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What is a compass?

compass
n.

(kmpes, kom-)

1.

A device used to determine geographic direction, usually


consisting of a magnetic needle or needles horizontally
mounted or suspended and free to pivot until aligned with
the earth's magnetic field.

2.

A V-shaped device for describing circles or circular arcs and


for taking measurements, consisting of a pair of rigid, endhinged legs, one of which is equipped with a pen, pencil, or
other marker and the other with a sharp point providing a
pivot about which the drawing leg is turned.

3.

An enclosing line or boundary; a circumference.

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Before the compass

Prior to the introduction of the compass, sailors


relied solely on the sun for navigation, a task that
often caused extensive delays in overcast weather.

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Before the compass, people were traveling about without the fear
of getting lost. This was possible because nature offers many
direction finders.
Flowers are one of the best indicators of direction. They will face
the sun, even when it is dark with overcast. For all of time, they
have been tracking the sun, and they remember where it is.
Trees will indicate direction by the way they grow. Every area has
something unique about it that locals use for navigation.
The stars give us north on any clear evening.
The Compass

origins of the compass

The first compass was invented in China 2000 years


ago.
A board game where one of the game pieces was a
spoon was developed. The spoon would spin around
until the handle was pointing north.
It didn't matter if it was night or day or where the
board was placed; the spoon handle always pointed
north.
What did matter was what kind of metal the spoon was
made out of. The spoon was made from "tzu shih," or
"loving stone," which we know as lodestone.
Lodestone is a magnetic iron ore found in nature. The
spoon was able to spin because of its rounded bottom
and long handle.
The first liquid compass was also
invented by the Chinese.
A magnetized piece of iron shaped like
a fish was floated in a bowl of water.
Compass makers then replaced the fish
with a floating needle, which showed the
direction more clearly.

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Chinese Navigators

origins of the compass


Lodestone

By the third century AD, the Chinese had discovered much


about magnetism.

They knew that iron ore, now called magnetite, tended to


align itself in a North/South position.

The magnet was then placed on a piece of reed and floated


in a bowl of water marked with directional bearings. These
first navigational compasses were widely used on Chinese
ships by the eleventh century AD.

Chinese Compass

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Chinese Navigators

origins of the compass

The compass had come a long way


from a lodestone spoon, but there
was still one problem: Lodestone
was needed to magnetize the steel
needles.
It was discovered in 1000 A.D.,
when steel was being poured into a
mold, that if the mold was aligned in
a north-south direction and the steel
was cooled off immediately, it would
become permanently magnetized.
It would become a magnet. This
happens because the steel is poured
in line with the earth's magnetic
field and is cooled quickly.
Lodestone was no longer needed.
In over a thousand years, the liquid
compass has changed very little and
is still used today.

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Chinese Navigators

Developments of the compass

The first recorded instance of the compass being


used in Europe occurred around 1190.
This was similar to the early Chinese lodestone
model.
The English had mounted a needle on a pin by the
end of the 13th century. This was the basis of the
compass as understood today.
By the 17th century, the needle was changed to
become a parallelogram shape, which was easier to
mount upon the pin. In 1745 an improvement was
made so that the needle would retain its
magnetization for longer periods of time.

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Surveyor use of the compass

Our founding fathers used compasses to


survey and explore the wilderness.

Early lensatic

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Lewis and Clark


used a more
primitive compass
than this one

The Military picked up the use of the compass


for artillery direction and field navigation

The Compass

How a compass works

No matter where you stand on Earth, you can hold a


compass in your hand and it will point toward the
magnetic North Pole. What an unbelievably neat and
amazing thing!
Imagine that you are in the middle of the ocean, and you
are looking all around you in every direction and all
you can see is water, and it is overcast so you cant
see the sun... How in the world would you know
which way to go unless you had a compass to tell you
which way is "up"?
Long before GPS satellites and other high-tech
navigational aids, the compass gave humans an easy
and inexpensive way to orient themselves.
But what makes a compass work the way it does?

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How a compass works

A compass is a fairly simple device.


