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The Bushwalker's Guide to the Galaxy Home Page


An Introduction to the Bushwalker's Guide to the Galaxy


Improvised Angle Measuring Techniques

Reference Directions

Finding Reference Directions from your Surroundings


by Alan Sheehan B.E.

The Bushwalker's Guide to the Galaxy...


How to Navigate the Surface of the Earth with less than a GPS or compass...

(with apologies to Douglas Adams - author of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy")

Welcome to the new Bushwalker's Guide to the Galaxy online!

You may have seen the earlier versions of The Bushwalker's Guide to the Galaxy on the web before, either on my old website, on the Oberon State Emergency Service website, and some copies and mirrors around the world and some translations to other languages.

Well, after several years of distractions and other projects, the Bushwalker's Guide to the Galaxy is back on the web, in a more comprehensive, expanded format. While my ultimate goal would be to see the Bushwalker's Guide to the Galaxy published as a small book suitable for carrying into the field, in the interests of Preventive Search and Rescue I offer the Bushwalker's Guide to the Galaxy website free to any and all people who enjoy the great outdoors.

If you would like to help me to get the Bushwalker's Guide to the Galaxy published as a field guide, please contact me.


The techniques included in this website require practical skills, knowledge and application. The author accepts no responsibility for the application (correct or otherwise) of these techniques, or the results of such application. While every effort has been made to ensure the information is correct, errors may exist. The author in no way encourages the use of Improvised Navigation Techniques as a substitute for modern navigation methods, techniques, and equipment. In the interest of Preventive Search and Rescue, the author encourages the use and practice of all navigational techniques available.

Sorry, Ford, Arthur, Trillian, Zaphod and Slartibartfast have nothing to do with this... and there are certainly no electronic thumbs here!


I have been a map reading and navigation instructor or trainer now for quite a few years, teaching bushwalkers, land searchers and rescuers how to navigate. Improvised navigation techniques has always been a part of the map reading and navigation curriculum I teach, but the mainstream knowledge of improvised navigation methods is poor to say the least.

When I first got on the internet years ago I wanted to find more about improvised navigation. I did several searches on the net for Improvised navigation methods… and I got nothing! Well, not true really, but all I got was the same lame mainstream methods. There had to be more to it than that! Indigenous people all over the world still navigate without modern aids and survive. If the Polynesians had analogue watches to navigate by the sun with, they would still be trying to find some islands in the South Pacific! So I set about finding out about improvised navigation myself, and used my engineering skills to check what methods were good and what weren’t. I published this information as “The Bushwalker’s Guide to the Galaxy” web page and updated as I learned new stuff. This work has lead to this website, with better diagrams and pictures and more detail than the original web page.

A lot of knowledge and skills have been lost over the years, and not just in navigation. It is still going on today, perhaps faster than ever. Not only have we lost a lot of navigation skills, and are at risk of losing more, but we have lost the technology  used to cut stone prior to the iron age, we have lost our knowledge of bush-tucker, indigenous peoples are losing their tribal skills, customs and culture, and our children are losing the ability to do mental arithmetic, or even long hand division. And that’s just a few examples off the top of my head.

Why? New technology. Marketing and sales people want you to believe that new technology is better than old technology. In some cases, and for some things it is. The important thing is to recognise good technology, whether it is new or old. Good technology is worthy of preserving, because there will come a time when it is useful. For example, in these days of calculators and computers, I see no need to keep a slide rule, but I sure as hell am glad to be able to do mental arithmetic and to do long hand maths!

So beware of new technology. If you use a GPS, I recommend you don’t use it to navigate by. Navigate by other methods, and use the GPS as a check to confirm or fine tune your position, or to track where you have been. Watching the navigation screen of your GPS stops you from observing your surroundings. So when you lose your GPS for whatever reason, or the batteries go flat, you are well and truly properly lost!

Actually, it should be “beware sales and marketing people”. They want you to believe new technology is better so they can sell you the new technology. Be critical. If the new technology is good, by all means have it and use it, but remember old technology can be good too, and good technology, whether it is old or new, is what you want. Just as new technology might do some part of a job easier, or better in some circumstances, the old technology often has similar advantages in another scenario.

Learn and enjoy!

Al Sheehan.

Death before Disorientation!