Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex

Nigerian Signs

Something a bit different today.

My thanks to Chris McCosh, for coming on an Instructor’s Course in 2018, and for passing on his findings in Nigeria recently.

The tropics are tough for natural navigation. Chris was at 10 Degrees N, where sun clues can be weak and hard to spot and the tropical wind patterns are usually more mixed than temperate ones.

Chris got in touch to ask for some ideas and over the course of a few weeks he did a great job of unearthing some niche Nigerian and Fulani clues. Here are a couple of the highlights.

“The only consistency I’ve spotted so far with the flora & fauna is the ants nests…The entrance/exit consistently seems to be located on the southern side of the nest, with the spoil being placed to the north.” 


“So, the ant nest orientation works however, It isn’t dependable. I’ve found that the ants do show a preference to throwing the spoil to the north of the hole, which give you the impression the hole is oriented to south. This is easily turned on it’s head when the nest is in an exposed location, vulnerable to the northern easterlies, which seem to be the prevailing wind in the dry season. 

So the ants kind of work, but you need to take an average of a number of them. The interesting thing is that they do become a really good indicator of water near by. 
I’ve also noticed that the trees are demonstrating the tick effect however, it’s really really subtle and takes  time to get your eye in. 
I’ve been out here now for over 2 weeks and have found it particularly frustrating  to ID anything bomb proof that could be relied on.

The penny did drop today however, I’ve been spending my time with my head down looking for clues in the flora and fauna, bending reality to try and find something.  The truth is, is that the effects of the sun and wind on the plants and animals are so subtle they’re nearly unworkable.  The one aspect I haven’t been paying much attention to is people. 

There’s a number of Fulani herdsmen in the area I’m working, and their settlements are near by. The interesting thing is, is that their settlements are clusters of traditional mud hut, normal in the proximity of a large tree for shade.  Most of the huts will sit north of the tree for shade, and the doors of the huts are usually on the west   
After I slapped myself on the forehead, I then realised that there were quite a few clues, all coming from people. Most of them were to do with getting out of the sun, or using the sun e.g washing lines, drying crops out.

Anyway, in a nutshell I was looking in the wrong area. There are clues out here, and it’s people who are the most dependable source.” 

“Consistently these Fulani settlements were oriented to make the most of the shade. It was very common to find a cluster of huts built on the northern side of a large mango or palm tree. Also common was the preferred location of the entrances to the huts being on the west.”

Great work Chris, thank you!