Thursday, February 5, 2015

Thoughts and Experiments into Primitive Navigation

Primitive Navigation

     In recent times I have immersed myself in the idea of Primitive Navigation, we must always be prepared to replace modern equipment with things made from the landscape should the need arise. I our modern day we have become accustom first to the Magnetic Compass, then to the GPS but Batteries and Signal Fail, and equipment can get lost or damaged. This can leave us with relying on our own skill level to improvise something to replace that object. With Navigation it has always been a given that the Sun and Moon as well as Stars will aid in Direction Finding and can give a fairly exacting direction if we are careful and understand the tools. However as I began to research this I found that a great many tutorials both written and on video were not accurately depicting a skill as simple as how to correctly find a good East/West line with a simple shadow stick? If we are only getting generalities of direction as Ron Hood would say and every direction found by primitive means end in the letters "LY" Northerly, then why the Shadow stick to begin with? It is dependent on the Sun and anyone can look at the Sun and in the Northern Hemisphere realize they are looking Southerly, and if it is early Morning South/Easterly, and in the late afternoon South Westerly? and the reverse with our back to the sun, so whats the big deal? Well I also have seen that this shadow stick method often done incorrectly was used to Calibrate for lack of a better term the Ottomoni Sun Compass as also taught by Ron Hood. But again if the direction end in "LY" why do I need to carry something for this? If I am to carry a device for Navigation how accurate does it need to be? Well in my mind the reason we carry a modern compass is really only singular in nature at it's most rudimentary level. We carry a Compass to Walk a Straight Line! Everyone experiences what is called lateral drift, this is the uncontrollable thing that causes us to veer left or right as we walk over distance and can in some cases cause on to walk a complete circle. We as Humans are very good at walking to an object we can see, if we do not loose sight of something we want to walk to we can do this with no issue, it is when we loose sight of the object it becomes and issue and lateral drift takes over. We compensate for this using our compass by following a sighted bearing, and leap frogging to objects we will not loose sight of as we go. But the question again then begs? Can this be done in a primitive fashion? Yes it can but not by the methods currently accepted!  So to my thoughts and Experiments-
     If you track the Shadows of the sun to any surface over time these shadows will vary in size depending on travel and time of day, season, etc.. but during it's travel it will do 2 things every day. 1. It will be at Equal Altitudes in the sky at least 2 times, and it will be directly overhead (Local Apparent Noon) Once a day.  Knowing this to get a good East/West line with any Shadow Stick we must ensure the shadow points on the ground or any surface are at equal altitudes before we bisect the points to obtain our East/West Line and this is not a well published method in our community. Now that we have this correct line and we understand the 4 directions as accurately as we can what do we do with this information, as we are going to leave it behind obviously or it would make no sense to care in the first place.  Enter the Ottoman Compass, the theory behind this is that if you take a small piece of wood, suspend it to keep it level with strings (and this IS critical) to keep it level, then place a Gnoman or pointer on the device from a stick to cast a shadow on the board, draw East/West line on the board that is calibrated per say with you shadow stick device, you can then carry this as a navigational tool to re-align at intervals to Navigate. Okay we need to look at this closely? I believe that if we use this method we are simply carrying a shadow stick with us and this will give us only a very general direction we could easily obtain by looking at the sun as discussed above. Why do I believe this? Because as discussed before the suns shadow changes its length as it travels across the sky (simple terms) therefore it creates a curve if tracked over several hours and NEVER a straight line. So if we are using a Straight line to align our shadow to at say 3 hours from now it cannot be a repeatable process and will not give us the same N/S E/W line as when it was created. To make this repeatable over time and understanding when traveling time equates to distance when moving we must re-align the shadow board or Compass exactly each time if we are to travel in a straight line by leapfrogging to objects in a linear direction, as if we were using a compass. To accomplish this re-alignment we must use a curved line. The ancients figured this out long ago when tracking the sun for anything from time to direction, but like so much knowledge we have lost or forgotten it. If we are to set this system of tracking up correctly we will need to track the suns shadow for an entire day prior to travel and place marks on a surface to be carried as cast at the end of the shadow from our pointer at intervals through the day, after which we can connect the dots and create this curved alignment line for later use. Now this line will also change over time as the Suns arc changes daily but this will be fairly accurate for 2 weeks and  navigable for about 3, but will need to be re-established after this for longer term usage. To travel with this device we need to first establish lines on the board for the cardinal directions as described above and then bi sect those lines at 45 degrees to establish NE/NW/SE/SW as well, we can then align the board, set it down on a fairly level surface and stand behind the board in the desired direction of travel. Pick a distant object we will not loose sight of on the line and travel to it, repeat.

Initial Setup 2 Days after Tracking, Verified with Compass to begin Quantification of Method. Approx 9AM

Several Hours Later after Traveling quantification of methodology approx 1PM.

     This method is combined with another method I have been using and will Blog later I have coined the Pathfinder Shadow Board which tracks the shadow in quadrants to obtain direction for travel.


  1. I think I posted my comment on the wrong page. What I said was to be aware that sun North (true North aimed at the pole) and compass North (magnetic North) are not the same. Unless you are on a line from eastern MN to eastern IA to New Orleans, the compass and your board will not agree. In fact, the difference can be up to 15 degrees in ME and OR.

  2. would this device function in a very similar way

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