In our last post, we started talking about the navigation component of the Ten Essentials with an examination of the map. Item 10 on the Boy Scout list and item 1 The Mountaineers updated list, the map shares a spot with the compass, the subject of this post. The compass gets a slot to itself as item 2 on The Mountaineers classic list.
Dictionary.com defines the compass as “an instrument for determining directions, as by means of a freely rotating magnetized needle that indicates magnetic north.” The word is derived from Old French “compas” meaning “circle, radius, pair of compasses” around 1300 according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. Old French “compas” comes from “compasser” meaning “to go around, measure, divide equally” in the 12th Century. Old French “compasser” comes from Vulgar Latin “compassare” meaning “to pace out.” I.e. measure. A compass is equally divided into 360 degrees for the measurement of direction.
At camp last week, we really didn’t refer to the map very often because we were given a tour highlighting the areas where we were likely to need to go and because we stuck to established trails when on our own (with a buddy – more on this in a future post). We did, on occasion, refer to our compasses. A compass helped to get our bearings when camp staff would give us directions such as “go about 50 yards south of the administration building and you’ll find it.” With the help of a compass, we could look skyward and get an idea of the direction from which weather was moving in.