Entries tagged "finding direction"
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…
We may never know the exact method that the earliest explorers used to find their way, but there is a friendly finger of suspicion that gets pointed regularly at the birds.
Some of the routes used by the pioneers of the Pacific match the migratory routes of the birds exactly.
The route used by the Maori fleet that sailed from Tahiti to New Zealand sometime in the fourteenth century and settled there is the same as that taken by the Long-tailed Cuckoo each September.
I like to think of these earliest navigators. I imagine them gazing…
Finding South Using the Stars
In the northern hemisphere Polaris, the North Star, tends to get all the attention when it comes to finding direction using the stars. There is a good reason for this: it is easy to find and is very accurate. In the southern hemisphere the Southern Cross is used to find south and Polaris is not visible. But what about finding south in the northern hemisphere? The easiest thing is still to find Polaris and then look in the opposite direction, but what if we want a method that actually shows us south itself.…
I'm just back from six days in Cairngorms in the Scottish Highlands.
In the foreground of the first picture you can probably make out some indentations in the snow and ice. On first glance these impressions can look like footprints, but they are actually grooves and 'tongues' that have been carved and sculpted by the prevailing local winds.
In the the second photo, you can see that in this case they are giving a reliable indication of west/east.
In the book I explain how these tongues are used by indigenous Arctic people, like the Inuit,…
Happy New Year!At times like this, I sometimes wonder what the Earth and Sun would say to each other if they could talk. They would watch us celebrating this annual moment at such an arbitrary time...Sun: I could understand a party at either solstice...Earth: Yes, or one at either equinox. Would make good sense...Sun. Quite. But to pick a day about a week after one solstice...Earth: Very strange.Sun. Yes. They are a very strange lot.In this picture of a beech tree in Wiltshire, we can see both moss and lichens thriving in the moist air close to the ground. Water…
Happy Equinox All!
At nine minutes past three this morning, GMT, the sun was overhead the equator. To celebrate, here are a few things that you may or may not know about the equinox. Only one of them is not true.
The sun will rise due east and set due west for everyone today.
The direction (bearing) of sunrise and sunset changes by more each day at this time of year than at any other time.
On the December side of the equinoxes the sun is always overhead the southern hemisphere, on the June side…
My thanks to Kevan Hubberd for sending in the idea about using Orion's Sword as a way of finding south.
Orion's Sword can be seen in the image to the left as the short vertical line of 'stars' under Orion's Belt.
The Sword does indeed point to a spot on the horizon that is close to due south when the Sword is near vertical (as in this image), but it is a less dependable guide when it is well off-vertical, ie. when it is lower in the sky.
Technical bit for natural navigation zealots…
Churches are well worth a minute of navigational inquiry. The church itself is likely to show a preference for an east-west alignment, with the altar at the eastern end. But the fact that they are often old buildings that have been left exposed to the elements for long periods, without incessant redecorating or even cleaning, yields other interesting clues in the form of lichens, algae and mosses.Gravestones tend also to be aligned east-west also, so that the dead are ready when 'the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised'. Any exposed stone that faces east or west will…
After selling out in under 48 hours on Amazon and elsewhere, the book has been reprinted and is now available again at most shops - online or off. Thank you to all who have bought the book so far; after the thousands of hours that have gone into the research, writing, editing, illustrations, production and launch, it is wonderful to know that it is being read. Thanks for the nice feedback too, a recent favourite:"I recently bought a copy of your book and loved it – quite remarkable! My brother has stolen it from me yesterday – he’s a…
...and he was high in the sky, which reminded me of one of the simplest and most beautiful of natural navigational celestial techiques. Orion is a great help in finding East or West, but there is a method for finding direction that works even if you have no idea what object you are looking at in the sky. It takes time to apply accurately, but it can be used anywhere in the world and applies to all the stars, the moon, the sun and all the planets - even if you have no idea which one you are looking…