Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Tristan Gooley is the only living person to have both sailed and flown solo across the Atlantic. He is also the Natural Navigator. I have followed his blog for some time. He has a book too: The Natural Navigator - A Watchful Explorer's Guide to a Nearly Forgotten Skill.
Natural navigation is essentially the art of finding your way by using nature, but Tristan's book goes much further than that and describes a strikingly seductive approach to connecting with the natural world. For Tristan, natural navigation is not just about rediscovering the navigational techniques used by ancient civilizations or primitive peoples, although you will find plenty of such knowledge in the book. It is also much more for him than learning a few survival tricks, although there is advice in his book that might save your life the next time you find yourself lost in the desert or the arctic wastes. The deeper meaning of natural navigation, which Tristan explains in this book, is about opening all your senses to the information around you in nature and opening your mind to understanding that information in new ways that will enhance your appreciation of this fascinating world in which we live.
Tristan's book is at the same time comprehensive and intriguing. He covers the subject of natural navigation from every angle you can imagine: directional signs that can be seen on the land and in plant life; understanding the apparent motions of the sun, the moon and the stars and how they can be used in navigation; techniques that can be used at sea based on the wind, waves, tides, currents, swells, the color of the ocean, clouds, smell, taste, even navigating underwater; and what can be learned from animal life. There seems to be no end to Tristan's curiosity into discovering navigational signs in nature. On his blog this month he has been exploring what can be learned from the directions of flight of flying fish!
The book is filled with delightful anecdotes that illustrate and enliven many of the navigational ideas suggested. I learned so many amazing facts along the way. The "bird poo compass" for example. The evidence that there is a human magnetic sense of direction. The navigational use of a man's testicles. Or the advice on establishing latitude during an ocean crossing offered to the author by an old hand on that route, "Head south until the butter melts and then turn right." I could go on...
Don't buy this book because you are too cheap to buy a GPS or a compass. Tristan is not a Luddite who is advocating you abandon all technical aids to navigation.
But do buy this book if you want a deeper appreciation of the amazingly varied signs in the natural world that are aids to answering the fundamental questions of life: "Where the hell am I?" and "Which way is home?" Or just buy it to enjoy an entertaining and stimulating read curled up by your fireside. Either way you won't be disappointed.
Posted by Tillerman at 10:24 AM