Finding your way without a compass. Finding your way without a compass. Normally a well prepared Scout will have a compass and a good map. However in the event of needing to determine direction without a compass, or in an emergency situation a number of techniques can be used….
Normally a well prepared Scout will have a compass and a good map.
However in the event of needing to determine direction without a compass, or in an emergency situation a number of techniques can be used…
Hold the watch horizontally. (this means flat).
Point the hour hand at the sun.
Bisect the angle between the hour hand and the 12 o’clock position on your watch.
This line is north / south. (Remember that the sun is in the east before noon and in the west after noon).
For daylight savings bisect the angle between the hour hand and the 1 o’clock position on your watch.
In the southern hemisphere point the 12 o’clock position on your watch at the sun. (use 1 o’clock if daylight savings).
If its 12 o’clock (1 o’clock for daylight savings) the the sun is south if you are in the northern hemisphere or north if you are in the southern hemisphere. If you are at the equator try later.
If you have a digital watch, draw a watch face with the time on a piece of paper or in the dirt.
Place a stick in the ground at a level spot where it will cast a shadow. Mark the tip of the shadow with a rock or stick.
Wait 10 or 15 minutes until the shadow has moved an inch or so. Mark the tip of the new shadow.
Draw a straight line through the two marks. This gives an approximate east west line. The first mark is west and the second is east.
1 = West
2 = East
This works in the same way everywhere in the world.
An alternate method is more accurate but requires more time.
Set up your shadow stick and mark the first shadow in the morning.
Use a piece of string to draw a clean arc through this mark and around the stick.
In the afternoon, mark the point where the shadow touches the arc again.
Draw a line through the two marks to get an accurate east-west line.
1 = West
2 = East
Many celestial objects (moon, planets, stars) will be found in predictable positions at certain dates and times.
However using these for navigation would require in-depth knowledge.
A simple but very approximate east / west reference at night is:
If the moon rises before the sun has set, the illuminated side will be the west.
If the moon rises after midnight, the illuminated side will be the east.
Polaris (the north star or pole star) is a bright (not the brightest) star that is situated over the north pole.
Polaris forms part of the ‘handle’ of the little dipper or Ursa Minor.
You can only see Polaris when you are in the Northern Hemisphere.
Use the constellations Ursa Major (the big dipper – the great bear) and Cassiopeia to locate Polaris. These constellations rotate counter clockwise around Polaris.
Mentally draw a line from the outer bottom star to the outer top star of the Big Dipper's ‘bucket’. Extend this line about five times the distance between the pointer stars. You will find the North Star.
There is no Pole Star in the Southern Hemisphere.
The Southern Cross constellation can be used to locate South. The Southern Cross has five stars. Its four brightest stars form a cross that tilts to one side.
The two stars that make up the cross's long axis are the pointer stars. To determine south, imagine a distance five times the distance between These stars where this imaginary line ends is in the general direction of south.
Using moss on a tree to indicate north is not accurate. Moss grows completely around some trees. Growth is more lush on the side of the tree facing the south in the Northern Hemisphere and north in the Southern Hemisphere.
If there are several felled trees around for comparison, look at the stumps. Growth is more vigorous on the side toward the equator and the tree growth rings will be more widely spaced. The tree growth rings will be closer together on the side toward the poles.
Improvising a compass:
You can construct improvised compasses using a piece of ferrous (containing Iron) metal such as a needle, and a piece of nonmetallic string or long hair from which to suspend it.
Magnetize the needle by slowly stroking it in one direction on a piece of silk or through your hair using deliberate strokes, or by stroking it repeatedly at one end with a magnet.
If you have a battery and some electric wire, you can polarize the metal electrically. The wire should be insulated. The battery must be a minimum of 2 volts. Form a coil with the electric wire and touch its ends to the battery's terminals. Repeatedly insert one end of the metal object in and out of the coil.
When suspended from a piece of nonmetallic string, or floated on a small piece of wood in water, the needle will align itself north – south.
REMEMBER these techniques usually only give an approximate direction.
To help you find your way, pay attention to your surroundings whenever you are traveling in the back country or wilderness. Being able to locate and recognize landmarks will improve your chances of finding your way safely.
Practicing these techniques when you have a compass handy to verify their accuracy will also help you when you need really need to use them.