# 7 Ways to Determine North, South, East and West Directions

Being able to discover the cardinal points using various techniques can help you when you are lost in an unknown location or when participating in a competition at a camp or something like that. There are several simple techniques for finding directions when you don't have a compass or a GPS-enabled cell phone. Read on to learn how to find yourself.

## Steps

### Method 1 of 7: Using the Shadow of a Stick

#### Step 1. Gather the necessary tools

As the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, the shadows it creates always move in the same direction and you can watch them to identify the cardinal points. You will need:

• A straight stick or stick between 0.5 m and 1.5 m in length;
• A straight stick or stick about a foot long;
• Two stones or similar objects heavy enough not to be blown away by the wind.

#### Step 2. Stick the stick in the ground

Notice the shadow it casts on the ground and place one of the stones over the edge of the shadow.

#### Step 3. Wait about 20 minutes

The shadow must move in the meantime; then take the second rock and mark the tip of the stick's current shadow.

### If you can, wait a little longer and place more stones to mark the shadow's movement

#### Step 4. Connect the dots

Make a straight line on the ground between the two marks, or use the other stick to connect the dots. The shadow always moves away from the sun, so the line denotes east-west movement: the first point represents west and the second east.

If you don't remember the order of the cardinal points, start with North and go clockwise:

North, East, South and West.

If you prefer a visual reminder, imagine that the points are represented on a clock: north at 12 o'clock, east at 3 o'clock, south at 6 o'clock, and west at 9 o'clock.

### Method 2 of 7: Using a Sundial

#### Step 1. Gather the necessary tools

The sundial is very similar to the method above, but it is a more reliable option as it uses longer observation times. Find a flat floor and gather the tools:

• A stick or stick between 0.5 m and 1.5 m in length;
• A small sharp stick;
• Two small stones;
• A long line.

#### Step 2. Stick the pole into the ground

It is important that you do this before noon. Note the shadow of the stick and place a rock on the end of it.

#### Step 3. Tie the line to the pole and stick

Tie a tight knot around the two structures, using a line large enough to reach the stone at the end of the shadow. The idea is to use the stick as the graffiti of a compass.

#### Step 4. Draw a circle around the pole

Use the stone as a starting point to guide the tied stick and create a circle on the ground.

#### Step 5. Wait and watch

When the shadow of the stick touches the circle again, mark the connection point with the second stone.

#### Step 6. Connect the stones

The straight line connecting the two stones is the east-west line, where the first stone represents west and the second east.

### Method 3 of 7: Orienting Yourself to the Surroundings

#### Step 1. Watch the midday sun

At this time, watching the sun can help you identify general directions; be aware, however, that the results will be general and not geographically exact. In the Northern Hemisphere, walking towards the sun at midday will take you south, while walking in the opposite direction will take you north. In the Southern Hemisphere, the opposite applies: walk towards the sun to go north and go in the opposite direction to go south.

#### Step 2. Use sunrise and sunset to get approximate directions

The sun rises in the general direction of the east and sets in the general direction of the west every day; such regularity can be used to get a rough idea of ​​directions. Face the rising sun to look east - north will be on your left and south will be on your right. Turn at sunset to look west - north will be on your right and south will be on your left.

### The position of sunrise and sunset only gives a general idea for 363 days of the year, as the sun rises in absolute east and sets in absolute west only on the vernal and autumnal equinoxes (the first day of spring and autumn)

#### Step 3. Observe vegetation growth

As much as it is not an exact or very precise science, it is possible to use vegetation to get a general idea of ​​directions. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere (above the equator), the sun usually comes up in the southern part of the sky, which means that the foliage is usually thicker and denser in the southern part. The opposite applies for those who live in the Southern Hemisphere (below the Equator), where the foliage is usually more exuberant on the northern side.

### While many books attest that moss only grows on the northern side of trees in the Northern Hemisphere, this is not true. Of course, moss tends to be denser in the most shady areas (northern in the Northern Hemisphere and southern in the Southern Hemisphere), but it can grow on all sides of trees

#### Step 4. Identify directions with an analog clock

Combining the sun with an analog wristwatch can give you a rough idea of ​​the cardinal points when you're lost. If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, point the hour hand towards the sun: the south point will be halfway between the hand and the 12-hour mark on the watch. If you are in the Southern Hemisphere, align the 12-hour mark on the watch with the sun: the midpoint between it and the hour hand will indicate north.

