Ten Things You Should Know About The Compass

Ten Things You Should Know About The Compass

1)   The compass was probably invented in China during the Han Dynasty about 200 years B.C. , however , it was not used for navigation until the Song Dynasty in the 11th century . Its use in Western Europe has no record before the 13th century .

2)   The first compasses were made of lodestone . Lodestone is naturally magnetized iron ore . Later the compass was made with an iron needle that was magnetized by striking it to a piece of lodestone .


3)   For outdoor use in the wilderness , I will be describing the magnetic compass . A magnetic compass points to the magnetic North Pole , which is approximately 1000 miles from the true geographic North Pole .


4)   The angle formed between Magnetic North and True North is called Magnetic Declination and varies widely with geographic location . In North America , for instance , on the East Coast ( State of Maine ) magnetic declination can be up to 20 degrees west , in Florida , it can be Zero . On the West Coast , Vancouver , Pacific Region , Magnetic Declination will be as much as 23 degrees East . As shown by this chart , Magnetic Declination varies from place to place and with the passage of time .

Estimated declination contours by year, 1590 to 1990

5)   True North or Geodetic North is the direction on the Earth’s surface towards the geographic North Pole .

6)   North Pole is defined as the point in the Northern Hemisphere where the Earth’s axis of rotation meets its surface .

7)   For you to learn basic navigation , for outdoor and wilderness use in the Northern Hemisphere  , you will have to understand these 3 terms.They are True North , Magnetic North and Magnetic Declination .

8)   If you are new to compass navigation just follow these simple steps . Place the compass in front of you in a level position . Be certain that there are no ferrous metals near your compass because these will affect the compass’s magnetized needle . When your compass is Level and the needle has stopped moving , your compass needle is now pointing to MAGNETIC NORTH ( in the Northern Hemisphere ) . If you now travel by following the direction of the arrow you will be walking in a more or less Straight Line . This will ensure that you are not wandering in circles – and being lost !

 9)   If you are using a map , there will be a DECLINATION reading for this geographical area . Use this reading to orient your map properly .

10)  There many types of compasses used for many different purposes from forest and land navigation , marine navigation and even compass use in underground mining applications . Compass study can get very technical and complicated and this is not necessary for beginner navigation .

If you are a novice in wilderness navigation , all you need to remember that your Magnetic Compass is pointing to Magnetic North in the Northern Hemisphere . Your map points to True or Geographical North . The angle formed by these two factors is called magnetic Declination .

Please re-visit my website as I will be expanding this Compass Course to include Taking a Bearing and Orienteering . Your comments are always welcomed and I hope that these pages are easy for the novice to understand basic land and forest navigation .


Compass, Antique, Map Of The World


































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