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Using your watch as a compass

9:00 a.m. on October 12, 2010 (EDT)
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I came across this video and found it helpful. I always have my watch with me, I use a Timex because if I break it's not a big loss. I hope it helps, I have used it for short hikes, but it can be used anytime as long as you have the sun.


11:47 a.m. on October 12, 2010 (EDT)
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This method has been around for many many years. It was old when my father taught it to me, and I include it in my land navigation courses. It was in my first Boy Scout Handbook (and in the reprinted version I have of the original Handbook for Boys, first published in about 1910 or 11). I also used to include it in the Astronomy for non-majors I taught for many years as a university professor.

While the video shows it with an analog watch (not sure many kids today know how to read a watch with hands), you can do it with a digital watch as well (the digitals that show only numbers). You just draw a circle (in the dirt on the ground is fine), then hold a stick vertically in the middle. Mark the direction that the shadow falls (obviously you have to have a clear day). This becomes the hour hand of your "watch". Now number the positions. Actually, the only two you need to number are the hour of the day from your digital watch and where the "12" would be. As in the video, halfway between is the N-S line. All that remains is to choose which way is N and which is S. The answer to that depends on where on Earth you are. If you are in the northern hemisphere in temperate latitudes, the sun is on the southern half of the sky, and the reverse if you are in the southern hemisphere. It gets a little trickier if you are in the polar regions in local summer, where the sun is above the horizon 24 hours a day (left as an exercise for the reader, as the old phrase goes), or in the tropics where the sun is north of you between March and September and south of you between September and March.

Oh, and your watch needs to be set to something close to the right time of day. The method fails if the battery in your watch dies (the watch in the video is battery powered!.

9:29 p.m. on October 12, 2010 (EDT)
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Thanks, I agree with you but I also know we need to be able to use all our tools. The Timex that is used is the same type I have, it keeps time over a long period of time to within minutes if not seconds per year. I do change the battery every year. I keep what I use for very long time, I guess I'm cheap or just old and it's hard for me to change. I have hand held GPS and compass, but it's nice to be able to use more.

April 17, 2014
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