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There is definitely no denying in the fact that modern-day Gadgets and Smartphones have made it really simple to find out the directions. GPS are found in almost every latest Smartphone. The use of applications like Google Maps, TPL Maps, etc has made it really easy to navigate.
So what you need to do in the event that you don’t have your smartphone or a compass and need to know which way is north? Here are four simple ways to figure out which direction you are facing in a wild or forest.
The first thing you need to keep in mind is don’t panic; look around and be ready to improvise. Pay attention to the sky, the stars, the sun, the moon, the terrain even the moss.
Using the Sun Movement
Well, this one is pretty simple, as we know that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. So, if you’re trying to figure out which direction you’re facing during sunrise or sunset, paying attention to where the sun is moving is your best bet.
This method takes a bit of time and requires a sunny day, it is worth the effort and patience. But what about the rest of the day? Well, there is a simple and interesting way to find the east and the west.
Finding the East-West Direction Using a Stick
First, you need to find a clean patch of land that gets a lot of direct sunlight. Then, take a stick and embed it in the ground.
Now focus on the stick’s shadow. Place a mark at the tip of it. After some time, preferably about 30 minutes, the tip of the shadow will move and you need to mark it again.
Now that you have two points, can connect them with a line. That line will give us a rough idea of the east-west direction.
As it is obvious, it will only work on a sunny day, but it’s a handy trick to know the east and west directions. Also, it should go without saying but never look directly into the sun.
Using an Analogue Watch
If you wear an analogue watch and you’re in such a situation, then you’re in luck. Well, speaking frankly, if you have a fancy digital watch, all you need to do is visualize the hands on the dial.
All you need to is to take the watch off and align the hour hand with the sun.
- Imagine a line that intersects the halfway point between the hour and 12:00. That line is pointing south.
- For example, if it’s 4:00, the halfway line will be pointing to 2:00.
- Note that in the summer, you will need to adjust for Daylight Savings by one hour, so move your hour hand back an hour. If you’re in the Southern hemisphere, align the sun with 12:00 and the imaginary line will be pointing north.
Exploring the Terrain
If during the day time, you are out of luck with the sun, then you should turn to your surrounding.
It is a common fact that the moss on trees and rocks points to the north. However, we need to be careful about taking this fact for granted as it is not a sure reliable method. So, you can use this method as an additional input.
The most reliable way to use moss as an indicator of the north is if you find it in a sunlit grove of trees. You need to make sure you see multiple instances of moss all appearing on the same side before moving in any direction.
Wait, there is one more thing to add. If, however, you are not sure whether you can trust moss or not, there is another way. You need to pay closer attention to the hillsides. The less-vegetated slopes will point south if you are in the Northern hemisphere. Obviously, if you are in the Southern hemisphere, the less-vegetated slopes will point north.
Using the Stars
It is a widespread belief that it is very difficult to find one’s way in the wild especially at night. However, it is easier than you might think. All you need to do is to find Orion or the Big Dipper. Don’t worry you don’t have to be an expert astronomer to find Orion.
Orion is one of the brightest and most recognizable constellations in the sky.
The Orion’s belt, consisting of three stars that form a line, is visible from pretty much any place on earth. The ends of the belt point to east and west, while Orion’s sword points south.
Image: The Open University
Using The Crescent Moon
Well, if you fail to locate the direction at night or following the Orion. There is another way to tell direction at night.
You can look at the crescent moon when it is at its highest position.
Then, you need to find the tips of the crescent and draw an imaginary line through them. If you are in the Northern hemisphere, tracing that line all the way to the horizon will give you a point that shows where south is. However, in the Southern hemisphere, however, that point will show where north is.
Finding a Masjid or a Church
If you happen to be in some sort of town, look for a Mosque or a Church or graveyard. Churches are typically aligned west-east, with the main altar at the eastern end, facing the sunrise. Gravestones are also usually aligned west-east.
Interested in Maps Reading? Here, is a free Powerpoint Presentation that you can download.
NJMH is working as Deputy Conservator of Forests in Balochistan Forest & Wildlife Department (BFWD). He is the CEO of Tech Urdu (techurdu.net) Forestrypedia (forestrypedia.com), Majestic Pakistan (majesticpakistan.pk), All Pak Notifications (allpaknotifications.com), Essayspedia, etc & their YouTube Channels). He is an Environmentalist, Blogger, YouTuber, Developer & Vlogger.