Thursday, October 22, 2009

On GPS and sense of direction.

Please read the article mentioned in the link.
It is quite interesting.

Online Exclusive: Does My Sense of Direction Suck? from The Walrus Magazine on Vimeo.

I have been a GPS user since the early nineties. As units became better, the system matured, I have relied more and more on GPS navigation. I now use GPS as my main navigation tools.

I've also been blessed by a very good sense of orientation, ever since I was a kid. My mother used to tell a story that when I was about 7 years old, she was shopping in Naples Italy and it was time to return to our ship. Only my mother was walking uphill... My mother said I constantly told her to go downhill but she never listened util she took a cab and dow the hill it went... I've always been very aware of my surroundings and I navigate by terrain features, topography, land cover and man-made objects.

Has the use of GPS lessened my sense of orientation? Well, I don't know what's going inside my head, but I don't think I lost any of my natural abilities. Why? Well, most of my outdoors activities are related to canine search and rescue. I have to interpret what the dog is tellng me and how the scent might propagate. So navigation while important, is not the only factor I am using. In order to help put my dog in a position of success, I still have to look at the wind, the topography, the terrain cover, well, see the common points with navigation? So I think that I kept using the same skills for a different purpose and thus, they never dulled.

And I can certainly understand that even a skilled navigator might lose their skill when relying solely on instruments such as the GPS. But then, aren't maps and compasses also instruments? Maybe they deserve the same caveat as the GPS? As I see it from the article, Inuits navigate a lot like I do, using natural elements to guide them. And the secret of preserving the skill lies in using them, trust your GPS but verify its findings, using the traditional methods.