In 2003, John Edward Huth was kayaking off the coast of Maine when a thick fog rolled in and obliterated all sight of land. With no compass, he was forced to use natural clues--wind direction, the sound of waves hitting the shore--to guide himself back to safety.
A few months later, he had a similar experience kayaking through fog in Nantucket Sound. The next day, news broke of a search-and-rescue operation for two young women in kayaks who had gotten lost in the fog. In the end, only one of their bodies was recovered.
In a weekend New York Times op-ed, Huth, a physics professor at Harvard University, explains how he then undertook a comprehensive program to learn navigation through environmental clues:
I wrote flash cards to memorize the positions of major stars, and in idle moments quizzed myself on star positions. Over time, I was able to orient myself at night by stars, and during the day using shadows cast by trees. Rather than relying on weather forecasts, I could tell from the formations of clouds in the sky and wind patterns whether it would rain that day.
And so he began to see the world differently. Like Norse Polynesian sailors of ancient history, he had come to understand how to navigate the world using hidden in winds, waves and stars. The end result, he says, "was an enriched view of the world."
Read the article here.
Illustration: Shimrit Elkanati