The compass is an extremely valuable and useful orientation tool, no matter how agile you are in the art of adventure. This device has become one of the basic tools for those who risk walking in the forest or sailing out to sea in search of the peace and quiet that the ocean offers or simply for those who are looking for fresh fish for dinner.
Although it is now clear to us that there are new and practical navigation systems that use satellite technology, some small boats do not have these expensive devices. Therefore, compasses and other basic instruments such as sextants are of vital importance to less affluent sailors. Moreover, in case of an electrical failure in your boat, it will be useless to have these advanced devices.
How the compasses work:
The compass is an orientation device based on terrestrial magnetism. It uses a magnetic needle that points to the magnetic South Pole of the Earth, which corresponds to the geographical North of the Earth. I know, it seems a bit confusing to you, but in fact it is very easy to understand.
The Earth’s magnetism is caused by the central core of the Earth, which has an outer core made of liquid material, which according to experts is what causes this magnetism. Also, magnetic fields in general have two poles, in the case of our planet it is the South Pole and the North Pole.
However, the magnetic South pole of the Earth is very close to its geographical North. This is the main key to understanding how compasses work.
Do you remember the saying that “opposites attract”? Well, keep it in mind in this analysis.
The north pole of the compass is attracted to the magnetic south pole of the Earth, which as explained above is very close to the geographic north. Therefore compasses will always be pointing north; as long as they are in optimum condition.
In order to ensure that our compass always guides us in the right way, there are a few things that need to be taken into account.
Tips for making your compass work properly:
- Protect the compass from any fall or crash. Keep it secured in a small, preferably padded, bag.
- Keep the compass away from magnets and other magnetic or electrical fields, as this could contribute to its demagnetisation and the compass would point everywhere but north.
- Keep it away from your mobile phone.
- Use your compass away from the car.
Whether at sea, on land or even in the air, the compass will let you know your position and that of your destination in a second. It is an easy-to-use and economical orientation tool that allows you to locate your destination with complete confidence. However, if you use it properly.
How do I use a compass?
There are many types of compasses, but in this case we will show you how to use a common pocket compass, which you can find at Náutica Merino, in various styles.
This is the type of compass most frequently used by hikers, fishermen and others. The way you use a compass will vary depending on whether or not you have a map as a support.
If you don’t have a map
Just hold the compass so it is horizontal. Then point the direction arrow towards your destination and slowly turn the ring gauge until you match the red area of the magnetic needle to the direction arrow.
The angle indicated by the direction arrow is the azimuth value, you must aim it properly as this will allow you to return to the starting point without deviating from the path you have travelled. Also use visual points to guide you, a tree or a bush that you can remember.
Then to return to where you started your journey, at the same angle as you pointed before, point the direction arrow towards you and turn your body until the red area of the magnetic needle coincides with the direction arrow. Once you have done this step, walk in the opposite direction to where the direction arrow points and you will be returning in your steps.
As you may not be walking in a straight line, you should perform these steps and note down the correct azimuth value every time you change direction, taking into account some visual aids that may help you to orientate yourself. This can happen if you suddenly encounter an obstacle in your path: a large stone, an area of difficult access, a lake, etc.
If you have a map
Just place it on a horizontal surface and mark your starting position and the point you want to go to. Then you must place your compass in such a way that the red arrow is pointing North of the map you are using. Make the direction arrow coincide with the destination point and use the ends of the compass to join this point with the starting point in an imaginary line.
After these steps you must slowly turn the graduated ring until the compass lines are parallel to the vertical map lines. Aim the indicated angle value properly and turn the compass until the red area of the magnetic needle coincides with the direction arrow, which will finally be indicating the destination point.
Although it may seem difficult, it is really very simple; you just have to follow the corresponding steps properly and you will certainly not get lost on your way. With patience and concentration you will quickly reach your destination.
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