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 .
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 .