Navigation question

  • Thread starter fog37
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  • #1
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Hello,

Let's say I got lost in the wood (car stranded). If I had a map and I was able to identify north,south, east and west, would I be able to find my way home without knowing my exact current location? I don't think so. The map would be useless without knowing where I am on the map. Is that correct?

In the forest, it may be really hard to figure out where we are, even with a map, if there are no clear visible landmarks in the landscape to refer to.

thanks,
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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If your destination is the North or South Pole you can more or less get there, if it is another place you certainly need more information. Nevertheless, there are names of villages in the map, rivers, mountains which if you can identify you can navigate.
 
  • #3
russ_watters
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Depends on how lost you are. If there is a major highway or river and you know which side of it you are on, you can navigate to it, then follow it.

These days, though, it is hard to get really lost unless you don't prepare yourself for your trip. Practically everyone carries a continuously active locator on them at all times.
 
  • #4
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Practically everyone carries a continuously active locator on them at all times.
Which may or may not be useful, depending on how the locator gets its information. If it operates via cell towers, there are many locations where the device won't be useful, because of the lack of cell towers or the inability of the device to communicate with the cell tower because of mountains in the way. OTOH, if the device operates via satellite, then it probably will be able to communicate with the satellite if 1) you're not too far north, and 2) the satellite is low in the sky and is being obscured by mountains.

I do a lot of backpack trips in the Olympic Mountains of Washington state. From personal experience, it ranges from extremely difficult to impossible to "hit" a cell tower for the reasons I've explained. My hiking buddy carries a De Lorme satellite text messager with GPS. Most of the time he's able to connect to the satellite, but if we're in the bottom of a valley with east-west ridges on each side, he might not be able to connect.

To the OP: Yes, you have to be able to orient yourself to the map. Just having a map but not knowing where you are on the map doesn't do you much good. If you're in a forest (common around here) going to a high point can be helpful in spotting landmarks to give you an idea where you are.
 
  • #5
russ_watters
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Which may or may not be useful, depending on how the locator gets its information. If it operates via cell towers, there are many locations where the device won't be useful, because of the lack of cell towers or the inability of the device to communicate with the cell tower because of mountains in the way. OTOH, if the device operates via satellite, then it probably will be able to communicate with the satellite if 1) you're not too far north, and 2) the satellite is low in the sky and is being obscured by mountains.
Location data comes from satellites and is only augmented by cell towers. The main issue most people wouldn't think of is that map data isn't always available offline and has to be downloaded.
 
  • #6
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Yes, if all you have is a map & compass, you need to spot some landmarks to orient yourself on the map.

I was taught how to do this when I was in the Boy Scouts in the 1960s. Can you believe they would drop off five or six 13 year olds in the woods, given a map with an "X" marks tonight's campsite. We did have an adult tag along but they weren't allowed to help.
 
  • #7
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map & compass, you need to spot some landmarks to orient yourself on the map.
"Lost" arts, map reading.
 
  • #9
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I've often wondered about the movie "Cast Away" and the predicament of Chuck Noland on that island. He did lose his emergency locator transmitter. He could know his latitude if he had the star charts memorized. He did have a pocketwatch and if it remained working, he could have determined his longitude. Without that watch working, I've never imagined another way he could determine longitude.
 
  • #10
Borek
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Imagine yourself being lost in a circular forest. Topologically speaking you don't even need a map - just keep going in a single direction and sooner or later you will get out.

Yes, knowing your position will tell in which direction the forest edge is the closest, saving you time and effort required. But often just some logic and geometry come to the rescue.

Back in late nineties I got lost (twice, on two consecutive trips) while driving through Budapest. I had map of the Hungary, but not of a city. The signposts were confusing. Once lost I just started driving East to find Danube - and that was enough. Just a bit of geometry and common reasoning.
 
  • #11
berkeman
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I don't know how common this is, but at least in the US National Forests, there are generally yellow metal marker signs in each square mile. If you can find one of these and have a Forest Service map of the area, it tells you pretty much right where you are. Here's a document describing the FS maps:

https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsm9_008461.pdf

The Township grid is further broken down into a
system of 36 one square mile sections. These sections
are numbered like the example in the next column.
Forest visitors may encounter “location posters” or
“K tags.” These yellow, metal signs show one’s
location by section, township and range.
 
  • #12
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Thanks everyone.

Does a De Lorme satellite text messager with GPS provide your location latitude and longitude information? I never used one. I guess the map of a forest would clearly provide lat and long infos....
 
  • #13
russ_watters
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Thanks everyone.

Does a De Lorme satellite text messager with GPS provide your location latitude and longitude information? I never used one. I guess the map of a forest would clearly provide lat and long infos....
Yes, and there are apps for your cell phone that will give you the raw position as well. One simple one I use is Android GPS Test.
 
  • #14
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Thanks.

So, once I have my lat and long. coordinates, I could use a cell phone that has GPS functionality. I have an Iphone. I have to check if it has that feature.
 
  • #15
Borek
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These days I doubt you will be able to find a smartphone without built in GPS. GPS can be switched off, but I am almost sure it is there.
 
  • #16
russ_watters
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So, once I have my lat and long. coordinates, I could use a cell phone that has GPS functionality. I have an Iphone. I have to check if it has that feature.
The way you said that is all twisted around: your cell phone has GPS, which gives you lat and long.
 

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