This week has been all about the compass, running a Silver National Navigation Award course. My first ever compass was given to me by my Granda when I was probably 10 years old, I’m not 100% sure if it belonged to him or his dad but know he used it in the war. It has our surname scratched onto the brass case, I guess there must have been quite a few of these instruments issued out to the soldiers.
Today the compass has moved on but the principles are still the same, there’s a needle that points to north, or south if you’re down under. That simple concept of aligning your map with the needle is the fundamental concept of navigation, and most of the time you can align your map without it, just looking at the ground features around you. Once you’ve done that, you should be able to walk off in the required direction. Mappa Mundi, the “cloth of the world” now just a map, was not always drawn with north at the top, east was once at the top of the map. Back then, circa 700 years ago, the navigator knew that map orientation was essential, in some ways it’s a shame our maps today have north at the top...and most of the text on the map is written as it is, drawing the reader to hold the map in a certain way. The map should be held pointing in the direction you’re traveling in, if you can do that, you’ve set your map and your compass needle should agree with you.
As time moves on, maps and compass will change but it’s a basic concept that will remain forever. Will they be replaced by technology? GPS is advancing too but a simple compass and a map is more reliable than any gadget currently and costs much less. If you look after them you can hand them down battery free to your grandchildren, like my Granda Hamish.
If you’d like some navigation tuition get in touch.