Not getting lost - 2 (tips)

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Subject: Not getting lost - 2 (tips)
From: Syd Curtis <>
Date: Sun, 14 Oct 2001 17:32:20 +1000
Though I mainly write to endorse points made already, there are a few
additional suggestions or comments to be made about not getting lost.

Some people have a good sense of direction; some have no sense of direction.
For the latter there is a solution, if you see your need as great enough.
It's a modern version of Harry Frith's "dragging a stick behind you", that
someone has referred to.  A gadget primarily intended for measuring
distance.  The implement pays out a fine (and allegedly biodegradable)
thread.  For some years now I have occasionally come across the threads in
the bush, and early this year found out what they were, thanks to an
(American) National Geographic in a waiting room.  An expedition walking
across, I think, the Congo used one so as to have an accurate measure of
distance walked.  Someone on Birding-aus can probably name it.  If not, I
could track it down, I reckon.   I think from memory one got a kilometre or
more from a single reel of thread and so leaving a continuous trail behind
you is a possibility.  Then if necessary you can retrace your steps with
100% certainty.

Between dragging a stick (fine for mallee sand; not so good for many parts
of Australia), and paying out a thread, one can intermittently mark one's
route.  Break a bush, lean a fallen branch against a tree, things like that.
Then if retracing the route, be very, very careful not to lose track of one
marker until you have located the next.  Very important if say climbing a
cliff and you know you have to come back down again, to mark your route so
you can find it again - exactly.

Following a water-course gives a 'ready-marked' route in new country.  If on
your outward journey you are following upstream (or uphill for a dry bed)
all is well.  If you don't leave that drainage system, at any time you have
only to follow down-stream to get back to where you started.    But be very
careful if your outward journey is down-stream, for then on the return
journey, every time you come to a fork in the stream you have to know which
one to take.  Unless there is something distinctive that you can't possibly
forget, it's safest to mark the one you came down on your outward journey.

For much of Australia, if you have lost your way, and you encounter a creek
with water in it, following it down stream will eventually bring you to some
human settlement.  It may take a while though, as with the unfortunate
individual on the eastern side of Bellenden Ker in N. Qld, where the stream
circled around the mountain and he eventually reached the lowlands on the
western side of the mountain some days later.

Often, if nothing better is available, walking in a straight line will
eventually get you to some track, stream, road, cattle-pad, etc., but as
someone pointed out, walking in a large circle when you think you are
walking in a particular direction, is a possibility with a totally overcast
sky.  My father told me this early in my childhood and said that the trick
is to look for a mark such as a tree in the direction you want to take, and
to line up another mark beyond it.  When you get to your first mark,  line
up another beyond the second before you leave the first, and so on.
Prudent too, to mark your trees, or whatever, in some way so that if you
become doubtful of your next mark ahead, you can go back and check.

If well clear of the tropics, one can always work out the approx direction
of north from the time and the position of the sun - provided, of course,
that the sun is shining, which fortunately it mostly is for much of
Australia.   And that is sufficient to avoid walking in a circle.   You may
not walk absolutely straight , but you can maintain a constant general
direction.  You do need to know the time reasonably accurately, though.

One note of caution:  I surmise that for most people who have a good sense
of direction, the position of the sun is critical.  Certainly it is for me.
And therefore if I am in northern latitudes I have to consciously work out
what direction I should be going instead of just subconsciously sensing it,
as Denise obviously was doing when she wrote "and I haven't the foggiest how
I did it".  On the couple of occasions that I have experienced this, it has
taken about six weeks for my innate sense of direction to adjust to having
the sun in the south instead of the north.

And above all else, as someone (Tony was it?) has said, if you feel you are
lost, stop right there, sit down and think calmly about it.  Work out where
you've been, what you've done and what is your best strategy.



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