It consists of a small, lightweight magnet balanced on
a nearly frictionless pivot point.
The magnet is called a needle. One end of the needle
is often marked "N," for north, or colored in some way
to indicate that it points toward north. On the surface,
that's all there is to a compass.
But the underlying reason why a compass works is
more interesting.

It turns out that you can think of the Earth as


having a gigantic bar magnet buried inside.
In order for the north end of the compass to point
toward the North Pole, you have to assume that the
buried bar magnet has its south end at the North
Pole, as shown in the diagram above.
If you think of the world this way, then you can see
that the normal "opposites attract" rule of magnets
would cause the north end of the compass needle to
point toward the south end of the buried bar
magnet.
So the compass points toward the North Pole.

But what makes the Earth Magnetic?

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core

The axis of the dipole is offset from


the axis of the Earth's rotation by
approximately 11 degrees.

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The Compass

What is the Earth's magnetic field?

The basics

The Earth acts like a great spherical


magnet
It is surrounded by a magnetic field.
The Earth's magnetic field
resembles the field generated by a
dipole magnet
(i.e., a straight magnet with a north
and south pole) located at the
center of the Earth.

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spin

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How the Earth became magnetic


But how is the earth magnetic to begin with?
A giant lump of magnetic iron in the centre of the Earth is not
responsible for the geomagnetic field.
The leading theory is that currents in the fluid outer core,
started by the temperature differential between the mantle
(crust) and the core, and organized into predominantly helical
flows by the spinning Earth, act like a giant dynamo.
Maxwell's equations describe the dynamo effect - that electric
currents give rise to magnetic fields, and moving magnets
generate electric currents. (In effect, magnetism and electricity
are different manifestations of the same phenomenon, usually
referred to as "electromagnetism".) The flows in the outer core
amplify a small "seed" field captured from the Earth's
surroundings as it formed. A positive feedback effect comes
into play, with flows of slightly magnetized iron setting up
electric currents, which in turn create more magnetism, and so
on until the magnetic field becomes strong enough to influence
the fluid flows, at which point the magnetic dynamo produces a
self-sustaining field.
We're probably most familiar with dynamos in the guise of battery-free bike lights. These contain a
magnet and are attached near to the bike wheel. As you pedal, the motion of the wheel turns the
magnet, creating an electrical current which is used to power the light.

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Is the magnetic field constant?

No, the magnetic field is different in different places.


In fact, the magnetic field changes with both location and time.
It is so irregular that it must be measured in many places to get a satisfactory picture of its
distribution

Even more mysterious has been the fact that the field has in
the past varied in strength and orientation, and has even
reversed polarity many times.
We can tell this from the alignment of small iron particles in
layers of rock on the ocean floor and in ancient lava flows.
A group of scientists in Paris have announced that over the last
twenty years, the geomagnetic field has declined in strength by
around 10%.
If this rate continues the field will be completely gone by early
next millennium.
They speculate that we may be in the early stages of a polarity
reversal.

There are several magnetic measurements of interest:


Declination: A sloping or bending downward
Inclination:
Intensity

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declination

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Inclination

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Intensity

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Where is the Pole?

The North Magnetic Pole is


continually moving in an irregular
path around its average position
because of fluctuations in the
magnetic field.

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The Pole is moving?

The Earth's magnetic field is shaped approximately like a bar


magnet with two magnetic poles.
One lies in the Canadian arctic, referred to as the North
Magnetic Pole, and the other off the coast of Antarctica,
south of Australia, referred to as the South Magnetic Pole.
At the North Magnetic Pole the Earth's magnetic field is directed vertically
downward relative to the Earth's surface. Consequently, magnetic dip, or
inclination is 90 . In addition, the North Magnetic Pole is the eventual
destination for a traveler who follows his or her compass needle from anywhere
on Earth.

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The North Magnetic Pole is slowly drifting across the


Canadian Arctic. The Geological Survey of Canada keeps
track of this motion by periodically carrying out magnetic
surveys to redetermine the Pole's location. The most recent
survey, completed in May, 2001, determined an updated
position for the Pole and established that it is moving
approximately northwest at 40 km per year. The observed
position for 2001and estimated positions for 2002 to 2005
are given in the table.
The Compass

Where is it moving too?