• When turning north, east will be on the right, and west will be on the left. When turning south, east will be on the left, and west will be on the right.
• In daylight saving time, use the 1-hour, not the 12-hour time stamp.
• For the technique to work, the clock must be correct. Furthermore, the method has a margin of error of 35°, which makes it ideal for approximate directions only.

### Method 4 of 7: Locating Yourself through the Polar Star

#### Step 1. Identify the star

Also known as the North Star, it can be used to locate north from the Northern Hemisphere. The method below is one of the simplest to determine directions at night without using a compass or GPS.

### The North Star is one of the brightest celestial bodies in Earth's sky. As it is located close to the North Pole, it does not move much, which makes it useful and accurate for navigation

#### Step 2. Locate the star

Find the Ursa Major constellation in the sky. In it, you will find Ursa Minor, which is composed of the asterism Grande Carro. In the image above you can see the constellation as a large kitchen shell. The North Star is the last star in the shell's handle, in this case.

#### Step 3. Draw an imaginary line from the North Star to the ground

The line will indicate approximately absolute north. When you're facing the star, you're facing absolute north. The south will be at your back, with the east on the right and the west on the left.

### Method 5 of 7: Finding Yourself Through Cruzeiro do Sul

#### Step 1. Learn to recognize the constellation

In the Southern Hemisphere, the Cruzeiro do Sul constellation (also known as Crux) can be used to guide you south. It is made up of five stars, with four of them forming a cross.

#### Step 2. Use the Southern Cross to locate the south

Find the two stars that make up the longitudinal portion of the cross and visualize a line that extends five times the entire length of the cross.

### When you reach the end of the imaginary line, visualize another one, crossing it to the ground. It will point south

#### Step 3. Choose a landmark

Once you've identified the general south direction, find a waypoint in that direction so you don't get lost.

### Method 6 of 7: Creating a Compass

#### Step 1. Gather the necessary equipment

The compass is a round instrument that identifies and locates all cardinal points. A rotating needle uses the Earth's magnetic field to determine the position you are facing. It is possible to create a homemade compass with few materials. You will need:

• A sewing needle and a magnet;
• A pot or glass of water;
• Pliers and scissors;
• A cork.

#### Step 2. Rub the needle against the magnet

Do this at least 12 times if using a weak magnet, such as those on a refrigerator, or five times if using a stronger magnet. Rub well to magnetize the needle.

#### Step 3. Cut the cork

Take the cork and pry off the end of it, creating a disk about 0.5 cm wide. Then use the pliers to thread the needle through the disc. If you don't have a stopper available, place the needle on a sheet.

#### Step 4. Place the cork in the center of a small pot of water

The needle will be free to rotate in water, like a compass needle, lining up with the planet's magnetic poles.

#### Step 5. Wait for the needle to stop

If the magnetization process works, the needle will stop in line with the north-south line. If you don't have a compass or some other reference, it will be impossible to tell if the needle is pointing north or south, just that it's pointing to one of the two.

### Method 7 of 7: Locating Yourself with Magnetic or Electronic Devices

#### Step 1. Find the cardinal points using a compass

The easiest way to identify cardinal points and directions, day or night, is using a compass or GPS. Such devices are quite accurate and reliable. It is important to remember that when a compass points north, it is indicating the direction of magnetic north, which is different from absolute north.

• As you rotate it in different directions, the compass needle will also rotate, indicating the direction you are facing.
• The compass will give erroneous readings if it is close to metallic and magnetic objects. Do not hold it near keys, watches, belts and power lines.

#### Step 2. Use the global positioning system

GPS is probably the fastest way to locate cardinal points today, as it is a device that uses satellites to triangulate your location on the planet. The device can help you know where you are, create routes to specific locations, and monitor your movement. The GPS needs a charge and battery to work, and it needs to be initialized so you can get your bearings. Don't forget to update your GPS system before a trip to download the most current and accurate maps.

• Turn on the GPS and wait for it to load and get the signal.
• The GPS screen typically features a compass for easy identification of directions. Also, maps often have an arrow that indicates the direction you are facing.
• Coordinates will appear at the top of the screen, letting you know the latitudes and longitudes of your current location.
• As GPS uses satellites for navigation, some geographic structures, such as buildings and large trees, can impair the signal.

#### Step 3. Activate the mobile browsing mode

Modern smartphones often feature compass and GPS apps. If your device only has a global positioning system, but you don't have any apps to use it, just look in the app store for a free option. For the GPS to work, the device must be connected to the internet, which is not very useful in places without a phone signal.