Finding the True North Without a Compass

Pointers on Finding the True North Without a Compass

Knowing how to find the true north without a compass, might turn out to be a blessing, if you are lost. I hope that you never lose your way, but as they say, it's always better to be prepared.
Being lost is one of the worst things that can happen to you, and it can be worse if you are alone. The torturing isolation breaks you down, and makes you feel weak and vulnerable. So, what does "being lost" mean? You can say that you are lost when:
  • You do not know where you are.
  • You do not know where you want to go.
The second point is psychological, when you do not know where you want to go, then where you are, and the direction in which you are heading will never matter, you should just keep walking. The first point is purely based on the geographic aspect being lost, when you do not know where you are, but you know where you want to reach, and you have a rough idea about the direction in which you should head, then knowing how to find directions will surely help!

You can never predict, when you will get lost. So, you will not have a compass with you all the time. Moreover, a compass will show the magnetic north, and even this direction is entirely dependent on your current location.

How to Find True North Without a Compass

Before I start with any method, I would like to say that if you have a GPS (Global Positioning System), you can easily find the true north. A GPS uses several satellites to determine the location, so finding any direction will not be difficult using it. Just make appropriate settings on it, and you will locate the true north with ease. The interesting part about finding directions is that, once you figure out one direction, you can easily find the other directions (provided that you know that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and east is towards the right of north). Here are a few methods which you can use:

Watch Your Watch
If you have an analog watch (which shows the right time!), consider yourself saved. An analog watch can act as your compass. Depending on whether you are in the northern hemisphere, or in the southern hemisphere, the method which you use to determine the north varies.

Northern Hemisphere
  • Hold your watch in such a way that the hour hand points to the sun.
  • Imagine a line bisecting the angle between the hour hand and the 12 o'clock mark.
  • This line represents the north-south line.
  • Now, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, this fact will help you determine which end of the imaginary (bisecting) line indicates the north.
Southern Hemisphere
  • Hold your watch in such a way that the mark on the watch indicating 12 o'clock, points to the sun.
  • Imagine a line bisecting the angle between the 12 o'clock mark and the hour hand.
  • The line represents the north-south line.
  • You can figure out the north end of this line, by knowing that the sun travels east to west.
See the Shadow
What will you do if you do not have an analog watch? Well you can always count on the sun.
  • Take a long stick, and thrust it in a sunny spot.
  • Observe the shadow of the stick, and mark the tip of the shadow as E.
  • After 15 minutes, mark the current position of the tip of the shadow as W.
  • Well, now you have found the east (E) and the west (W).
  • Draw a line connecting the points.
  • Now, stand in such a way that the W is to your left, and E is to your right.
  • The direction which you are facing is the north, and the opposite direction is south.
Search for the Star
Both the methods mentioned above are ineffective, if you are trying to find the true north at night. So, here is a method, which will help you to find the true north during the night.
  • Locate the Little Dipper. If you cannot spot it instantly, search for the Big Dipper (you will find it easily), and then look below it.
  • Once you find the Little Dipper, spot the North Star (it is brightest star in the Little Dipper constellation; can be found on the tip of the Little Dipper).
  • The Polaris (North Star) indicates the true north.
While using your analog watch, always keep it on a horizontal surface. If your watch considers the DST (Daylight Saving Time), then use the 1 o'clock mark instead of the 12 o'clock mark. Do not panic if you feel that you are lost, stay calm and think logically. To use any of the above methods and find directions accurately, it is important that you stay composed. Always believe that you will definitely find a way out and reach your desired destination.
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