Since the beginning of animalkind, an individual or group’s location and direction have been important questions for creatures on our planet – borne of the need to find food, shelter, water and mates. As with any other trait, evolution has produced some beautiful mechanisms and behaviours such as the wonderfully long distance migrations seen in mammals and birds.
Humans are no exception and have used the progression and pressures of society and trade, the advent and development of industry and technology to take navigation to a whole new level. Today’s spread of technological development has brought us to a stage where direction and location (and many more things besides) can be found very accurately with the simple press of a button on a handheld GPS device.
In many ways this is brilliant and in others perhaps not so – for example, the inevitable erosion of skills and traditions that predated it. After all, why use the sun and a complex mathematical procedure to fix your position when you can use your satnav or mobile phone?
With this in mind, I was excited to read about Tristan Gooley earlier this year, a smiling, bearded writer chap who calls himself ‘The Natural Navigator’. As you’d expect, he does exactly what his name suggests.
Earlier this week I had a few hours tuition with Tristan, keen to find out more of his world.
I was not disappointed. Starting in the beautiful Sussex town of Arundel, we went on a walk, up out of town and through Arundel park, up and over the downs and through woods, to see what we could find. No maps, no compasses, and definitely no GPS.
Instead we used the sun, the trees, the wind and the moon to figure out which way we were looking, where we were walking and from which direction we were about to get a soaking. Some of it was familiar; some was entirely new and I left with the impression that all of it was just a tiny fraction of the knowledge and skills that sits between Tristan’s ears – he is a walking, talking navigation almanac – wise, witty and wonderful to spend time with.
Tristan’s recently published book ‘The Natural Navigator’ made it into the Times Top 100 books of 2010 and is leaping off the shelves as people seek to leave the satnav by the wayside and learn some of the history, myth, science and skills of days gone by – if not for the practical dependency on it so much as the pleasing organic sort of glow you get at navigating au naturel.
For more info on Tristan’s courses and his book: www.naturalnavigator.com
PS To preorder my book ‘A Dip in the Ocean’ click here