Saturday, February 9, 2013

Desert Survival: How to Tell Direction with a Shadow Stick

 This winter we've been watching a lot of survival shows, mainly because Desert Boy is fascinated with them. (And in case you wanted to watch some, here they are in my order of preference: Man, Woman Wild; Out of the Wild: Venezuela; Dual Survival; Man vs. Wild; Survivorman.)

Desert Boy talks about survival all the time. So we talk about how to be safe. And although he really wants to practice his fire-making skills, we decided we'd start small. So we tried a survival skill to determine which direction is which. Now, out in the Great Basin, that's often not something that's hard to figure out, as most of the 300+ mountain ranges run north-south. But when we travel, we might need to know the direction.

The first step to finding your direction with a shadow stick is to insert a stick into the ground. Note: a straight stick is recommended, and some survival manuals recommend a 3-foot long stick. Sticks that long are dangerous around my kids, so we used one-foot long.
 After the stick is in the ground, mark the end of the shadow it casts with a stone or other object that won't be disturbed. (Note: this technique only works when it's sunny.) Then wait 10-15 minutes (or longer if you get distracted by hunting lunch, making a fire, building your shelter, etc.)

After you've waited a bit, check the shadow stick and mark the end of the shadow with another rock.

Draw a line between the two rocks. This is an east-west line; the second stone placed marks east. The line that intersects the line is true north-south (which differs a bit from magnetic north-south).

Simple! I did it again a few days later in a different location, and it still worked. I guess the earth hadn't changed its rotation.

This is a great, quick activity for kids and kids-at-heart. Stay tuned as we experiment with more survival techniques in the near future. And if you have ideas for ones we should try, please leave a comment!


G. Robison said...

That's actually awesome! I had no idea you could do it that way. I'm surprised my dad never taught me that (Boy Scout and USAF navigator that he was......).

Survivalsense said...

Great that desert boy is already interested in the outdoors. Please check out my YouTube channel, and you can find some more fun things to do:
I love your blog!

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