Module 1 • Arctic Exploration: Navigation
Student Page 1-2b
When Expedition Leader Paul Pregont was asked, “What direction will the team be heading when
setting off on the expedition?” his answer was short and fast: “North!” If you were heading north,
which way would you go when you left your classroom?
To answer, follow the directions below to make a simple compass similar to those used on the
1. Fill a small bowl with tap water.
2. Magnetize a needle by stroking it 50 times with the permanent magnet. Stroke the needle in only
3. Position the needle lengthwise in the center of the foam chip (or noodle/cork). If this is difficult
you can also tape the needle to the piece
4. Carefully lower the chip and needle into the center of the water-filled bowl.
5. Watch as the needles settles in a north/south direction.
6. Which way is North?
What causes the chip to move?
How can you tell which is the north-seeking end of the needle?
Suppose the needle had been stroked in the opposite direction. Would that affect its pointing position?
Suppose the needle was stroked back and forth. Would that affect its use as a navigational tool?
When Paul takes a bearing on the trail he makes sure to take a step or two away from the sled
because of the shovel, ice ax, and even at times skis tied down on top of the sled. Why and how can
these items affect the bearing?
GOOD TO KNOW! The first compasses were most likely made of naturally occurring magnetic rock
called lodestone. If allowed to rotate freely, this magnetic material comes to rest aligned with earth’s