Courses for Kids
Free study material
Offline Centres
Store Icon

Instrument Used by Sailors to Find Directions

Last updated date: 05th Mar 2024
Total views: 149.7k
Views today: 1.49k
hightlight icon
highlight icon
highlight icon
share icon
copy icon

An Overview of Tools to Determine the Direction

Have you ever been on a hiking or trekking trip in the mountains or deserts or the jungles where there is no internet, and you can only get out of the jungle on time if you follow the northwest direction? How will you be able to find the direction? Which instrument is used to find direction?

A compass is an ancient device which is used to easily determine the north direction and with that one can easily resolve the opposite direction which is the south. In this article, we are going to learn about this amazing device called the compass and know about its parts and how sailors use it to know different directions. 



What is Direction in Science?

Scientifically direction is the way or the path that is chosen to be taken by any object or any organism to reach a specific place. It can also be called a place relative to the other that you are facing or want to go to. Based on any position or point, there can be four basic directions north, south, east, and west, respectively, which can further be bifurcated as northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest.  For example, the Sun rises in the east and sets in the west. We can always assume with the rising and setting of the Sun which one is east and which one is west. 

Which Instrument is Used to Find Direction?

A compass or a magnetic needle is the instrument to find direction. The most important part of compass is the magnetic needle. On the same needle or the pointer, it has both a north and a south pointer. A west and an east pointer are also included in some advanced types of compasses.

The instrument features a single red needle that is always pointing in the direction of the north. If we know how north, west, east, and south are arranged on a compass, we may use the reference point to identify any direction. For the past one thousands of years, navigators have used this magnetic compass as the instrument to find direction.



Important Parts of Compass 

A good exploration compass will contain the following features:

  • A Baseplate - It is a rectangular surface which usually holds other parts on it and has markings of directions and numbers on it.

  • Scales and Rulers - These are the scales that are used to convert real-life distances and positions into a geographical picturization. 

  • Travel Arrow - It points in the direction you are travelling towards.

  • Needle - it is a magnetic needle which reacts to Earth's magnetism and points in a direction.

Above are the important parts of the compass; now, with this, we are ready to know what is the use of a compass for sailors.

Instrument Used by Sailors to Find Directions

The most patent and widely used instrument used by sailors to identify the directions of their roots is the compass. Usually, the compass works on the magnetic principle of the earth but most of the time, it is used by the sailors to look at their routes on the water surface by revolving in the directions of the Sun or the star. The most prevailing type of compass is the magnetic compass which is equipped in various aircraft, ships, and also terrestrial vehicles.

The primitive compass had a needle which was mostly facing north. Then with time, there came more advanced compasses which had resolved various directions into components. The Earth's magnetic field is not parallel to the north-south direction, but it is more precise and closer. Although there is inaccuracy in the direction that is resolved by a compass, it is the most powerful instrument used by sailors to find directions.

Compass used by Sailors

Compass used by Sailors 


To conclude all the learnings from this article, we can say that compass is a very important device that is used by drivers of various vehicles like aircraft, planes, ships etc. to determine the directions of their routes. It has been a very useful device since historic times and has made numerous developments and exploration possible. Without a compass, there would have been no discoveries of various Islands and places. With this, we would like to end this article and hope that all your doubts is clear now. If you still have queries, you can write them down in the comment section below. 

FAQs on Instrument Used by Sailors to Find Directions

1. People from what professions use a compass?

In addition to being used for navigation, the compass is also employed in architecture and construction to identify landmarks and borders and measure the length of horizontal and vertical lines on maps. Compasses can also be used by people who are one for travelling to distant areas. Compass can be used by almost all people who are willing to find out which direction they are walking in.

2. Which kind of magnets are used in a compass?

The campuses are usually equipped with permanent magnet that do not lose their magnetism on being highly magnetised. The materials used for making permanent magnets are iron, nickel, and cobalt etc.

3. Does a compass needle always point in the North direction?

No, it is not necessary for a compass to always point North as the earth's magnetic properties are changing under various geographical conditions. It can also point at various components of the four primary directions.