The compass is an instrument that is based on the physical phenomenon of magnetism . It is made up of a magnetized needle, which rotates freely around an axis and points to the magnetic north of planet Earth. It is used to orient oneself, based on the magnetic south.In physical terms, since opposite poles attract, the magnetic south pole on the needle corresponds to geographic north . However, that point on the needle is often referred to as the “north pole” for practical reasons and to avoid confusion when using the compass.This device, when operating based on the magnetic force of the magnetized needle, is a useful tool to take orientation in most of the globe, when traveling through rural, unmarked or wild terrain. Except in the polar areas, where it doesn’t work .

What do we use the compass for?

The first compasses were invented in China , approximately in the 9th century, being applied for the orientation of the ships, by means of a magnetic needle that was kept floating in a vessel with water .

It was improved over time, adding various attachments and modifications that gave it more precision than its initial form. In addition, the compass rose was added, a symbol with which it was easier to identify the north, south, east, west directions and their derivatives.

The compass is used to:

  • Orient yourself and locate places
  • Directing us when going camping
  • Aircraft navigation
  • Boat navigation
  • Location of archaeological pieces
  • Support mountaineering

It is used to orient yourself and locate places

The main function of the compass is to help us locate a geographical point that we are looking for. Generally we support ourselves at the same time with a map , which is a graphic representation of the region where we are at that moment.

The map is, in fact, printed with the symbol of the compass rose, which will help us to combine the information taken from it with the indication of the magnetic compass needle . It will be impossible to get lost.

It serves to direct us when going camping

The compass serves to locate and orient ourselves according to the earth’s magnetic poles.

Compasses are tools that help us orient ourselves easily when we go camping and we propose to explore. It is in the excursions that a way back to the camp can be complicated by the lack of signs.

In aircraft navigation

Compasses are indispensable instruments for air navigation, where the pilot must have a reliable guide to take passengers to the destination. This prevents the aircraft from getting lost, both in clear airspace and in abundant cloud cover, in which visibility is often impeded.

The compass is a reliable device in cases where electrical failures in the radars could leave the plane adrift. While magnetic compasses have been superseded by gyro compasses on these vehicles, the principle remains the same.

Boat navigation

The compass is one of the essential tools for navigation in all types of boats, since it allows us to locate our position at a certain point in the sea. From there, it is possible to develop our trajectory through the waters.

Location of archaeological pieces

Modern compasses are imprinted with the compass rose.

The compass is useful in scientific fields such as archeology. It is used to locate finds that, because they are located in very remote and inaccessible areas, tend to “get out of sight”, having to “find them again” through measurements in the field and the use of the compass.

Support mountaineering

Mountaineering is an activity that involves extensive contact with nature and wild areas. Hikers who practice it, since there are no signs indicating locations or routes, turn to the compass to recognize a path that they can follow back.

Samantha Robson
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Dr. Samantha Robson ( CRN: 0510146-5) is a nutritionist and website content reviewer related to her area of ​​expertise. With a postgraduate degree in Nutrition from The University of Arizona, she is a specialist in Sports Nutrition from Oxford University and is also a member of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

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