P. Edronkin

Do We Tend To Deviate From Our Path As We Walk And Navigate?

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Although it is true that as we move and navigate thorough any kind of terrain errors accumulate, there is not a single reason that explains why we cannot navigate in perfectly straight lines.

Observed navigation, also know as piloting or pilotage is used in all sorts of adventures and missions: you can be essentially piloting while you trek, navigate with a boat or fly an aircraft, and this is a process that leads itself to error accumulation. No wonder that navigational devices of all sorts have been designed and tested thorough centuries (Ver Ships of Adventure, Exploration and Survival).

But aside these devices, a technique that is used to minimise the effects of deviations and the ensuing errors is itself the basis of pilotage: Establishing a series of references or "waypoints" to which the navigator expects to arrive at specific times, and the measurements of deviations regarding these expectations are used to calculate the factors that cause errors and make thus all the required corrections.

A popular theory states that if you don't have such waypoints or references clearly distinguishable from the rest of the environment, and you are trekking, will cause such sever errors that you will end up walking in circles because since our bodies are not completely symmetrical, one leg - generally the right one - is always stronger, larger or more developed and thus our right and left steps will not be equal. Indeed, this could be so, but then again, there are many other ways to end up walking in circles or commit severe mistakes in navigation.

For example: If we assume that our legs are not created equal, then why our eyes would? And since our brain tends to compensate, it will tend to compensate such optical asymmetries by focusing in the best eye; thus, you could deviate into that direction. Also you have wind, terrain slope and the notorious Coriolis effect, observational errors in our compass due to changes in magnetic declension, and so on; all these factors could combine, add up or cancel themselves altogether, and it will be extremely hard to determine what to do with them during the actual navigation from point A to point B.

It is also important to mention that while nobody is exempt from making mistakes, previous experience in outdoor and navigational affairs does count, and a seasoned navigator, pilot or explorer will certainly be safer doing this than people who have no experience at all. This might be acute in survival scenarios in which many unwilling participants - i.e. survivors from a crash - probably have never ventured into the wilderness in such a way.

The likelihood of getting lost is thus, inversely proportional to your prior experience as a navigator! This is the fundamental factor, and not the length of your legs.

So, for the average trekker, skipper or aviator, why deviations occur should be considered as academic but useless discussion topics. It will be enough and advisable to assume that deviations, either to the right or left will occur and so, a good use of a reasonable number of waypoints will be more than enough to correct any errors.

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