Maritime
War and Military History

What was the pirates telescope called?

A spyglass

History of Maritime
Tattoos and Body Art
Pop Music

Why do all the new Rockabilly Girls have tattoos of swallows nautical stars and cherries?

Rockabilly Girls' Tattoos

Simply, it's right for the era. Tattoo imagery has changed a great deal over the last couple of decades, designs such as those you mentioned were fairly popular during that time period as they were simple to do, looked good and held up well in the long run. A good source for the imagery is anything to do with Sailor Jerry - his work is becoming trendy now and is readily available in stores and online (also would like to note that within certain groups all of those designs had meanings as well, most of which are completely ignored today).

Here are more opinions and answers from other FAQ Farmers:

  • The idea of Rockabilly held a lot of significance in the Old Sailor Jerry days. More so though, I believe they think they are sailor girls. The swallows are from a few meanings for sailors, being close to home when you see swallows off the coast and they got them for every 2000 miles at sea.
  • Tattoos are a bad idea, if it's just a trend. I suspect a high percentage of the whoevers with "rockabilly" tattoos are just being trendy or to fit in. Either way, the rockabilly tattoos look WAY the hell better than tribal ones or barbed wire and the ones who get it for real (NOT trendy) rock.
  • I agree with the other answers 100%, but I also got mine because of Psalm 102:7. "You'll never find a sparrow alone except for when in mourning or it's lost its way" which is where I'm at in my life.
  • I don't agree with any of that. Swallows, cherries, and nautical symbols are trends because they are the "old school" style of tattoos. Since there are people who choose the rockabilly lifestyle, they choose tattoos that are old school because rockabilly is old school. It's difficult for people to understand if they don't follow the culture. People who get old school tats, yet have no idea of the stories or lore behind them are ridiculous.
  • i dig the punk and rockabilly scene, and i do see a lot of people with the swallows tattoos, and yeah i have them myself, not because of the scene, but because my family's name is swallows, i love my family and i love my ink.
  • Simply: It's trendy. In the 90's everyone was getting barbed wire armbands and butterflies on their ankles. Now everyone is getting cupcake tattoos and retro-style anchors/swallows/nautical stars. You can try to attach some sort of meaning to it but it all comes down to the current trends.
History of Maritime
Tattoos and Body Art
Symbolism and Symbolic Meanings

What is the symbolism of a nautical star tattoo?

The nautical star symbolizes "finding one's way". It shall help you find your own path in life.


The symbolism of the nautical star does not mean to find your own path in life. I can see how people might think that and it sounds OK I guess. The real symbolism of the nautical star comes from sailors when cellestial navigation, with cellestial charts, first started being used. Nautical star tattoos, only two, were place on your chest. They were there to help guide you on your way back home and, the main reason, to make sure that you would never be lost at sea. The reason for this is because it takes two stars to plot a course and get a fixed postition, which is also combined with the sun line also. You do this with a sexton, its called "SHOOTING THE STARS". Well I hope that this right answer helped everyone out who wants to know. If anyone has any other questions about the symbology of MARINER TATTOOS or just wants to know about other superstitious sailor tattoos just hit me up, I know a lot about it. I'd be glad to help. Also I am a Merchant Mariner with a 1600 TON OCEANS MASTER LICENSE.

Ancient History
History of Maritime
History of China
Explorers and Expeditions

What lands did Zheng He visit?

Zheng He's fleets visited Arabia, Brunei, East Africa, India, Maritime Southeast Asia and Thailand during his seven voyages of exploration.

History, Politics & Society
History of Maritime

Was Jesse bell's compass sabotage?


History of Maritime

Who is father of ratios?

That would be Euclid.

History of Maritime
Internet Slang

What does standard shipping means?

It usually means the cheapest and slowest way to ship such as parcel post.

History of Maritime

What hardships did sailors face in the 1500s?