The figure shows the path of the North


Magnetic Pole since its discovery in 1831
to its position in 2001.

During the last century the Pole has


moved a remarkable 1100 km. What is
more, since about 1970 the NMP has
accelerated and is now moving at more
than 40 km per year.

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Heading to Siberia

If the North Magnetic Pole maintains


its present speed and direction it will
reach Siberia in about 50 years.
Such an extrapolation is, however,
tenuous. It is quite possible that the
Pole will veer from its present course,
and it is also possible that the pole will
slow down sometime in the next half
century.

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What happens to my compass


at the magnetic pole?

A magnetic compass needle tries to align itself with the magnetic field lines.
However, at (and near) the magnetic poles, the fields of force are vertically
converging on the region (the inclination (I) is near 90 degrees and the
horizontal intensity (H) is weak).
The strength and direction tend to "tilt" the compass needle up or down into the
Earth.
This causes the needle to "point" in the direction where the compass is tilted
regardless of the compass direction, rendering the compass useless.

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What happens to my compass


in the southern hemisphere?

For a compass to work properly, the compass needle must be free to rotate and
align with the magnetic field.
The difference between compasses designed to work in the northern and
southern hemispheres is simply the location of the "balance", a weight placed on
the needle to ensure it remains in a horizontal plane and hence free to rotate.
In the northern hemisphere, the magnetic field dips down into the Earth so the
compass needle has a weight on the south end of the needle to keep the needle
in the horizontal plane.
In the southern hemisphere, the weight needs to be on the north end of the
needle. If you did not change the weight, the needle would not rotate freely, and
hence would not work properly.

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Magnetic Declination

The line of zero declination runs


from magnetic north through Lake
Superior and across the western
panhandle of Florida.
Along this line, true north is the
same as magnetic north.
If you are working west of the line
of zero declination, your compass
will give a reading that is east of
true north.
We are working east of the line of
zero declination, so our compass
readings will be west of true north.
The exact amount that you need to
adjust the declination on your
compass to reconcile magnetic north
to true north is given in many map
legends near the of the map scale.

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Magnetic Declination

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How do I correct my compass


bearing to true bearing?

You can compute the true


bearing from a magnetic
bearing by adding the
magnetic declination to
the magnetic bearing.
This works so long as you
follow the convention of
degrees west are
negative (i.e. a magnetic
declination of 10-degrees
west is -10 and bearing of
45-degrees west is -45).
Some example case
illustrations are provided
for an east magnetic
declination and a west
magnetic declination.

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How to make a compass


SUPPLIES YOU NEED
One clear plastic cup
One pencil or pen
One magnet
Thread
One needle or small nail
One cork or piece of foam

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How to make a compass

(1) Rub one end of the magnet


along a needle. Always rub in
the same direction. Do this
about 30 times to magnetize
the needle. Test it by picking up
a pin.

(2) FLOATING COMPASS. Cut a


small piece of cork off and push
the magnetized needle through
it. Fill the plastic cup with
water. Carefully place the cork
with magnetized needle into
the cup so it is floating in the
center.

(3) CHINESE HANGING


COMPASS. Tie one end of a
short piece of thread to the
center of your magnetized
needle. Then attach the other
end to a pencil and place it
over the rim of the plastic cup.

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Types of Compasses

Gyro Compass
Digital Electronic Compass
Mariners Compass:
Handheld or Pocket Compass

Recreational
Sportsman
Military
Competition

lensatic compass
wrist/pocket compass
artillery M2 compass
protractor
thumb

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Gyro Compass

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Gyrocompasses are used


on planes as well as boats
and ships.
At the start of a trip, a
gyrocompass is set to the
north using a magnetic
compass.
A gyrocompass has a motor
inside that readjusts very
quickly and keeps them
accurate even if the
compass is jarred or tipped
by turbulence or rough
seas.

