Compass and Mapping 3

  • Be able to show ability about undermentioned:

    • Forward bearing using the compass

    • Triangulation (Resection and intersection)

    • Know how to identify the position of the Scout using a map and triangulation

  • Be able to identify landmarks visible, using the landmarks indicated in the map

  • Know how to plot a hike route taking into account the contour lines indicated in a map

pageCompass and Mapping 2

Emergency Situation: You’re out on a solo, non-Scouting day hike at a local nature preserve when you realize you’ve wandered off the marked trail. You try backtracking, to no avail. You turn to your GPS for help, but the battery’s dead, and there’s no replacement. Your cell phone has no signal. Reaching for your paper map and mechanical compass, you’re shocked to find them missing. In a few hours, your family will be surprised to find you missing, too. How do you find your way back to civilization?

Solution Assuming you’ve told someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back, the general rule of thumb when you lose your way is to stay put, not wander without direction. Your Boy Scout training taught you the mnemonic “STOP” or Stay put, Think, Observe and Plan. But before you decide that you’re lost, take a deep breath. Often the immediate stress of losing one’s way causes a person to make erratic decisions. Stay calm. And before you decide you’re officially lost, consider these route-finding methods that will help get you back to safety. With a few simple tricks, you can easily determine your direction of travel and — assuming you at least know where you’ve come from — hike back to safety.

First, the easy ones. You may have heard that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. If not, you’ve at least seen pictures. (And yes, this is true even in Australia.) If the sky is clear, you should be able to determine the compass points by following the path of the sun. This method won’t, of course, give you a precise heading, but it will give you a general idea that you’re at least not walking in the opposite direction you came from. Because weather generally moves west to east, observing the movement of cloud formations may further help you. In addition, in the northern hemisphere, north-facing slopes tend to be in more shadow, cooler, and thus hold water and snow/ice.

If you’ve got an analog watch, you can use it to double-check your presumed compass points. (This works only if the sun is visible.) Take the watch off and hold it flat on your palm. Rotate it so the hour hand points toward the sun. Next, picture a line passing through the numeral “12” on the watch face and crossing the hour hand at the pivot point. Finally, imagine a line that bisects the arc between the “12” and the hour hand. This line is north-south, with the continuation of the bisecting line across the arc pointing south. (See illustration.) If your watch is set to daylight saving time, use the line that bisects the hour hand and the “1”, not the “12.” And be advised that it will be getting darker sooner! One of the great things about this method is that it will work even if you have a digital watch. As long as you know the time, all you have to do is draw a watch face on a piece of paper, then proceed as above.

Another navigation method is to follow the path of a river. This method is useful (with some caveats, below) because human settlements are typically on or very near rivers. Following a river is more likely to bring you to civilization than, say, wandering aimlessly in the wilderness. It’s true that most rivers flow north to south. But that’s a bit like saying “most” snakes are not poisonous. Unless you’re familiar with specific snakes (or rivers), a mistake can be costly. It’s also true that, except on completely flat terrain, rivers flow downhill: from higher elevation to mouth. Of course, rivers may meander in any direction, often for miles. Unless you know, for certain, where the source of a river is, it’s best to rely on one not for true compass points but rather as a method to get you to a populated area. Following a road is probably a better idea, if you can locate one.

There are numerous methods of navigation using the stars, but these require not only an unobstructed view of the night sky but also hiking at night, which is not recommended if you’re truly lost — there are too many ways to get injured. Still, another tip: If the moon rises before the sun sets, the illuminated side will face west. If it rises after midnight, the illuminated side will face east.

BEFORE YOU GO Use this checklist to make sure you’re prepared before you head out on a weekend hike.

  • Know the area. Research where you plan to go, and talk with someone who’s hiked or camped in the same location.

  • Don’t hike alone. Take a buddy. Better yet, travel in groups of four to 10. That way, if someone gets injured, you can leave a buddy with the injured party while a group of two travels to get help.

  • Leave an itinerary. Whether you’re hiking with or without Scouts, make sure others know where you’re going and when you will return.

  • Prepare for emergency situations. This includes weather, injury, dehydration, losing your way and more.

  • STOP. Make sure the group members know what to do if they become lost or separated from the group.

Finding 'Polaris' - The North Star

Polaris, the North Star, is an important navigational star because its position in the sky is almost exactly (within a few degrees) lined up with the rotational axis of the Earth. This means that no matter where you are on the Earth (so long as you're in the Northern Hemisphere) if you face toward Polaris you are facing North. Finding Polaris is an incredibly useful night time navigation technique that's helped everyone from the Egyptians to the Vikings find there way on the open seas. But it also is one of the easiest stars to find - something my Dad taught us as kids - and can serve as a great entryway into the world of star gazing and constellations. In fact, locating it involves two of perhaps the three most recognizable constellations in the northern hemisphere (two of which we'll mention in a second; the third being Orion, the hunter).

Step 1: Locate the Big Dipper - (Ursa Major)

The first step is to find the constellation of Ursa Major, commonly known as the Big Dipper. It is perhaps the most easily recognizable constellation in the night sky, and looks like a large spoon or perhaps a wheel barrow.

It is composed of seven bright stars - three in the handle and four in the head of the spoon. If you can find it in the picture above, great. If not, look at the next photo.

Step 2: Trace a Line to the North Star

Next, imagine the line connecting the two front stars of the Big Dipper, which I've marked in red. If you continue this line off to the upper right, the first bright star you come to is Polaris, the North Star.

Step 3: Checking That It Really Is the North Star

But with the North Star being such an important and useful star, you want to be sure you've got the right one. After all, there are a lot of stars up there, and they do all look pretty similar.

Luckily, not only is Polaris in line with two stars from the Big Dipper, it is in fact a part of the Little Dipper itself, which makes it easy to check if you're looking at the right star. Like the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper (Ursa Minor) is composed of seven stars, three in the handle and four in the head of the spoon (marked in red). The Little Dipper floats above its bigger brother, and is angled as if it were pouring water into the larger spoon. Polaris is the last star in the handle of the Little Dipper.

If you can recognize and identify the relationships between these 14 stars, you will always be able to find the North Star. It helps that they are some of the brightest stars in the night sky.

Step 4: Test Your Skills

Of course the best way to test your new found star-gazing abilities would be to go outside in the country and take a look at the heavens. But if that's a bit unfeasible at the moment, then try your hand at finding the North Star in these next two photographs. The first is rather easy, the second is maybe challenging.

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