Entries tagged "sun"

Our Last Adventure


On the 22nd June this year, The Sunday Times Magazine published an article about the last time a father took his 14 year old son, Kadian, on a bike ride. The son was killed outright by a white van, as the son sped from a footpath out onto a road. At the inquest following this tragedy, the coroner recorded a 'narrative verdict', meaning he did not attribute cause to any named person. My reason for mentioning this heart-wrenching story here is that one part of the inquest surprised me, for reasons that will become clear.…

Marsh Marigold and Spring Wildflowers


Marsh Marigold flower

I undertook a small natural navigation challenge in West Sussex yesterday. The sun was out so it was not especially tricky, but that is never the point really. When direction is easy it gives me extra time to focus on spotting new things (and if I feel like more pace-counting, perfecting distances). The spring wildflowers were out in great numbers. I was joined at times by bluebells, red and white dead-nettles, daffodils, primroses, wood anemones, ground ivy, common comfrey, green alkanet, marsh marigolds (see picture at top), cuckoo flowers, wood spurge and also some garden…

Sharpening Skills at the Start and End of the Day


Just before you see the sun rise in the morning or just after it has set for you in the evening, try to work out where it is using clues in the land and sky. This is good practice when you don't need it and improves your awareness hugely for those times when you might. The sun does not set or rise for all things in a landscape at the same moment. The higher something is then the earlier it will see sunrise and the later the sun will set for it. I…

Dead Reckoning and Path Integration (or How to Walk Like an Ant)


One of the questions I like to ask at the start of some courses is this: If you walk ten paces north, then ten paces east, then ten paces south, what would you need to do to find your way back to your start point? The answer is at the bottom of the page. If you got this right, or even if you got it wrong but made a logical attempt to solve it, then you are already familiar with the concept of 'dead reckoning', even if the name is new to you.…

Shipwrecks on BBC4


Shipwrecks is a three-part series on BBC4, presented by naval historian, Dr. Sam Willis. And it sets out to do what BBC4 does best. It compensates for a lack of Hollywood budget by treating the viewer as intelligent. Rare and radical. BBC4 as a whole is extraordinary. I can only imagine the guts it took for some soul to march, with quickening heart, into a meeting and suggest that of the 60 odd million people living in this country, there might be a few thousand who don't consider Hello Magazine to be news. I salute…

Watches, Time and the Art of Not Getting Lost


On courses and at the end of talks, I regularly get asked about how we can use our watch as a compass. There are two ways of using a watch to help navigate that I will touch on here, one of them is well known, but I never use it. The second is a familiar concept, but is one of the most underused methods of navigating in the world. I use it all the time. This second method is the single best way of realising you are not lost. First Method: Finding Direction Using a…

Total Eclipse and Totally Lovely Word


The photo above was taken shortly before the recent total solar eclipse, by my uncle, Tuppin, who was and remains in Uganda. Everyone should have an uncle in Uganda, ready for such eventualities, but sadly so few do these days. Totality - the total obscuration of the sun - lasted about 24 seconds. Historically, eclipses were used to help solve astronomical and navigational puzzles, because they were once one of the few very clear ways people in different parts of the world had of marking time. Before…

Using Ferns to Find Direction


If you enjoy woodland walks, you will have come across plenty of ferns. The next time you see a stand of ferns in a clearing, it is worth pausing to study them for a minute or two. Spend a moment looking at them from a few angles and you will quickly spot how ferns are very sensitive to light direction. Ferns orientate their leaves to catch as much light as possible. It is surprisingly easy to use ferns to find direction, once you have got used to this 'solar panel' habit of theirs. There is…

How to Build the World's Simplest Sundial


My thanks to Vincent Alaniz for sending me this photo and a question, which I will answer here. Whenever we consider the position of the sun in the sky, then time and direction are closely related. If we know one, we can usually work out the other. This is the logic behind shadow sticks, they help us work out if the sun is rising and therefore east of us, or setting and west of us. And they help us identify that unique moment, when the sun has reached its highest point in the…

Time, Sun and Longitude