Digital Electronic Compass

This is the type of compass


that originally would be built
into a car.
They are now available in
handheld and wrist models
These compasses work on
a electronic circuit that is
influenced by the earths
magnetic field.
Digital compasses must be
adjusted to allow for
distortions in the magnetic
field, such as when the car
goes over a metal bridge.

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Mariners Compass

This is a compass that


would be used on board a
ship.
Often a mariners compass
has the needle attached
below the compass card.
The card is on a pivot so
that it can turn freely and
always point to the
magnetic north.
The card and needle are
covered with a compass
bowl and it is filled with a
clear liquid.
This liquid allows the card
to float and damps it so
that it doesnt swing around
with each movement of the
ship.

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Handheld or Pocket Compass

This is the type of compass


you might take on a hike.
It has a magnetic needle
and a compass card
beneath it.
It can be kept in a pocket or
a backpack and can be
used to determine the
direction in which you are
walking.
Recreational
Sportsman
Military
Competition

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Recreational Compasses

These may be simple


devices, used for direction
finding or novelties.
The accuracy may vary
wildly.
The Speed at which the
needle settles might not be
acceptable in competitive or
more serious situations.

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Sportsman Compasses

These are used by hikers,


hunters, fisherman
Their accuracy is better
than a recreational
compass.
The speed and simplicity of
use is still slow.

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Military Compasses
Generally the Lensatic compass is
used.
Tritium illuminated for use in total
darkness.
Degree and mil scales.
Graduated Azimuth (0-360)
Edge rule is graduated in meters at
1:50,000.
Sighting Mirror
With lanyard, case, with Alice belt
clip.
Sturdy aluminum case with metal
hinges, painted olive green.
Waterproof and shockproof.
Built-in magnifying lens.
Operating temperature: -50 to
+160F.
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Competition Compasses

Designed for fast and easy


reading.
The classical competition
compass with the
agronomical grip.
Easy reading of the map.
Viewable/Detachable scale.
A large and distinct
direction of travel arrow.
Stencil holes for start and
control markings.
Compass housing with
stable needle which settles
quickly while running
fast and extremely stable
needle.
Special magnet in
combination with a
dampening plate on the
needle give optimal
orienteering features.
Wide and straight needle in
fluorescent color for easy
and fast reading.

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Two styles:

Base Plate
Thumb

The Compass

Parts of a Compass
Housing: This can be
turned from the base of the
unit. On the housing will be
marked the letters N, S, E
and W

Needle: This always


point to the magnetic
North Pole.

Orienting Arrow:

This is really part of the


housing and turns with
the housing. Along with
the lines of the base of
the compass they
enable you to to 'set' a
map

Travel Arrow: If

you set a bearing, then


once aligned this arrow
says which way to go.

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Parts of a Compass, More


Graduated Dial
Luminous Point
Base Plate
Orienting Lines
Index Line
Aid Lines
Magnifier
Scales: these enable you

to take measurements from


maps of the distance between
two points.

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Parts of a Compass, Again


Mirror
Bezel or Azimuth Ring:
Same as housing

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Parts of a Compass, Lensatic


Cover
Base
Lens

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Using a Compass
NEWS:
Lets get through the fundamentals first. The directions:
North, South, East and West. Its a childhood ditty. (Some people that have
struggled with this prefer to remember as NEWS, North, East, West, South.)
Take a look at the figure below and make sure we are all on the same page.
North is the one we will be dealing with the most, if you are overwhelmed.

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Using a Compass
Using the compass alone
Setting a Bearing:

Let's say for example, you want to go northwest.


Find northwest on the compass housing.
Then turn the compass housing so that northwest on the housing lines up exactly
where the large direction of travel-arrow meets the housing.

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The Compass

Using a Compass
Using the compass alone
Setting a Bearing:

Hold the compass in your hand.


You'll have to hold it quite flat, so that the compass needle can turn.
Then turn yourself, your hand, and the entire compass, (just make sure the compass
housing doesn't turn)
Turn it until the compass needle is aligned with the lines inside the compass housing.

