Excerpts from Finding Directions without a Map or a Compass,
from the U.S. Armed Forces Survival Manual, Edited by John Boswell,
published by Rawson, Wade Publishers, Inc., New York, 1980.
- Finding Direction During the Day by The Sun
- Remember that the sun rises in the east (but rarely due east) and sets in the west (but rarely due west). The sun rises slightly to the south of east and sets slightly to the north of west, and the declination or angle of variance is different with different seasons. Remember, however, that direction is relative to one's purpose. If you must reach a specific point or location, you must align your direction with true or magnetic north or south. But if your purpose is simply to maintain a direction, the sun's arc is the best constant point of reference. Try to check your direction at least once a day using one of the following methods.
- The Shadow Tip Method for Determining Direction
- Place a stick or twigless branch into the ground at a fairly level spot where a distinct shadow will be cast. Mark the spot where the shadow will be cast. Mark the spot where the shadow tip strikes the ground with a stone, twig, or pebble.
- Wait until the shadow tip moves a few inches. If you are using a 3-foot stick, about 15 minutes should be sufficient. The longer the stick, the faster the shadow will move. Mark the new position of the shadow tip in the same way as the first.
- Draw a straight line through the two marks to obtain an approximate east-west line. The first shadow tip is always towards the west; the second shadow tip mark is always toward the east - any time of day and anywhere on Earth.
- A line drawn at right angles to the east-west line at any point is the approximate north-south line, which will help orient you to any desired direction of travel.
- Inclining the stick to obtain a more convenient shadow, in size or direction, does not impair the accuracy of the shadow-tip method. Thus, a traveler on sloping ground or in a highly vegetated terrain need not waste valuable time looking for a sizable level area. A flat dirt spot the size of your hand is all that is necessary for shadow-tip markings, and the base of the stick can either be above, below, or to one side of it. Also, any stationary object (the end of a tree limb, or the notch where the branches join) serves just as well as an implanted stick, because only the shadow tip is marked.