By Lucas Loh
Navigation is one of the most important skills in Scouting as it aids scouts in locating valuable resources and exploring new lands. It requires a strong sense of awareness of self and surrounding. Being aware of your surroundings allows you to identify important landmarks and various terrain features such as ridgelines and hills - all of which assist in tracking your position. Being aware of your self allows you to know your own limits and plan journeys accordingly.
Astronavigation, specifically, refers to the use of celestial bodies such as stars for navigational purposes. It functions on the principle that stars are stationary relative to earth and they are located at fixed positions in the night sky.
However, stars seem to move relative to our location on earth due to the rotation and orbital of earth around the sun. Because of this, the stars seem to move across the sky throughout the year, but their position will always be the same at a specific time in any year.
Astronavigation in the scouting context is survivalistic in that it does not involve specialist tools such as sextants and protractors, which may not be readily available in a wild and outbound context. Before compasses and cartography, stars guided us around the world.
In the modern world, its largest advantage is in mid-high latitude regions where the magnetic compasses are no longer accurate. In addition, astronavigation is arguably the best method for nocturnal equatorial navigation without a compass as it does not require set up of makeshift navigational apparatus and only relies on a scout’s eyes and brains.
Notes for astronavigation in Singapore made by Catholic High Scouts Groups (Ventures Unit) are now available for download.