How To: Find North Without a Compass

By | February 1, 2014
From Xplor: February/March 2014

Being able to find north without a compass is a handy skill to master. Here’s how to do it during the day and at night.

During the Day

1. Find a sunny, flat, brush-free spot on the ground. Push a stick into the soil. Make sure the stick points straight up. Mark the tip of the stick’s shadow with a rock.

2. Wait 30 minutes. The stick’s shadow will move. Mark the new tip of the stick’s shadow with another rock. Draw a straight line between the two rocks. This line runs east and west.

3. With the stick at your back, put your left heel directly in front of the first rock. Put your right heel directly in front of the second rock. You are now facing north. East is on your right, west is on your left, and south is behind you.

At Night

  1. Find the Big Dipper. It's a group of seven stars arranged in the shape of a soup ladle. Depending on the time and date, the Big Dipper may be tipped sideways or upside down.
  2. Locate the stars that form the front rim of the Dipper’s cup. Imagine a line from the bottom star to the top one. Extend the line straight out until you reach the Little Dipper. The bright star at the tip of the Little Dipper’s handle is the North Star.
  3. Trace a line from the North Star straight down to a landmark on the ground. The landmark will be directly north of where you’re standing.

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This Issue's Staff

David Besenger
Brett Dufur
Les Fortenberry
Karen Hudson
Regina Knauer
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
Tim Smith
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White