There may be a lot of people out there who will question the need to read a compass in this age and time when cell phones come laden with GPS applications and navigating technologies. But the fact remains that you never know when lady luck decides to play spoilsport and drains that battery or cuts those satellite signals.
In such a scenario one of the best equipment that will come to your rescue is a compass. It is imperative that everyone learns to use a compass because it is a skill that you should definitely possess. And even if you never use it, well as they say, no knowledge is bad knowledge.
Before the compass was invented people used to navigate themselves at sea by using landmarks and the position of astronomical bodies. The problem with this method was the dependence of navigation on clear weather.
According to the astronomer John Carlson, the first rudimentary form of a compass was devised by the Olmecs who used lodestone compasses as early as 1000 BC. This theory does not have many takers though, with most historians crediting the invention of the compass to the Chinese sometime around 1044 BC.
The compass always points towards the magnetic north due to the magnetic force that is exerted by the forces under the Earth's surface. The magnet that is an integral part of the compass is attracted by this magnetic force which leads to the needle on the compass to point northwards.
There are few errors that can be caused by a compass. Generally the compass is stable in areas closer to the equator but as it crosses magnetic fields and moves towards the magnetic poles, the compass starts becoming more sensitive, and thus, the errors increase. Due to acceleration or deceleration of a vehicle also there may be errors caused.
Reading a Compass
There are directional indicators around the perimeter of the dial pointing out the directions, north, east, west, and south. These directional pointers split the compass into four divisions which can be divided again as the northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest.
- Hold the compass in your hand and let it lie flat. Allow the needle to turn.
- Now point the compass in the direction of the location you want to travel to.
- Rotate the compass in a manner so that the end of the arrow that is pointed is aligned with the end painted red on the magnetic needle.
- You can read the bearing as it shows in the index line.
- The direction of the travel arrow should be pointing towards the location you want to reach. Walk towards it by first spotting it.
In this manner you will be able to ultimately reach your destination.