How to establish a sundial, mark cardinal directions, and track the stars to always know your general direction with no map!
What you will want and essentially need is a sundial. Begin by finding a nice open area without trees, and begin flattening a decent area to make a large circle with wood beams. This sundial is a tad more finished but the circle is what you want. Place a beam, rotate it one turn, then place the next beam till you get all the way around.
You can use snapping techniques and a little bit of freehand to make the post centered in the middle. Now with the core setup made, its time to wait for sunrise and sunset.
Mark the spots on the edge of the dial for sunset and sunrise. Those vertical posts represent a rough estimate for East and West. (The sun rises in the East and sets in the West)
Now do the 4 equal quadrants for North, East, South, and West. I personally make a larger arrow for North, and marked it with an N on my sundial. and now we know the cardinal directions!
The sundial and the stars
Now that we have a nice working sundial, we know the cardinal directions. Looking to the sky, we can know approximately East and West directions based on the sun and the moon. Getting familiar with them and their movements are crucial. There’s another way to know our directions, and that’s with the stars. The stars move in a completely different direction than the sun and moon. They are constantly rotating on the horizon. On my sundial, I used a sunrise and sunset marker, and used North as a Noon/Midnight marker to track the time of day with the compass directions.
After much watching and taking notes, the stars operate on a 4 day repeating cycle.
I began tracking this specific constellation. I caught it due West at sunrise and began taking notes. As the days went on, I tracked and made notes of their location per time of day.
Below is the Time of day, and the location of the above pictured constellation.
- Sunrise – West
- Noon – North
- Sunset – East
- Midnight – South East
Already, I knew something was off, but the pattern wasn’t clear.
- Sunrise – South
- Noon – West
- Sunset – North
- Midnight – North East
- Sunrise – East
- Noon – South
- Sunset – West
- Midnight – North West
- Sunrise – North
- Noon – East
- Sunset – South
- Midnight – South West
- And on day 5, the cycle begins again by the sun rising in the East with the constellation in the West.
The stars stay on cardinal directions at Sunrise, Noon, and Sunset. From Sunset to Sunrise, the stars only move one quarter of the way through the sky, landing in the NE,SE,SW, or NW at midnight… So if the constellation is in the North at Sunrise, the next day it will be West at Sunrise. The next day it will be in the South at Sunrise. The next day it will be East at Sunrise, and the 5th day it will be back in the North to start the cycle again. Knowing this, studying this, and getting familiar with this pattern, will enable you to know your directions at any given time of day (unless its foggy or storming) without a sundial, which would be an excellent advantage to navigating the seas without a sundial available. This information, combined with other navigation techniques, can help you conquer navigation without using a map. This has been a fun experiment and I hope someone finds this information useful!