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October 9, 2009

Finding Your Way

You should be able to read a compass and a map, but in a survival situation you may not have either.  In these situations you must turn to the two things that our ancestors used, the sun and the stars.  To find direction when the Sun is shining, the rule of thumb is that the Sun rises in the East and sets in the West, and at midday in the Northern Hemisphere the Sun will be roughly South.  The following are ways which are fun to use and with practice can be quite accurate.

Shadow Stick

Method 1:  Find a flat piece of ground.  Find a stick about 12” to 1 yard long and stick or hold it upright in the ground.  Mark the tip of the shadow with a stick or stone, wait about 30 minutes and do the same again.  A line drawn between the two points will run from West to East, with the first point being West.

Method 2:  This method will take you longer but will be more accurate.  Mark your first shadow tip as in (A) in the morning.  Now draw an arc at the distance from the stick to the shadow tip, using the stick as the center point in the afternoon, mark the exact spot where the shadow touches the arc.  Now join the two points to give the West to East line, with the morning point being West.

Using the Stars

In the Northern Hemisphere, the best signpost is the Plow (Plough), by following a line through the two outside stars you will find the North Star (Polaris).  In the Southern Hemisphere, the best signpost is The Southern Cross (Crux).  This constellation is not as easy to use or to find as the line Plough, but it is four bright stars in the shape of a cross (don't use the False Cross to its right which has dimmer stars set further apart).  Take a line down the cross and also a line down the two bright stars on its left - where these two lines cross is South.

Using an Analog Watch

Using an analog watch for finding direction can only be used if the watch is set to standard time (with no daylight saving).  In the Northern hemisphere, hold the watch flat and point the hour hand towards the Sun.  Now bisect the angle between the hour hand and the 12 on your watch to give you a North-South line.


In the Southern Hemisphere, hold the watch dial and point the number 12 towards the sun.  The line that bisects the angle between the hour hand and the 12 is the North-South line.  Note that this method will become less accurate the nearer you are to the equator. 

Making your Own Compass

This will require a needle and a magnet.  Stroke the needle in one direction from it's eye to it's point with the magnet, about 25 times.  Suspend the needle by a thread half-way along its length and the point of the needle will point North.

A another way is to fill a bowl with water and float the needle on a piece of leaf or piece of paper.

Using the Moon

The moon has no light on its own.  We all know that.  It reflects the light that comes off the sun.  As it orbits the earth over 28 days, the shape of the moon changes.  Why is that?  Because the shape changes based on the shape of the light reflected according to its position in respect to the sun.  When the moon is on the same side of the earth as the sun, no light is visible.  This is the "new moon".  As the days pass, the moon reflects light from its apparent right-hand side, from a gradually increasing area as it waxes.  At the full moon, it is on the opposite side of the earth from the sun and it wanes.  The reflecting area gradually reducing to a narrow sliver on the apparent left-hand side.  This can be used to decide direction.

If the moon rises BEFORE the sun has set the illuminated side will be on the West.  If the moon rises AFTER midnight the illuminated side will be in the East.  This may seem a little obvious, but it does mean you have the moon as a rough East-West reference during the night.

Natures Way

Have you ever notice that moss tents to grow thicker on the North side of a tree?  Maybe you have heard that moss only grows on the North side of a tree and wondered  if were true or not.  It all depends on where you live.  If you live in the middle latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, the moss latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, the south side will grow thicker than on the north side.  It may sound like an old folks tale, but it is true.  The reason is there is more sun on one side.  The middle gets more sun.