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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

    Arb Notes

    < gotten completely lost in the Arb? Well, don’t worry, because with a few simple techniques, you need never find yourself adrift in the wilderness again. In honor of Black History Month and those slaves who used natural directional cues to help them find their way north to freedom, here are a few ways to use nature to get your bearings.

    1. The Sun and Moon: On a clear day, you needn’t bother with anything but the easy guidance of the sun. As you know, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. If you can’t figure out exactly which way the sun is going, try this: find or plant a vertical object. Mark where its shadow ends. Wait a bit, and do so again. From the first point to the second point is due east. The moon also rises in the east and sets in the west, so you can use the moon to help establish an east-west line with the sun. However, moonrise time cycles with the moon’s phases, advancing from about 6AM at the beginning of each lunar cycle, making distinguishing rising from setting complicated in the moon’s case.

    2. The Stars: You’ve probably heard of the North Star, Polaris. Because it resides nearly directly over the North Pole, its position in the sky stays nearly constant, to the north. Polaris forms the end of the handle of the Little Dipper, but unfortunately, the dimness of this constellation makes it hard to spot. Instead, try to locate the Big Dipper. Find the “pointer stars,” the pair that form the side of the Big Dipper’s cup opposite the handle. Envision the line they form extending upwards from the cup, and the first star you will reach is Polaris. For you travelers, Polaris’s Southern Hemisphere counterpart is the Southern Cross.

    3. Plants: Because of Earth’s tilt, the sun’s rays strike more directly on south-facing surfaces than on north-facing ones in the Northern Hemisphere. As you know, plant growth depends in part on light. Thus, you will often find more robust plant communities on the south side of hills. The most prominent plant for determining direction, moss, actually grows preferentially on the north side of trees, because moss thrives in moist environments with muted light. Be careful: especially in the shade of other trees, other factors may affect light and habitat quality more than Earth’s tilt. So, don’t trust plants absolutely for directions.

    Some more localized cues to consider are waterfowl flight, from large bodies of water in the morning and back at night, and cloud movement, which tends to stay roughly eastwards here. Just as escaped slaves found their ways north with nature’s help, you can use these methods to get back to civilization if you’re ever lost in the Arb, or anywhere else. Remember, you want to go south from the Lower Arb (the larger part across Highway 19), and west from the Upper Arb, to get back to campus. Should you actually thus evade the perils of disorientation in the wild twice, you might consider the possibility that the time has come to invest in an Arb Map.

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