Entries tagged "compass"
Don’t look at the photo just yet!
Thanks to National Maritime Museum members who came to my talk in the planetarium at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich last night.
Before the talk I took the opportunity to walk around the Cutty Sark, where I found the compass rose in this picture laid into the ground. Before studying the photo in detail, here’s a question to ask yourself:
Which direction would you set off in if you needed to get from London to Japan, following the shortest possible route?
The answer to the shortest route question…
It is that time of year when nature likes to get out her frost compasses for us to admire.
I took this photo last Friday in the middle of the day.
We are looking due west.
The southern sun has thawed the areas it can get to, but unlike other suns, it cannot refresh the parts it cannot reach. (My apologies, I think a retro marketing slogan tried to creep in there.)
The frost shadow on the sand itself is quite straightforward, but the shadows and frost on the logs are more interesting, particularly when…
Prickly lettuce is known to some of its navigating friends as the 'compass plant' and to its Roman friends as 'lactuca serriola'.
In truth it is only one of many plants with the compass plant nickname (Silphium laciniatum in the US is another one), but it has earned it.
In open ground, the leaves of the main stem are aligned north-south, offering the least surface area to the midday sun, but the maximum area to the weaker light of the start and end of the day. (This is a similar logic to the N-S alignment…
Happy Winter Solstice One and All!
Here's an interesting solstice fact for you: the Earth is actually receiving more solar radiation at this time of year than at any other time. This is because the Earth does not orbit the sun in a circle, but in an ellipse. In the northern hemisphere winter the Earth is at its closest to the sun, a point called 'perihelion', but in summer it is at its furthest point, or 'aphelion'.
The Guardian have published a little article on the timing of the winter solstice.
However, my favourite solstice…
I am spending a lot of time at the moment helping the BBC with a new series and have spent the last few days in North Wales.When I was told that we were going down a slate mine in Snowdonia and that it would be great if there were some natural navigation clues to help us find our way in the mine, I was initially a bit concerned. Natural navigation methods can be used in a very wide variety of locations, including underwater, but I have not spent any serious time caving or in mines and so feared it might…
On Friday I enjoyed a warming cup of hot chocolate with adventurer and ocean rower extraordinaire, Sarah Outen. We arranged to meet in Brighton and I had hoped to saunter between the boutiques and purveyors of rare tat, before pulling up a chair in a bohemian cafe near the sea. Instead I sprinted twenty yards from the train station, felt the cold heavy rain run down my neck and then ducked into a disappointingly ordinary peddler of hot drinks.
Fortunately I got a chance to escape all that by listening to Sarah's memories of rowing, alone, across…
I woke very early this morning and felt restless so headed into the Downs for a walk. I listened to the Shipping Forecast in the car on the way, feeling instantly integrated into the fragmented dawn community of fishermen and farmers.There were some spectacular sights as the sun rose and fought back the mist over the Arun Valley. The views were filled with colour experiments too as the pinks and oranges of the sky rose in a crescendo that battled with the whites and greens closer to the ground. In the end the orange clashed too grossly with the yellows…
There is a really good attempt to give a flavour of the whole subject of natural navigation in an article in the Independent today by Tim Walker. Tim came for a walk in London to sample natural navigation urban-style.Anyway, flower pot time. Take a look at this photo that I took yesterday just before lunch. Note the wet ground in the shade and how the shadow of the pot has moved 'up' leaving a wet area in its wake. The shadow is moving west to east, away from the camera. As it is close to the middle of the…
On holiday I did try very hard not to think too much about navigation, but wherever I am I cannot resist checking that the sun is behaving itself appropriately considering my latitude and the season. At 7 degrees north, Phuket is in the northern hemisphere and the tropics and because the sun is now well south of the equator the short midday shadow is cast towards the north. Nearer June this same pencil would cast a shadow in the opposite direction at midday, to the south.This photo was actually taken eleven minutes after local midday, which is logical since it…
I watched the History Channel’s ‘Expedition: Africa’ last night, a retake on Stanley’s expedition to find Livingstone. It is quite enjoyable if a bit ‘light’, the interest certainly coming from the internal politics of the expedition team rather than the nature of the journey itself. One thing did strike me, one of their challenges is billed as ‘using only compasses and basic maps’, which could only be billed as a challenge in the age of satellite navigation. Even this seemed to rob the team of some of their awareness of their surroundings. Pasquale Scaturro, the navigator, takes a compass…
In this photo you can see the dew that the sun has not yet burnt off. The shadow itself is mostly moving right to left in this picture, leaving the thin band of wet wood in the shade all the time. This thin band is a rough east-west line at all times of the year, but quite an accurate one at times like this, close to the spring and autumnal equinoxes.The small patch of moisture that is in the sun reveals the direction that the shadow is shortening, a crude north-south line as we near the middle of the day.
A blog is not a blog without an occasional rant, so...It strikes me that the world of navigation training has strayed a little off course. If you type "navigation courses" into Google you get nearly five and a half million results. I'd be prepared to wager that more than five million of these are associated with 'traditional' training. To my mind the majority of these are falling between two stools. They focus on using tools but not the best ones. The two ends of the spectrum are electronics and nature. Nobody, myself included, argues that natural methods are more accurate…