Are you trying to locate yourself in the middle of nature and don't have a compass? Your GPS doesn't work? Do not worry! There are a few ways to find true north, using the sun and shadows during the day or the stars at night. Just follow the Steps below to find your way quickly!
Method 1 of 4: Using the Daytime Shadow Method
Step 1. Find a straight stick at least 2 feet long
Are you lost in the middle of nowhere? Look for twigs that have fallen to the ground that are straight and are at least two feet long to form a clear, visible shadow to indicate directions. In general, the larger the stick, the longer the shadow, which helps with visibility.
The thickness of the stick can vary, but look for something that is about 1.5 cm long. If the day is cloudy, a thicker stick will help to form a more visible shadow
This method needs a straight stick. If the wood is crooked or curved, the results will be inaccurate and you won't be able to find your way around.
Step 2. Plant the stick in a flat, clear ground
The idea is for the stick to be very firm and straight, so stick it deep into the ground. If the soil is hard, pierce it with a knife or other tool. Then watch the twig's shadow, as it will help you locate it.
- Use rocks or earth to keep the stick straight.
- It is important that the shade be done on flat, unvegetated ground. If the ground is uneven or has grass, there will be distortion in the shadow. If necessary, clean the site.
Step 3. Place a stone at the end of the shadow
The stone will mark the original point of the shadow. This is important as, as the day goes on, the shadow will shift.
As the sun moves from east to west, the shadow will move in the opposite direction. That is, the shadow's original point is its westernmost point
Step 4. Wait 20 minutes
It takes patience and time for the sun to move across the sky. If the shadow has not moved after this time, wait another 10 minutes.
If you don't have a clock right away, keep an eye on the shadow and wait for it to move to mark the new position
Step 5. Mark the new position of the shadow
As the sun moves, the shadow will move to the east. Place a rock or other stick on the edge of the shadow to mark its new position.
Remember to wear something that won't move in the wind. If you miss the shadow marks, you'll need to start from scratch
Step 6. Draw a straight line between the stones
As the sun is moving towards the west, the shadow will move towards the east. By connecting the two points, you will create an east-west line, the first point to meet north.
Connect the two landmarks by drawing a straight line on the ground or placing a straight stick between them
Step 7. Write an "O" in the original point and an "L" in the second point
This way, you will create the cardinal points on the ground, so you don't forget which side represents which direction.
Remember that the cardinal points are North, East, South and West, clockwise. If you forget the order, try to remember the phrase "Never Lick Organic Salt" to remember the four directions
Step 8. Place your left foot on the "O" and your right foot on the "E" to find true north
When in this position, your body will face north and your back will face south, completing your "compass". Since you used the sun to guide you, you will be facing true north, something that doesn't happen when you use the Earth's magnetic field to guide you.
- If you want to keep a record of the four directions, mark an "N" in the side you are facing and an "S" in the direction of your back.
- This method works equally in both hemispheres: the difference is that in the Northern Hemisphere the sun will be in front of you while in the South, at your back.
Method 2 of 4: Using an Analog Clock and the Sun
Step 1. Take your analog watch off your wrist and hold it in front of your eyes
Look closely at the face of the watch and where the hour and minute hands are pointing.
For this method, you need to use an analog clock with hour and minute hands. Digital watches do not work for this purpose
Step 2. Aim the hour hand towards the sun if you are in the Northern Hemisphere
In the Northern Hemisphere, the sun points south, so the first step in finding it is to align the hour hand with the sun.
Step 3. Find the center point between the hour hand and the 12-hour mark
In the Northern Hemisphere, this point marks the North-South line. Real north is opposite the real south.
- Some analog watches have an adjustable bezel to aid in locating directions. If that's your case, just adjust it so that the arrow is at the center point.
- Understand that this method is not perfect as there are many time zones in the world and the times are not consistent. It may not be possible to pinpoint true north exactly, but you can get a general idea.
Step 4. Aim the 12-hour mark towards the sun if you are in the Hemisphere
Then find the midpoint between the mark and the hour hand to locate the north-south line.
In the Southern Hemisphere, true north is on the side facing the sun
Step 5. Use 1-hour time stamp during release time
Depending on the time of year and the region you are in, daylight saving time may be in effect. The method is the same, but since there is an hour difference on the clock, use the 1-hour clock instead of the 12-hour clock.
Keep in mind that daylight saving time usually varies from region to region
Method 3 of 4: Finding the North Star in the Northern Hemisphere
Step 1. Find the Big Car constellation
Also known as Ursa Major, the constellation is the key to finding the North Star, the star that signals true north in the Northern Hemisphere. It is a large constellation that is easy to find on a clear night.
- The Big Car is named after it because it looks like an automobile and is the constellation with some of the brightest stars in the sky. Look up and look for stars like the ones in the image above.
- Contrary to popular belief, the North Star is not the brightest star in the sky. Use the Big Car to find her.
Step 2. Identify the tip of the Big Car
Its outer tip, which looks like the end of a vehicle, is made up of two stars, known as "points" as they literally point in the direction of the North Star.
Step 3. Draw an imaginary line from the end stars, extending above the other end of the Big Car
The North Star is at the end of that line.
The North Star is at the tip of the imaginary line, and is the brightest star in the constellation. When you think you've found the star, look around and see if it's part of a small spoon-shaped constellation. If the answer is yes, you have actually found the North Star
Step 4. Stand facing North Star
When you do, you will be facing true north and can use this information to find the other directions.
If you are facing north, remember that the other directions are right to left: east, south and west
Step 5. Estimate the distance if the sky is cloudy
Weather does not always work with this method, but it is still possible to identify the Big Car and estimate its distance to the North Star.
The North Star is 6 times the distance between the two tip stars. Note the distance between the two stars and multiply it by 6 to get a rough idea of where the North Star is
Method 4 of 4: Navigating with the Help of the Stars in the Southern Hemisphere
Step 1. Find the Cruzeiro do Sul constellation, also known as Crux
If you are in the Southern Hemisphere, the North Star will not help your navigation. To do this, it is necessary to find the true south using the Cruzeiro do Sul constellation, which is always visible in the region.
The constellation is made up of four very bright stars that form a kite when you go around them
Step 2. Find the stars Alpha Centauri and Beta Centauri
These two stars are very bright and are on the side of Cruzeiro do Sul, being known as "points". They are almost parallel to the stars together on the cruise.
These stars are two of the brightest visible in the Southern Hemisphere. If you're having trouble finding the Southern Cross, look for this pair of stars first
Step 3. Draw an imaginary line through the largest angle of Cruzeiro do Sul
The two most distant stars in the constellation, Gacrux and Acrux, will be your guide. Start at the top, imagining a line crossing these two stars and going at the same angle outward.
- Alternatively, hold a long, straight stick in front of you to visualize this line.
- Depending on the time of year, this line may end up meeting the horizon, as the constellation rotates with the Earth.
Step 4. Draw an imaginary line from the midpoint between the "points"
Just as you drew a line in Cruzeiro do Sul, do the same with the center point of the stars Alpha Centauri and Beta Centauri, pulling the line until it meets the previous line. This point of intersection between the lines is true south.
Use some natural landmark as a reference point. For example, if there is a tree very tall on the horizon, in the same direction as this intersection, remember that it is facing south
Step 5. Turn 180°, facing away from the actual south
Once you've identified south, simply turn the other way to identify true north. It's important to turn 180 degrees exactly, or you'll be bent over.