Lost and alone in the dark

I’ve been doing the Canberra Bush Walking Club navigation course for the last couple of weeks, and last night’s exercise was a night time dead reckoning navigation session. The course is really good by the way and I’ve been enjoying it a lot.

It should be pointed out that I also wasn’t lost, or alone, but it sure was dark.

Anyway, the basic idea of the exercise is that you’re given a hand drawn map, and a set of markers. You determine the bearing from each marker to the next, and the distance to walk. You then set off on your adventure. Getting a bearing or distance wrong matters, because you either need to stop and find the next way point, or carry the mistake on to the next marker. The markers were generally things like “gate in fence” or “two big trees”.

It turns out for me the hardest part is walking in a straight line when its dark. If you look at the GPS logged map below, you can see that the consistent error is that I tend to veer slowly to the right. That’s a pretty useful thing to know, because it means I can correct a bit more for it next time. I got the line of march (not the bearing!) pretty badly wrong on the way to the dam, and that resulted in a bit of an adventure to find that way point. I think we missed the next way point as well because we carried the mistake on by setting off from the wrong point on the dam for the next leg.

I really enjoyed this little walk, and I think I need to do a few more of these to get better at this skill. It seems arbitrary, but if my GPS ever fails and the weather is terrible it might come down to a skill like this keeping me moving in the right direction or not.

Also, I think this would make a super good exercise for scouts. Now to try and convince them its fun…