Shadow Tip Navigation

While surfing the web for interesting tidbits of information that you might find valuable, I came across a website called www.wilderness-survival.net. They kindly allowed me to reprint this easy navigation tip.

The earth’s relationship to the sun can help you to determine direction on earth. The sun always rises in the east and sets in the west, but not exactly due east or due west. There is also some seasonal variation. In the northern hemisphere, the sun will be due south when at its highest point in the sky, or when an object casts no appreciable shadow. In the southern hemisphere, this same noonday sun will mark due north. In the northern hemisphere, shadows will move clockwise. Shadows will move counterclockwise in the southern hemisphere. With practice, you can use shadows to determine both direction and time of day.

In the shadow-tip method, find a straight stick 1 meter long, and a level spot free of brush on which the stick will cast a definite shadow. This method is simple and accurate and consists of these steps:

  • Place the stick or branch into the ground at a level spot where it will cast a distinctive shadow. Mark the shadow’s tip with a stone, twig, or other means. This first shadow mark is always west–everywhere on earth.
  • Wait 10 to 15 minutes until the shadow tip moves a few centimeters. Mark the shadow tip’s new position in the same way as the first.
  • Draw a straight line through the two marks to obtain an approximate east-west line.

Stand with the first mark (west) to your left and the second mark to your right–you are now facing north. This fact is true everywhere on earth.

* * * *

A variation of this tip comes to us from David. He said, I had an old bowhunter tell me how to find the same E-W line at night. Most books tell you to find the North Star, but you can’t always see it in the deep woods. The same stick you used to cast a shadow can help at night. Take the stick, set down with your back against a tree and put the stick into the ground. Now put your head against that tree to hold it still, and align the tip of that stick to any star. After 10 minutes see where that star is. The direction it moved will be east. Since the earth rotates east to west, the line will be E-W.

Bill wrote to tell us: If you point the hour hand of your watch in the direction of the sun, opposite the shadow described, 6 points north, 3 west, 12 south and 9 east. It is not necessary to wait for a second point to create an east-west line.

(Applicable to northern hemisphere and standard time; digital watches need not apply!)

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2016-12-31T09:57:52+00:00

About the Author:

Robin Conrads
Also known as your Webmother, Robin maintains this site, produces the Tip of the Week, and keeps members happy.

One Comment

  1. R. Milner December 30, 2016 at 10:54 pm - Reply

    Shadow Tip Navigation. Periodically test both the daylight and night versions described in the tips in a familiar environment where you know the actual compass directions. Eventually you will “memorize” these valuable tips for when you need them. Teach the kids you know so they learn these important non-electronic navigation aides.

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