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Parts of a Compass, Review


Housing: This can be turned from the base of the unit. On the housing will be marked the letters N,
S, E and W

Needle: This always point to the magnetic North Pole.


Orienting Arrow: This is really part of the housing and turns with the housing. Along

with the lines of the base of the compass they enable you to to 'set' a map
Travel Arrow: If you set a bearing, then once aligned this arrow says which way to go.

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Using a Compass
Using the compass alone
Orienting the Compass:

Now, time to be careful!.


It is extremely important that the red, north part of the compass needle points at
north in the compass housing.
If south points at north, you would run off in the exact opposite direction of what you
want! And it's a very common mistake. So always take a second look to make sure
youve done it right!

RED To North

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Using a Compass
Using the compass alone
Orienting the Compass:

A second problem might be local magnetic attractions.


If you are carrying something made of iron, it may disturb the arrow.
Even a staple in your map could be a problem.
Make sure there is nothing of the sort around.
There is the possibility for magnetic sources in the soil, but they are rarely seen.
Might occur if you're in a mining district.

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Using a Compass
Using the compass alone
Orienting the Compass:

When you are sure you have got it right, take off in the direction the Direction of
Travel Arrow is pointing.
To avoid getting off the course, make sure to look at the compass quite frequently,
say every hundred meters at least.
But you shouldn't stare down on the compass.
Once you have the direction, aim on some point feature in the distance, and head
there.

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Using a Compass with a Map


Setting a Map Bearing:

Lets assume that you want to go from the


trail-crossing at A, to the rock at B.
Put your compass on the map so that the rear
edge of the compass is at A.
Then, put B somewhere along the forward
edge, like it is on the drawing.
Time to be careful again! The edge of the
compass, or rather the direction arrow, must
point from A to B!
And again, if you do this wrong, you'll walk off
in the exact opposite direction of what you
want. So take a second look.

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Using a Compass with a Map


Line up North with North:

Keep the compass steady on the map.


Align the orienting lines and the orienting
arrow with the magnetic north lines (also
called the meridian lines) of the map.
While you have the edge of the compass
carefully aligned from A to B, turn the
compass housing so that the orienting lines in
the compass housing are aligned with the
meridian lines on the map.
During this process, don't worry about the
compass needle!
Be absolutely certain that you are aligning
with North on the map, and not the opposite
(South). Normally, north will be up on the
map.
Keep an eye on the the edge of the compass.
If it moves and the edge isn't going along the
line from A to B when you have finished
turning the compass housing, you will have
locked in an error.
Magnetic North
(Meridian Lines)

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Using a Compass with a Map


Using the Map Bearing:

When you are sure you have the compass housing set correctly, you may take the compass away
from the map. Now, you can in fact read the azimuth off the housing, from where the housing meets
the direction arrow. Be sure that the housing doesn't turn, before you reach your target B!
Hold the compass in your hand. Hold it quite flat, so that the compass needle can turn.
Then turn yourself, your hand, the entire compass, just make sure the compass housing doesn't turn,
and turn it until the compass needle is aligned with the lines inside the compass housing.
A common mistake is to let the compass needle point towards the south. The red part of the compass
needle must point at north in the compass housing, or you'll go in the opposite direction.

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The Compass

Using a Compass with a Map

Take a Hike:
It's time to take off. But to do that with
optimal accuracy, you'll have to do it in
a special way as well.
Hold the compass in your hand, with
the needle well aligned with the
orienting arrow. Then aim, as careful
as you can, in the direction the
Direction of Travel Arrow is pointing.
Fix your eye on a particular feature in
the terrain a reasonable distance in the
direction of travel. Then go there. Be
careful that as you go, the compass
housing doesn't turn.
If you're in a dense forest, you might
need to aim several times.

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Using a Compass with a Map

Putting it all together:


Let's review. There are three major
steps in using a protractor base
compass.
1. Line up the edge of the compass
with the line of travel on the map.
2. Rotate the Compass Housing so that
the Housing's North Lines are parallel
with the Map's North Lines.
3. With the compass against your
chest, hold the travel arrow pointing
directly away from you. Rotate your
entire body until the the compass
needle settles inside the confines of
the Housing's Orienting Arrow. You are
now facing your desired direction of
travel.

