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Sneak Preview: September will turn the spotlight on the wonders of fall camping, clue you into a premier spot for migrating hawks, offer two Catskill hikes perfect for a crisp autumn day, and more!
August 22, 2012
- Compass Basics
- Family Fun
- Upcoming DEC Events
Reading a compass seems like an intimidating skill to many people. However, once you learn the basics and practice a little, you will find that you can read a compass with ease. This skill is useful for those who like to hike in the wilderness, and is important for sports like orienteering. These directions are based on the commonly used compass in the illustration below. Make sure you know how to use your particular compass before heading out.
Parts of a Compass
The first step to reading a compass is to understand its parts:
-The base plate is the surface on which the compass is mounted, usually a hard rectangular piece of plastic.
-The housing is the main part of the compass. It is a round plastic container that has the compass needle inside. It can be turned so you can select different bearings (degrees) for your direction of travel.
-The direction-of-travel arrow is marked on the base plate. When traveling, you point this arrow directly away from you and move in the direction it is pointing.
-The orienting arrow is marked in the housing. It rotates when the dial is turned.
-The magnetic needle turns freely within the housing. It has one end painted red to indicate north.
-A compass is divided into 360 degrees for precise locations using latitude and longitude. The cardinal points are marked on the outer ring of the housing. North is at 0 degrees (and 360 degrees), east is 90 degrees, south is 180 degrees, and west is 270 degrees.
How to Read a Compass
Now it is time to read your compass:
-Decide which direction you'd like to travel and rotate the housing until the bearing number you'd like is lined up with the "read bearing here" mark. For example, to head due north, rotate the housing until the 0 degree mark is lined up.
-Hold your compass flat and still in the palm of your hand (and against your chest) so the base plate is level and the direction-of-travel arrow is pointing straight away from you. The magnetic needle should be able to move freely, without bumping the top or bottom of the housing.
-Look down at the compass and see where the needle points.
-Turn your entire body until the magnetic needle is centered between the red lines, as shown in the figure on the right. This is referred to as "keeping the red in the shed." Make sure to do this; it will keep you heading in the right direction. The compass in our example is pointing due north (also 0 degrees).
-To determine the bearing of an object in the distance, face the object with the compass held flat in your palm as before. This time, rotate the housing until the red end of the magnetic needle is between the red lines, and "in the shed." Read the bearing number at "read bearing here." In the example shown on the right, you are heading 250 degrees west.
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Learn the best places to view wildlife at DEC's Watchable Wildlife pages.
Where Do I Go?
You can set up a basic course in your backyard or park to test your compass reading skills.
-Select a landmark that is within a few minutes' walk. To make the game challenging, make sure that your landmark has some obstacles in front of it.
-From the starting location, take a bearing of the landmark by aiming the orienting arrow at the landmark. Then, walk to the landmark counting your paces as you go.
-Give each of the players/teams the bearing of the landmark (for example, 100 paces 230 degrees west) and see which team finds the landmark first.
-You can make your course as long as you want by adding more landmarks.
A Modern Treasure Hunt
Letter boxing is another popular navigating activity. Letterboxers hide small waterproof boxes with a log book, a rubber stamp and an ink pad in a public place like a park. They post clues to find the letterboxes on one of several websites (you can search the internet for these). When someone finds a letterbox, they mark their journal with the rubber stamp, and if they have a personal rubber stamp, they stamp the log book. You can use a map, compass or GPS (global positioning system) for this activity as well.
Read Conservationist for Kids for more information and activities!
Upcoming DEC Events
Programs at Stony Kill are now offered by the Stony Kill Foundation; there are no DEC education staff at the site due to fiscal constraints.
Open Barn Tour
Saturday and Sunday, August 25 and 26 from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Watchable Wildlife: Roger Tory Peterson's Birds
Saturday, August 25 at 9:00 AM
Saturday, August 25 at 2:00 PM
Watchable Wildlife: Crepuscular Critters
Tuesday, August 28 at 7:00 PM
Family Fun: Exploring a Pond
Saturday, September 1 at 10:00 AM
Parents and children must accompany each other. Call 518-475-0291 to register by Wednesday, August 29.
Watchable Wildlife: The Monarch Butterfly
Saturday, September 1 at 2:00 PM
Snakes in the Pine Bush
Saturday, August 25 from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM
Call 518-456-0655, or go the Albany Pine Bush website to register. Cost: $3.00/person, $5.00/family, children under 5 free.
Central New York
Programs at Rogers are now offered by the Friends of Rogers; there are no DEC education staff at the site due to fiscal constraints.
Kids Drop-In Program
Wednesday, August 22 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Bring the kids for some fun at the Rogers Center! We will offer a fun activity and enjoy some time exploring, so stop in and bring a friend!
Western New York
Advance registration is required. Call 716-683-5959.
Saturday, August 25 at 10:30 AM
For children ages 6-12.
Insects of the Night
Thursday, August 30 at 7:30 PM
Every Tuesday from April through September from 6:30 to 7:30 PM
Assist with hour-long projects to help maintain and improve ecosystems and trails throughout the preserve. A variety of projects ensures there is something for almost every age and ability. Refreshments provided. Registration preferred; call 716-683-5959 to sign up.
Flowers, Ferns and Fungi
Saturday, September 1 at 10:30 AM