In a survival situation, you will be extremely fortunate if you
happen to have a map and compass. If you do have these two pieces of
equipment, you will most likely be able to move toward help. If you are not
proficient in using a map and compass, you must take the steps to gain this
There are several methods by which you can determine direction by
using the sun and the stars. These methods, however, will give you only a
general direction. You can come up with a more nearly true direction if you
know the terrain of the territory or country.
You must learn all you can about the terrain of the country or territory to which you or your unit may be sent, especially any prominent features or landmarks. This knowledge of the terrain together with using the
methods explained below will let you come up with fairly true directions to help you navigate.
USING THE SUN AND SHADOWS
The earth’s relationship to the sun can help you to determine direction on earth.
The sun always rises in the east and sets in the west, but not exactly due east or due
west. There is also some seasonal variation. In the northern hemisphere, the sun
will be due south when at its highest point in the sky, or when an object casts
no appreciable shadow. In the southern hemisphere, this same noonday sun will
mark due north. In the northern hemisphere, shadows will move clockwise. Shadows
will move counterclockwise in the southern hemisphere. With practice, you can
use shadows to determine both direction and time of day. The shadow methods used
for direction finding are the shadow-tip and watch methods.
In the first shadow-tip method, find a straight stick 1 meter long, and a
level spot free of brush on which the stick will cast a definite shadow. This
method is simple and accurate and consists of four steps:
Place the stick or branch into the ground at
a level spot where it will cast a distinctive shadow. Mark the shadow’s tip with a stone,
twig, or other means. This first shadow mark is always west—
Wait 10 to 15 minutes until the shadow tip moves a few
centimeters. Mark the shadow tip’s new position in the same way as the first.
Draw a straight line through the two marks to obtain an
approximate east-west line.
Stand with the first mark (west) to your left and the second
mark to your right—you are now facing north. This fact is true
An alternate method is more accurate but requires more time. Set up your
shadow stick and mark the first shadow in the morning. Use a piece of string to
draw a clean arc through this mark and around the stick. At midday, the shadow
will shrink and disappear. In the afternoon, it will lengthen again and at the
point where it touches the arc, make a second mark. Draw a line through the two
marks to get an accurate east-west line (see
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