Solar Navigation: An easy solution

 

If you can imagine being lost or misdirected in the woods without a compass, here it an easy way to get reoriented.    Find a location that is in the open and where you are exposed to full sun.    Find a stick that is reasonably straight and push it into the earth so that it remains vertical.  The longer the stick the shorter the waiting time to get a complete solution.  Find a small pebble and place it at the point where the shadow cast by the stick extends to its farthest point as in the diagram below.  If you have an earth surface you may want to etch the letter W beside the rock.  A diagram of the initial setup is below.

West orientation

Wait 15 minutes or time enough to get a reasonable seperation from the tip of the shadow to a new point.  Place a pebble at the tip of the shadow that has moved.  If you like you can etch the letter E beside the rock. 

East orientation

 Draw a straight line from one rock to the other.   Now draw a perpendicular line from the approximate midpoint of the previous line.  With the west on your left and east on your right the upper part of the line is North and the remaining direction is South.  You now are properly oriented to grid north.  If you check yourself with a compass, remember that grid north and magnetic north can be different by a few degrees in some areas of the United States. 

 

North orientation

This technique of orienteering is not 100% accurate but should be accurate enough for most navigation needs.  The accuracy is best around the noon hour.  Remember this trick and you can always orient yourself except on overcast days.

 

 

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About Tice Brashear

Tice Brashear is the President of Brashear Realty Corporation. He is a licensed real estate broker and has over 37 years experience in selling land, farms, acreage, commercial and investment properties. He is a past President of the Georgia Association of Realtors and a past President of the Augusta Board of Realtors.
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2 Responses to Solar Navigation: An easy solution

  1. Provo says:

    Seems like a learned that in Boy Scouts long ago, but forgot about it. Thanks for reminding me.

  2. Max says:

    WARNING: This method can be off by as much as 35 degrees when done in the early morning or late afternoon.

    As the article states, it is best done around Solar Noon. For accuracy, ensure your stick is ready before solar noon. Mark shadow tip every 15 minutes. TIP… if shadow gets shorter as it moves eastward, it is before solar noon (if the shadow grows longer as it moves eastward solar noon has passed, in which case it is too late to find true north using this method)

    Before solar noon, continue to mark shadow tip every 15 minutes. True north is when the shadow tip is closest to the stick base. Mark it!

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