Hiking Maps

NORTH, NORTH AND NORTH

Never cry, ‘Which way is north?’ because hikers will realise that you are not really ‘one of them’. When you want to know which way north is, you must make it clear to which north you are referring. Why have one, when you could have three?

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Magnetic north

This is the north that the little red needle in your compass will point to. Unfortunately, magnetic north doesn’t stay still. The magnetic north pole was first discovered in 1831. When explorers went back in 1904 they found that it had moved by more than 48km (30 miles). Recent studies have shown that over the last 150 years, magnetic north has shifted more than 1,088km (680 miles) to the east. And now, magnetic north’s speed of eastward travel has increased by nearly 64km (40 miles) a year, forcing some geophysicists to believe the Earth’s magnetic fields are about to flip.

This ‘polar reversal’ will present you with an invaluable opportunity to underline your bluffing credentials by pointing out knowledgeably that magnetic north has swapped places with its opposing south many times during the planet’s existence – although the last such reversal happened some 780,000 years ago. And you might add that compass needles have never pointed to that frozen North Pole sitting on the top of the world.

Grid north

This refers to the grid lines running top to bottom down a map, used as the northings for any map references.

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