Let’s Go, Silva!

Friday, September 20, 2019

While in my barn and rummaging through a basket of miscellaneous odds and ends, there appeared a Silva Compass, Model 515, circa about 2010. Back then I rode horseback mostly, often worrying, “what if”, in case my horse and I got lost in a wilderness area. For sure, I never rode deeply into any terrain unknown and scary, unless with an experienced outdoors-person who knew the area. By myself, I tried to stick to old well-worn horse trails. The thing about horse trails is that they always lead someplace understandable, unlike vehicle roads that can go on forever and who knows to where.

I used to try learning more about being outdoors by reading. Most experts advise wannabe trekkers to understand the uses of compass and map. Wanting to master this process was useless for me. I found that like most technical bits involving needles and measurements, my mind couldn’t get it straight. Compasses seemed as confusing as topo maps.

While in the barn with that compass, its compact and interesting-looking features, and deciding whether to toss it, my brain tugged at me. Maybe it’s again time to find if I could understand the device although I no longer wander in wilderness areas. Maybe what’s important is backing up and satisfying a lingering knowledge gap. Besides, this find reminded me that several compasses, purchased periodically to pursue map-reading, lay forgotten around my house.

Off to the University of YouTube, where videos popped up demonstrating how to use my found Silva model. Viewing a couple made me annoyed with myself, for in the past using a compass and map seemed too technical and confusing, but now grasping the fundamentals seemed easy. Maybe this is because I’m older and wiser, but I doubt that. The change most likely is because we’ve used increasing technology over the past nine or ten years, say with computers, cell phones, apps, and whatever might be tapped from that Cloud.

I also learned that the first non-military compass was invented in Sweden, in 1932, by Bjorn Kjellstrom, a Swedish ski-orienteering champion. He and his two brothers, and a machinist, created a brand new type of compass specifically for terresterial navigation. It featured a liquid-damped magnetized needle housing and a protractor, all built into a transparent base, very similar to my unit. They then founded the Silva Compass Manufacturing Company in Sweden.

I’ll put my new understanding to a test in the neighborhood. I’ll orient the compass to a city map, making sure to match the instrument’s double-red indicator lines exactly to “north” as shown on the map. I’ll set the compass’s directional point to where I wish to go and then read the degrees of difference between north and my goal. Using those degrees of difference and the compass, I’ll spot ahead a hiking target. I’ll walk toward the destined point, and on reaching it, will re-read the compass and set another part-way hiking target. Re-orienting stops like this should get me correctly over the local mile-and-a-half loop, where reversing the process would re-direct me toward home.

This likely will be time that’s wasted on an activity that won’t ever benefit me. Perhaps usefulness isn’t as important as learning, hoping to overcome earlier feelings of an inability to absorb some knowledge. The analogy I’m using, that perhaps new technology makes me more comfortable with old technology, raises questions about learning comfort and discomfort. The ability to absorb and use learning likely has much to do with how topics initially are introduced, and the sincerity of a teacher’s encouragement.

Dear Readers: Old ideas, but sparked anew by personal experience. Diana

2 thoughts on “Let’s Go, Silva!

  1. Ha, you’re correct, and thanks for the reminder. Studying for those ham licenses nearly did me in, but that effort needed memorizing, without any particular understanding. The Silva requires both learning and using, and so, perhaps our increasing familiarity with technologies makes me more comfortable with (at least some) previously feared technical applications.


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