In the late fifties a light aircraft took off from the east coast of America and flew to California. On board were a family of three; father (pilot), mother and 15 year old daughter. On the way the aircraft developed a minor problem which the father got fixed when he landed. After two days he decided to give the aircraft a test flight taking his family with him. This is when he made his first mistake; he didn’t file a flight plan. He flew over the Trinity Mountains in North California, when the aircraft developed engine trouble forcing him to make an emergency landing. With skilful flying he landed the aircraft leaving the three occupants with minor cuts and abrasions. The aircraft suffered greater damage ripping off the wings, wheels and tail plane. The Trinity Mountains is a remote, rugged area, heavily forested. There are lakes and many rivers which are stocked with trout and salmon. It is home to a variety of wildlife including, bears, deer, lizards, chipmunks, and the odd mountain lion. There are also many species of birds.
The airport in California thought that the family had returned to the East coast, so no search and rescue was organised .The East coast presumed they were still on holiday so no alarm was raised there. The area where they crashed was boxed by four roads not further than 50 miles away in any one direction. State highway 299 was to the South. State highway 3 was to the east. Logging and mining roads were to the North and South of their position They set up a survival camp waiting rescue, unaware that none was instigated. The second mistake he made was he never carried an emergency beacon. Water was plentiful, fire wood abundant, and some wild foods not too hard to obtain. A good thing was they kept a diary which recorded their actions. After six days the father decided to go for help and was never seen again. The diary run out after 55 days but the two women could have survived a lot longer. The pages made more depressing reading as they anxiously awaited rescue.
Five years later the crash sight was discovered by back packers. Scattered human bones were found confirming they had been eaten by bears. Experts examining the site reckon that the mother and daughter gave up the will to live.This story confirms that the family had the ability to survive but did not have the ability to navigate. Survival navigation is the art of maintaining a direction without the aid of a map or compass. If you have a map and a compass use them. People do the strangest of things in a survival situation. They have been known to break up a lifeboat to build a raft
Nobody should venture out without a map or compass. Seal the map in a plastic bag and keep in a trouser pocket. Tie the compass to you, so you are never separated from this essential piece of equipment.
WORDS OF WISDOM
You can go north with a touch of east, and south with a touch of west, but you cannot go north with a touch of south. (Only Army officers can do this).
By Day we can use the sun, wind and plant growth to help us determine a direction. The sun is foolproof and does exactly the same every day. Regardless of what hemisphere you are in, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. By observing the suns shadow, we can work out where North is. Dig a straight stick about a foot long into the ground in a clear space, and observe the movement of the shadow. If the shadow moves in a clockwise direction we are north of the sun, and if the shadow moves anti clockwise we must be south of the sun.
The sun is above the equator on the 21 March and the 21 December. This gives us our four seasons. As the sun moves northwards reaching the Tropic of Cancer on the 22nd June, it gives us summer in the Northern hemisphere and winter in the Southern Hemisphere. It causes 24 hours of light at the North Pole and 24 hours of darkness at the South Pole. As the sun retreats back to the equator we get autumn. As it goes further to the tropic of Capricorn we get winter. When the sun is over Capricorn we have 24 hours of darkness at the North Pole and 24 hours of light at the South Pole.
SHADOW TIP METHOD
Dig in a stick as upright as possible in a clear patch of ground. Note the extent of the shadow and mark it with a pebble. Wait about 15 minutes and mark the new shadow tip, it will have moved in a clockwise direction. Draw a line between the pebbles and you have a east west line.
Point the hour hand at the sun and bisect the angle between the hour hand and the 12 o’clock mark. This will give you a north /south line.
DIRECTION FROM THE WIND
Sand dunes, snow drifts, and waves on lakes are all sculptured by the prevailing wind. Some exposed trees are shaped by this, so if you know the direction of the wind you can use these indicators for direction finding. In this country the prevailing wind is South Westerly
The moon has no light of its own but reflects the light from the sun. It can be used to maintain a direction much the same way as the sun. If the moon rises before the sun has set the illuminated side will be towards the west. If the moon rises after midnight the illuminated side will be towards the east. It’s worth knowing the phases of the moon as it not only gives us light to navigate by but also affects tides.
The stars have been used for centuries for navigation. The early explores had great knowledge of the many constellations using them to discover the world. In the Pacific, islanders would wait for a particular star to appear which they would follow knowing it would lead them to a specific island. Every star in the sky is moving staying in the same relationship to each other night after night. The only star that does not appear to move is the North Star.(Polaris) This star which is only seen in the Northern hemisphere orbits above the north pole. It is not the brightest star in the sky and needs other stars to indicate its location. The three main constellations we use for this are; the Plough, Cassiopeia, and Orion.
The Plough is made up of 7 stars which at times look like a question mark Use the top two stars to draw a line which points to Polaris. It is roughly 4 times the distance between these two stars to Polaris. Orion is easily identified by the three bright stars equally spaced . These are boxed in by 4 other stars forming the constellation. Orion is always in the southern sky, and by drawing a line from the top and bottom star forming the box the North star is found. Cassiopeia is shaped like a W and is formed by 5 stars. From the left, bisect the third and fifth star using the fourth star as the centre line and these points to Polaris. Once these constellations are pointed out to you they will remain firmly fixed in your head. Observe the night sky it is fascinating and try to use these indicators to build up your confidence in navigation. Even with a map and compass, still use the stars as they give constant confirmation of your bearing. Compasses have a built in error but nature is spot on. Keep on the right path and remain orientated. Try not to become geographically embarrassed, but it happens to the best of us. Learn from these mistakes and many unnecessary miles will be avoided.
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