Being shanghaid, being flogged, being keel-hauled, being starved, dying of scurvy or other ailments, and... the harsh language of their "superior" officers.

History of Maritime
US Navy

What does CEC stand for on ships names?

CEC stands for Cooperative Engagement Capability, which is a newer concept in pooling shipboard sensor inputs and resources aboard Navy vessels.

History of Maritime

Is Vikings a common or proper noun?


History of Maritime
Large Ships

Which ship has the largest bulbous bow?

Queen Mary 2

World War 2
History of Maritime
Military Equipment

Name of any famous aircraft carrier?

USS Enterprise, USS Lexington, USS Saratoga, HMS Ark Royal, USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, USS Hornet, USS Yorktown, USS Essex, USS Nimitz,USS Ronald Reagan, and many others.

History of Maritime

What dangers did the vikings face?

They faced the danger of the open sea, countries that they had invaded and made enemies with.

History of Maritime

Who was Edmund Fitzgerald of the ships namesake?

He was the Chairman of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co at the time the ship was launched. Northwestern Mutual was the owner of the ship.

History of Maritime

Where did the Titanic sail from?

British luxury passenger liner that sank on April 15, 1912, on route to New York from Southampton, England, on its maiden voyage.

History of Maritime
Tattoos and Body Art

Why is the nautical star now associated with mainstream 'punk'?

Several FAQ Farmers? Opinions
  • The nautical star is associated with punk because they have adopted it to stand for unity. Like checkers, it has the two alternating colors meaning racial unity and tolerance.
  • It could be that punks, and alter-natives in general, just dig sailor stuff. Maybe most of them don't know why the want it, maybe they just see it and like it.
  • Everybody throughout history has been imitating everybody else, maybe changing things just a little with each iteration and that's what pop-culture does. It consumes and regurgitates - sometimes in unique recombinant ways, sometimes not.
  • We like the nautical star for many reasons they might be as simple as we just like how it looks, or it could be as complicated or as in depth as some of us like it because it does stand for unity.
  • The star with its opposite colors represents the controversial attitude in the punk scene pretty well.

I am an Anarchist, and I always thought the nautical star was a symbol of communism. It goes back to Che Guevara, a revolutionary who with Fidel Castro and 17 men took over the Cuban Gov. Then with the help of the Soviet Union had created the Cuban missle crisis. Which in a Punk/Anarchist mind communist or socialist gov = one social class... no rich or poor is what we dream of and Che and Fidel almost did this world wide if only the soviets would not have backed down and took their missles back. The most famous picture of Che Guevara clearly shows the Nautical Star on his hat...Maybe to give him strength and guidance? Have a look!

It started showing up in punk culture right around the time when traditional tattooing started getting popular in the mid 90's. It was a common image in early American tattoing, and much like the anchor, or swallow tattoos, it just kind of got ripped off by punk (read pop) culture.

History of Maritime

What is the 'Order of the Rock' certificate?

They certify that the individual has passed through the Straits of Gibralter on a US Naval vessel. See also: * Plank Owner * Shellback * Emerald Shellback * Golden Shellback * Blue Nose * Red Nose * Realm of the Czars * Golden Dragon * Order of Magellan * Order of the Ditch * Order of the Sand Sailor * Safari to Suez.

History of England
History of Maritime

How many ships had Captain Edward John Smith been captain of?


History of Maritime

Where did the Titanic set sail from on its first voyage?

The Titanic set sail April 10, 1912 from Southampton, England on its maiden voyage to New York.

History of Maritime

Did the captain of Titanic 2 survive?

Well, the captain of the Titanic Edward John Smith sadly did not survive, and as I heard his body was not been found.

History of Maritime
Mughal Empire
Delhi Sultanate

Who defeated Sultan Ibrahim Lodi in the Battle of Panipat?

Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur, a descendant of Timur, defeated Ibrahim Lodi in the First Battle of Panipat and established the Mughal Empire in India (1526).


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