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A datum is a reference system for specifying positions on the earth's surface Each datum is associated with a particular reference spheroid that can be different in size, orientation and relative position from the spheroids associated with other horizontal datums Positions referred to different datums can differ by several hundred meters

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A worldwide position reference system that may be applied to any map or chart graduated in latitude and longitude (with Greenwich as prime meridian) regardless of projection. It is a method of expressing latitude and longitude in a form suitable for rapid reporting and plotting. Commonly referred to by use of the acronym GEOREF.


The system of coordinates of latitude and longitude used to define the position of a point on the surface of the earth with respect to the reference ellipsoid. of the meridian at a station and the plane of the geodetic meridian at Greenwich. A geodetic longitude differs from the corresponding astronomical longitude by the amount of the prime vertical component of the local deflection of the vertical divided by the cosine of the latitude.


The primary reference direction relative to the earth; the direction indicated by 000° in any system other than relative. True north is the direction of the north geographical pole; magnetic north the direction north as determined by the earth’s magnetic compass; grid north an arbitrary reference direction used with grid navigation.


  1. The vertical angle, at the eye of an observer, between the horizontal and the line of sight to the visible horizon. Altitudes of celestial bodies measured from the visible sea horizon as a reference are too great by the amount of dip. Since dip arises from and varies with the elevation of the eye of the observer above the surface of the earth, the correction for dip is sometimes called HEIGHT OF EYE CORRECTION. Dip is smaller than GEOMETRICAL DIP by the amount of terrestrial refraction. Also called DIP OF THE HORIZON. 2. The angl


A representation, usually on a plane surface, of all or part of the surface of the earth, celestial sphere, or other area; showing relative size and position, according to a given projection, of the features represented. Such a representation intended primarily for navigational use is called a chart. A planimetric map indicates only the horizontal positions of features; a topographic map both horizontal and vertical positions. The pattern on the underside of extensive cloud areas, created by the varying amounts of light reflected from the earth’s surface, is called a sky map. A chart which shows the distribution of meteorological conditions over an area at a given moment may be called a weather map.


A system which uses a standard-scaled grid square, based on a point of origin on a map projection of the earth’s surface in an accurate and consistent manner to permit either position referencing or the computation of direction and distance between grid positions.


A heading in the direction of any of the cardinal points of the compass. cardinal mark An IALA aid to navigation intended to show the location of a danger to navigation based on its position relative to the danger. Its distinguishing features are black double-cone topmarks and black and yellow horizontal bands.


A reference system that permits the designation of the location of a point or an area on a map, photograph, or other graphic in terms of numbers and letters. Also called ALPHANUMERIC GRID.


One of a set of magnitudes defining a point in space. If the point is known to be on a given line, only one coordinate is needed; if on a surface, two are required; if in space, three. Cartesian coordinates define a point relative to two intersecting lines, called AXES. If the axes are perpendicular, the coordinates are rectangular; if not perpendicular, they are oblique coordinates. A three- dimensional system of Cartesian coordinates is called space coordinates. Polar coordinates define a point by its distance and direction from a fixed point called the POLE. Direction is given as the angle between a reference radius vector and a radius vector to the point. If three dimensions are involved, two angles are used to locate the radius vector. Space-polar coordinates define a point on the surface of a sphere by (1) its distance from a fixed point at the center, called the POLE (2) the COLATITUDE or angle between the POLAR AXIS (a reference line through the pole) and the RADIUS VECTOR (a straight line connecting the pole and the point)- and (3) the LONGITUDE or angle between a reference plane through the polar axis and a plane through the radius vector and the polar axis. Spherical coordinates define a point on a sphere or spheroid by its angular distances from a primary great circle and from a reference secondary great circle. Geographical or terrestrial coordinates define a point on the surface of the earth. Celestial coordinates define a point on the celestial sphere. The horizon, celestial equator and the ecliptic systems of celestial coordinates are based on the celestial horizon, celestial equator, and the ecliptic, respectively, as the primary great circle.


The basis for computations of horizontal control surveys in which the curvature of the earth is considered It consists of the astronomical and geodetic latitude and the astronom- ical and geodetic longitude of an initial point (origin); an azimuth of a line from this point; the parameters (radius and flattening) of the reference ellipsoid; and the geoidal separation at the origin. A change in any of these quantities affects every point on the datum. For this reason, while positions within a system are directly and accurately relatable, those points from different datums must be transformed to a common datum for consistency. The horizontal geodetic datum may extend over a continent or be limited to a small area.

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