Check it out: Natural navigation decoded in book



I am a directionally challenged person. Sure, I can read a map, and in this world of GPS technology, it would be pretty embarrassing if I managed to get lost. But start saying things such as “the parking garage is west of here” or “I’ll meet you at the southwest corner of the building,” and I’ll freeze like a deer caught in the headlights.

What I find fascinating is how our early ancestors figured out how to navigate their surroundings without maps, compasses or sextants. Human had to rely on the natural world to guide them in their peregrinations. Not surprisingly, this is a skill that has largely vanished from the human repertoire.

Tristan Gooley, who teaches natural navigation courses at the Royal Geographic Society in London, is a passionate advocate for finding one’s way by reading nature’s many clues. You might already know the very important roles that the sun and the stars play in navigation. If you read this book you’ll find out why understanding the orbit and phases of the moon is just as important. You’ll also learn how to “read” puddles, trees, sand and the color of water.

Nature, it turns out, is one big map, and paying close attention to its details will make the journey that much easier.

Jan Johnston is the collection development coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at She blogs at