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Using a Compass with a Map, again

Another look at taking a


bearing:
Most people can use a compass to tell
north from south. Few use it for much
else. Yet the ability to take a bearing
on a known object, and to use that
information as an aid in determining
your location, can save many hours of
hiking or biking in the wrong direction.
The following technique described here
may seem confusing as you read it. Try
it, with a map and compass, at an
outdoor location where you can follow
the steps described. It will soon
become second nature

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Using a Compass with a Map, again

Another look at taking a bearing:


Most Orienteers encounter situations like the
following. The map shows a feature. (In this
case the church symbol to the right). That's your
destination.
You're running down the trail from the north,
from the spot we've marked with the letter "Y"
(for You). According to the map, two trails will be
coming in from the west. You want to turn left at
the first of these trails.

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Using a Compass with a Map, again

Another look at taking a bearing:


Now use your compass to find the bearing to
the Church, based on the 360 degrees of a
circle. North is 0 degrees, east is 90 degrees,
and so on.
First, point the Direction of Travel arrow at the
Church. Next turn the dial until the Orienting
Arrow (and the letter N) on the dial is aligned
with the Magnetic North lines on the map.
Now simply read your bearing at the Index Line.
In this case, you find the church to be at a
magnetic bearing of 120 degrees.

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Using a Compass with a Map, again

Another look at taking a bearing:


Rotate the compass dial so that the bearing of
your landmark (120) is aligned with the arrow in
the center of the rectangular base.
Next, maintain the setting as you remove the
compass from the map and rotate the whole
compass until the orienting arrow in the center
of the dial (the printed arrow)and the swinging
magnetic arrow point in the same direction.

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Using a Thumb Compass

Doing it the RIGHT way:


Using a thumb compass to orienteer.
Directs your attention to the map.
Makes compass work a snap.
Saves time.
Doubles as a thumbing technique.
Is always ready.
Lets get started!

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Using a Thumb Compass


The parallel steering method:
Map and compass in the same hand
1. Fold the map to a size you can comfortably handle,
preferably so that the magnetic meridians are parallel
with the edge of the map.
2. Here you are - there you want to go!
Set a direction by putting the 6 JET SPECTRA on the
map, in line with the desired direction of travel. From
here...to there! Align the map...turn the body...Go!

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The Compass

Using a Thumb Compass


The parallel steering method:
Map and compass in the same hand
3. Orientate the map - turn your body towards the right
direction to travel!
Read the position of the needle towards color/symbol and
remember which color/symbol the needle is pointing at. For
example blue, one dot.
4. GO!
The terrain features on the map will be aligned with the terrain
on the ground and you have the right course straight ahead.
Read the map and move the compass forward during your run.
Every time you read the map, also check your direction!
Map contact and direction contact - ALWAYS simultaneously!
Constantly maintain contact with your position on the map and
your position on the ground.

2005 Orienteering Cincinnati,


Inc.

The Compass

The Procedure

ONE:
Look at your map.
Locate the start triangle.
This is your initial position.

Start

2005 Orienteering Cincinnati,


Inc.

The Compass

The Procedure

TWO:
Turn the map so that the start
triangle is nearest you and the
first control is away.
Now you and the map are
Oriented with respect to each
other.

2005 Orienteering Cincinnati,


Inc.

First Route

The Compass

The Procedure
THREE:
Lay the compass on the map.
Point the compass along your
planned route.
Now you , the map, and the
compass are oriented with
respect to each other.

FOUR:
Keeping the map, compass,
and yourself all oriented,
Rotate your entire body until
the Magnetic North Needle is
aligned with the Orienting
Arrow.

Five:
Go! You, the map, and the
compass are all aligned with
the first control.

2005 Orienteering Cincinnati,


Inc.

Turn your
body around
the map

The Compass

The End

2005 Orienteering Cincinnati,


Inc.

The Compass