[tlhIngan Hol] chan

Will Martin willmartin2 at mac.com
Wed Mar 17 15:36:01 PST 2021

For no obvious reason, today, I’ve been thinking about the difference between the four points of the Earth compass and the three points of the Klingon compass.

It occurs to me that likely humans navigated by the stars long before they noticed that suspended/floating magnets pointed north/south. Likely, for the traveling populations of the northern hemisphere (most of the early navigating humans), the significance of the North Star was noticed because of its stability in the sky regardless of time of night long before anybody had a concept of magnetic North. I’m not sure there is a parallel navigational reference in the southern hemisphere, since I’ve never heard of anything referred to as the South Star.

Likely, once someone noticed that suspended magnets pointed in the same direction, consistently, they probably looked at one magnetic target and didn’t see anything in the sky of any significance, and then looked the other way and said (in whatever native language) the equivalent of “Well, darn. This thing is pointing at the North Star!”

And so, North became the dominant reference point on the compass. It’s natural to come up with the direction the other end of the magnet points to, what we know as “South”. Then there’s the direction the Sun always rises from. Call that “East”. Then there’s the direction the Sun sets in. “West.” While the Sun rising and setting are both reliable navigational aids, one isn’t more significant than the other, but that North Star definitely gives North significance to North on the compass.

Meanwhile, on Qo’noS, maybe they don’t have a North Star or a South Star. Maybe they never noticed that magnets have a subtle tendency to point north/south, or maybe Qo’noS doesn’t have a magnetic field like Earth does, or maybe instead of switching North/South magnetic fields every few million years, it happens with much greater frequency, rendering magnetic compasses less than reliable on Qo'noS.

So, what’s the thing you can rely on to always happen in one direction? The Sun (or whatever they call it) rises in the {chan}. Look toward this {chan}. Standing, facing {chan} look over your left shoulder. That’s {‘ev}. Look over your right shoulder. That’s {tIng}. Why prefer the East over the West as the primary point of the compass?

The human numbering system for time was initially created for use with Sun Dials. Noon was the easiest thing to nail down anywhere, so our system has two 12:00 readings with midnight derived from noon. We arbitrarily set the boundary between one day and the next based on midnight, placing sunrise and sunset equally between noon and midnight. Neither gets greater significance.

Meanwhile, we know that Klingons place the boundary between one day and the next at sunrise.

This suggests a greater significance for sunrise over sunset. They could have just as easily put the boundary at sunset, but they didn’t. Likely, this is because most Klingons probably don’t wake up significantly before sunrise, but most stay awake beyond sunset, so the active part of every day starts closer to sunrise and extends well beyond sunset.

So, sunrise has a higher significance in the measurements of Klingon time, and it would be natural for this to extend to East having a directional significance over West. Sunrise is the time we awaken and arise. Sunset is some vague thing that happens sometime well before we go to sleep. When we awaken, we are well aware of the direction of the Sun. In the evening, we are probably too busy doing stuff to bother noticing the direction of the setting Sun. We surrender to sleep after sunset, and we don’t really like surrendering. Sunrise is when we conquer sleep once again. We might be aware of the direction of sunset as individuals, but collectively, it is the beginning of the day when we unite the face the coming day.

We have no reason to place any importance on 90º from {chan} in either direction. Our early number system was based on three. Standing, facing in one direction, the three most significant directions are straight forward, and what our neck and eyes can scan to the left and right. Likely, Klingon maps show East as “up” or perhaps “down”, if early Klingons recognized that all horizons eventually lead down, and the Eastern Sun is coming from “down”.

If the Klingon emblem (designed by Matt Jefferies, after whom the Jefferies Tubes are named) also functions as compass points, that would suggest that the most significant pointer points up, suggesting that’s where {chan} is on a map, though the emblem doesn’t have equi-angular pointers, so {tIng} would be very close to South, while {‘ev} would be much more West than North, so perhaps the emblem isn’t literally used as a compass rose. It hints at {chan} being up, but this, like most of this argument, is speculative.

A compass becomes useless at the North Pole on Earth, where the North Star is straight up and the compass goes nuts because every direction is South. Similarly, on Qo’noS, on either pole, {chan} varies depending on time of day. On Earth, polar navigation has to abandon the concept of absolute direction, replacing it with direction relative to landmarks. You can’t even use the stars, unless you cross reference that with your watch, or perhaps a GPS might work, if there happens to be at least three low-flying GPS satellites above the horizon.

On Qo’noS, they might develop a time/compass navigational system, on the order of “head East (toward the Sun) at 14:28”, which wouldn’t mean that you’d wait until 14:28 and go toward the Sun, but would mean that you’d head in the direction that the Sun would predictably be whenever 14:28 gets here…

… or maybe Klingons just don’t go to the poles because it’s cold there, and Klingons notoriously detest the cold. If aliens who like cold better than Klingons do land there and set up bases, leave them to it, unless they start heading toward the equator, and if that happens, fumigate with a few photon torpedoes and be done with it. You don’t have to worry about residual radiation because you don’t intend to go there after clearing it of nuisance aliens, and hey, radiation might discourage other alien settlements there, so it’s all good.

charghwI’ ‘utlh
(ghaH, ghaH, -Daj)

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