on June 1, 2006
This book is an example of why books are great. The knowledge contained in it would be largely lost or very difficult to compile had hte author not taken the time to publish it. He spent his life learning various methods of navigation around the world from many cultures: cultures not assimilated to the modern or western world.
I've always thought it would be fascinating to learn navigation or tracking from a native or someone who has learned information that has been passed down from generation to generation. Low tech, but very skillful. Art more than science. That is exactly what this book teaches.
The most interesting part for me was the explanation of how Polynesians navigated at sea: following migrating birds, seeing land beyond the horizon by watching reflections on the bottom of clouds, wave variation, and star positions.
There is a lot of good information for both land and sea, plus some for air. The author taught naviation to the US Air Force about the middle of the 20th century.
on July 3, 2000
This book is a reprint of a classic. The author describes tested methods for finding your way using natural signs rather than map and compass. The methods covered range from the usual -- such as stars, the sun and trees -- to less common ones such as the routes of migratory sea birds or seasonal winds.
If you are travelling in the wilderness (or city; there is even a chapter on how to find your way in a strange city), I strongly recommend this book.
on October 30, 2011
To review what I like about this book would go on and on. Basically the description covers all you need to really know about what's in it. It's all very illuminating... when you think you know quite a bit it turns out you probably don't. There's so much I learned from this book, and I was in the US Navy. They didn't cover a fraction of this in bootcamp. Even later on when I was in the Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist program, which encompasses a supreme amount of navigation knowledge, they barely even touched on but a few of these methods. It's a shame... I wish this was a mandatory read for my shipmates and I.
I did however find it a wee bit frustrating to read. I've never read a book that beats a dead horse so badly. Halfway through the book I felt that if I read one more word about how 'there's no sixth sense' I was going to burn it. There's even a whole chapter based on it... and this isn't the only point he beats to death either. He's very long-winded when it comes to describing things, for example, here he lists things a person can hear of the land while he is offshore (as if we didn't already know): "He can listen to the sound of chopping, sawmills, church bells, whistles, to the rumble of trains and other industrial and highway noises, to the lowing of cattle, the crowing or cackling of poultry, the bleating of sheep, to waterfalls and rapids or the sea's surf". --now, tell me that couldn't have been shortened a bit. Ugh!
He also tends to give way too many examples from the pages of history or his own experience. While this is pretty informative and sometimes appreciated, it's not the most useful information... like I don't need you to prove what you just said; I believe you, man. Once he explained the point I didn't feel that I learned anything further from him then beating it into me with some explorer's logbook from the year 1577. I definitely feel this book could have been summed up in about 50 pages without leaving anything practically important out. In the end, the information contained within this book is well worth finishing it in spite of any frustrations you just might have while reading it... especially if you don't mind loading up on history facts.
on March 30, 2008
The title alone should pique your interest! It did for me and once I started reading it I wasn't disappointed. This was a well written and truly informative piece of work. Harold Gatty was well known amongst the pioneers of aviation for his expert navigation skills. Gatty navigated many cross country and cross continental flights, and his expertise was often sought after by pilots such as Charles Lindbergh, Wiley Post, and Howard Hughes.
In this book Gatty puts together his broad knowledge of simple navigation techniques used by some of the earliest settlers such as the Vikings, Polynesians, Portuguese, Native Americans and Aborigines. The author does a great job of creating an informative book and conveying it in an interesting way so that it isn't dry. You never know when this information might come in useful, plus you gain a greater appreciation for nature.
The author of this book died in 1957 but the estate of Harold Gatty chose to publish this guide. In my opinion, this was a wise decision as this is an absolutely phenomenal book.
The author, who was an accomplished navigator, describes how to use the wind, sky, clouds, sun, shadows, reflection in the sky, trees, animals, termite mounds, etc. to determine direction (north, south, east, or west). Also, he makes it clear that no part of the world is without signals--whether it be desert, the Arctic, the sea, Antarctica, etc. It is clear that we as a society have lost our quick ability to observe what nature is telling us. This is not a "how to" book; instead the author explains through stories and examples of how previous explorers found their way and how he has done so as well.
In addition to using natural surroundings, he also describes how to navigate your way through towns and cities by determining direction based on the way a house was placed or where the kitchen is. The reason you can do this is that certain regions face their houses toward the sun or toward the wind - it depends on the place.
Of course, this book will only guide you and it is not designed to be your only reference source as the observer must learn the prevailing details associated with their area, such as from which way the prevailing winds blow, before they can be a successful navigator. Mr. Gatty ecouranges you to pay attention to your surroundings and to pick out directional details from everything in your environment (including insects or houses). In a beginning example in the book, he describes how he can tell where a picture was taken, at what time of day, and which direction the house is facing. For instance, in the picture the shadow of the tree is at the base of the tree indicating it's around noon.
Since the author travelled extensively, he was well versed in navigating in almost any terrain and describes his techniques well in a scholarly sort of way. I know that as a result of this guide, I will be paying more attention to what nature is telling me and the natural details typical of my area. I will also pay attention to man-made details such as the way houses are positioned in a specific area of the country. For fun, I will also try to determine what information I can gleam from pictures alone.
You might ask yourself, can I navigate in an unknown never seen land just by reading this book? I think you can navigate somewhat as a result of reading this book. However, to truly be successful with the techniques he describes, in my opinion, you must learn a little bit about what is typical in the area--the birds, winds, etc. Despite this, I feel this book is priceless especially for those who don't want to rely on technology to get around!
on January 22, 2009
I work as a wilderness instructor for Outward Bound, aboard the Schooner Adventuress, and for the Boulder Outdoor Survival School. Learning to do things the way our ancestors did (without modern technology) is a passion of mine. This book is a real find. It is full of information that actually works, and is written in a colorful and engaging manner. Wish I could have met the author; I am sure he would have been a great guy to hang out and chat with.
on September 11, 2009
This book is filled with information that is very valuable, however I do not believe you could read it once and use the information upon memory. Some of the information may work that way, but I believe field experience with this book in hand is the best way to learn the skills necessary to use the information for way-finding.
EXCELLENT BOOK, though! I do recommend it for anyone who might be heading into backcountry. The skills in this book could save you if you have them firmly packed away in your experience banks. There is information in this book which you'll likely not see in many other (if any) books.
on November 13, 2009
Along with a similar book "Low-Tech Navigation" I have found real gems of navigation lore. This one, in particular, was a real page-turner for me as I love to read about ways to navigate in the absence of the usual high tech (or higher tech) devices (like GPS, sextants, reference tables, etc.). Like the other one, I stumbled upon this one while hunting for a celestial navigation primer. When I read the description I was intrigued and decided to get it just to see what it was like.
I was absolutely not disappointed. In fact, when I got it I immediately began reading it and found that I couldn't put it down. It was fascinating and the author is a good writer. Makes the material interesting as well as instructive.
My only regret is that I can't remember enough of it so I'm afraid I'd be bemoaning my poor memory should I ever get lost and need any of these techniques!
The service was great!
on January 12, 2013
...but I found it not particularly practical for what I had hoped it would be - finding one's way in North American forests, etc. The writer is clearly incredibly observant of the terrain, environment, and weather conditions in many places in the world, and is to be commended for his attention to detail, but I found the material on cloud formations over Pacific islands, prevailing winds in the Saraha desert or Antarctica, and the geographic organization of houses in medieval European cities to be of limited (if any) use. To be completely honest, I get more useful information from my subscription to Field and Stream magazine.
on January 10, 2008
No matter where you are or how bad you think your sense of direction is, this book can teach you simple ways to find your way - in the woods or in the city, in the mountains, the desert, or even out at sea.