Knowing which direction you are heading is very important, especially if you have lost your way in the wilderness. Thankfully, to find which way is north, south, east, and west, you only need a little sunshine and maybe a stick or two.
Here’s how it’s done.
1. Pick a spot where the sun will be shining for at least an hour.
2. Find a stick to make a shadow. If you don’t have a stick, you can use the shadow from a fence post, corner of a building, or other immobile object that has a distinguishable shadow. Sticks are nice because the end point is definite and small, but other things that make a shadow will also work.
3. Put your stick securely in the ground so its shadow falls on the ground.
5. Wait. An hour is good. I waited 2 1/2 hours. A very short wait may affect the accuracy of your measuring points, but the exact amount of time doesn’t matter. A longer stick’s shadow will move over more area in the same amount of time, so if you’re in a hurry, choose a long stick (3 ft. +) to mark your shadows.
6. As you wait, the shadow will move. After it has moved far enough, draw a line connecting the first point you marked and the new end of the stick shadow. Of course, I didn’t follow step 1 very well and a tree shadow moved in on my stick. Thankfully I could still see the end of the stick shadow. I’ve marked the line with another stick in the picture to make it easier to see. This is your east/west line. The ends point east and west.
7. Now draw a line perpendicular to your first line. This is your north/south line. In the northern hemisphere, your stick is south of the line you just made, so in my picture, north is toward the top of the picture. Remember Stick=South. It is opposite if you are in the southern hemisphere. Again, I put sticks on the line to make it easier to see for the picture.
This is not as accurate as a compass or GPS of course, but can help you get headed in the right direction if you know your vehicle is east of where you were hiking or a town is south of where your airplane crashed or any other situation when you just need to know which way is which.
Learning to find directions using the sun is a requirement for LDS Girl’s Camp. We’ll be demonstrating more Girl’s Camp skills over the next couple of months. You can find them all under the category “Girl’s Camp Requirements”.