I was once told that no gentleman should leave his house without having a knife and some way to make fire on his person. Sound advice, I think.
Recently, a co-worker has gently taken me to task regarding this. According to him, it is not enough to have a knife and a lighter about your person, one should also have a compass.
I responded that as long as I have the sun, a watch or the moon in sight, I've got a pretty good idea of the directions.
He was bumfuzzled.
All right, class, gather around. Here is your situation:
You have one (1)knife, one (1)Zippo lighter, one (1) moderately-irate wombat, and one (1) burlap sack.
Two miles due north of your current position is Britney Loving Emo Kid (BLEK).
The task is obvious -- but how to locate north?
The first, easiest method is to find a good, straight stick. Either find a patch of bare dirt, or clear one.
Drive your stick into the ground, pointing up. It should cast a shadow -- mark the ground at the tip of the shadow, and label it 'W'. Now go be useful. Ponder What is Best in Life, reinforce the sack, grease the wombat -- whatever will take about 15 minutes to half-an-hour.
Come back to your stick. The tip of the shadow will have moved, mark the new position and label it 'E'.
Draw a line through your two marks. This line is your East-West line -- 'W' being west, 'E' being east.
Stand on the line with the 'E' to your right and you are facing north.
Now, don't just sally forth. If you just start walking, you will inevitably trace a circle, and your opportunity to earn the gratitude of millions will be forever lost.
No, face north and pick a landmark -- better yet, pick two landmarks in line.
Now, start walking. If you just picked one landmark, if you get to it, replot north and continue. If you picked two landmarks in line, if you get to the first one, pick a third landmark behind (and in line with) #2 and continue your march.
The second method involves using a watch. Do note that the watch must have hands instead of a digital readout. If you attempt to find north using a digital watch, you're liable to wind up in Outer Graustarkia. Be forewarned.
So, you have the requisite watch. If it's on DayLight Stupid Time, reset it to the proper local time. Again, locate an open patch of dirt, remove the watch and place it on the ground.
Now, if you are north of the equator, turn the watch until the hour hand is pointing at the sun. Find the point halfway between the hour hand and the big '12'. Mark this point on the ground. A line drawn from the centre point of the watch through the mark is your North-South line.
If you are south of the equator, turn the watch until the big '12' is pointing at the sun. Again, find the point halfway between the '12' and the hour hand, and draw your line.
But which end of your North-South line is which?
If it's before noon, the sun will be on the east side of the line. After noon, and the sun will be on the west side of the line. Godspeed.
Ah, you say, but what if it's night and BLEK is meandering through the woods composing his Ode to Bats?
No sun, and you can't find the Big Dipper on a dare?
Find the moon. If the moon was in the sky before the sun set, then the lit-up side will be west. If the moon waited until after midnight to rise, the lit-up side will be east.
This concludes today's class on improvised direction finding.
For more information, I suggest perusing US Army FM 21-76.