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Basic Celestial Land Navigation

For the scope of this article we will cover different methods for natural navigation. There are several methods for finding north.


      * Sun
      * Stars
      * Analog Watch
      * Natural Signs

Land Navigation using the Sun

Stick Method

If the sun is visible, we can use it as a guide to direct us towards the cardinal directions. The sun can be our natural compass to North, South, East, and West. If we find ourselves in a situation without a magnetic compass, the sun can help guide us the the cardinal points. Most people know the sun raises in the east and sets in the west.

In the Northern Hemisphere, we are able to use this knowledge to build a compass with a stick and a few stones.

We drive a stick into the ground, preferably an open level spot. We will place a stone on the end or tip of the shadow created by the stick. This first marker will be our West direction.

We approximately three hours and we place the next stone at the end of the shadow created by the same stick. This point will mark out Eastern point. At this point we can draw a line from the first stone to the second stone to help us find direction. We can place our left foot on the west point and the right foot on the east.

*** We are now facing North ***

If you take a close look at the compass, this method can be very accurate. The compass clearly shows north. The red magnetic arrow is pointing to the North.

So we can place a stone on the first shadow tip and mark that as left. Wait several hours to place the second stone as our east direction. Draw a connecting line between the two stones, we now clearly have a East and West. We then place our left foot next to the West marker and our right foot on the East. As an alternative you can mark a line at 90 degrees to mark North. There we have it a natural compass.

Watch Method (Analog Watch)

Another way to verify your directional path is to verify south using our watch. Using the hands on a watch we have been able to get an indication of direction of travel. By pointing the hour hand on our watch to the sun we can get a fairly accurate pointer to the south.

Northern Hemisphere - in the northern hemisphere the cardinal point nearest to the sun is south.

1) Point the hour hand to the sun
2) Bisect the angle between the hour hand and 12 o'clock
3) This will be out pointer due south

The first thing we need to do is locate the sun. We are going to point the hour hand of our watch to the sun.

The time is 2 o'clock pm or 1400 hrs. So we point the watch hour hand to the sun (2 o'clock)

We bisect the angle between the hour hand and the minute hand. This would be one o'clock or 1300 hrs. This will be our direction south.

We picked 2 o'clock for simplicity. It is a good idea to practice this technique and verify it with a compass until we feel comfortable doing it.

Note: In the southern hemisphere we reverse the process.

1) We point the 12 o'clock arrow on your watch to the sun. Bisect between the hour hand and 12 o'clock and that will give us North.

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