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 of the approaching hazards, other ships or land. It was the best device for this purpose until the invention of radar.
In the early 19th century it was simply a barrel or a basket lashed to the tallest mast. Later it became a specially designed platform with protective railing. The barrel crow’s nest was invented in 1807 by the Arctic explorer William Scoresby Sr. A statue in Whitby, North Yorkshire commemorates the event.
The first recorded appearance of the term was in 1807, used to describe William Scoresby'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 crows nest in a tree.
Since the crow's nest is a point far away from the ship's centre of mass, any small 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. The Spanish curse word carajo is derived from the punitive usage of the crow's nest.
In hunting a crow's nest is a blind-like structure where a hunter or a pair of hunters commit themselves to stalking game. A crow's nest is not a normal type of purchaseable blind, but it is an improvised position, built by using locally discovered natural flora (tree branches, moss, snow (during winter) or sand (during summer), etc.). A crow's nest works in most environments and provides a good look-out point (hence the name) when built in an elevated position like a hillside, or top of a hill.
- Joan Druett, "Crows Nest", World of the Written World, February 13, 2011
- gentiuno.com...carajo es la parte más alta de observación de las antiguas carabelas (y que estaba apoyada en la verga, lugar en el que se hallaba Triana, por cierto, el 12 de octubre de 1492. El carajo venía a ser, pues, un sitio de castigo: quien allí era enviado, estaba expuesto a toda clase de calamidades, no solo a la inclemencia del tiempo, sino al punto de mayor movimiento del barco con los consiguientes mareos.[dead link]
- However, this is not at all consistent with the Spanish article.
- A Brief History of the Train
- Media related to crow's nest at Wikimedia Commons