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Common terminology

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Lyle Brotherton:
This is a great thread initiated by Hugh Westacott.

Navigational terms differ not only across countries with common language but also across different user groups and regions within a country.

To a great extent common usage determines the most popular terms, yet this can be driven by groups such as us which includes recreational navigators, instructors, columnists and authors. Lastly, the manufacturers of equipment and retailers also play a major role in naming equipment. Language is also dynamic, in that it is constantly changing.   

So to continue Hugh’s and Adi’s discussion, here is my two penny worth:)

I use the term base plate compass with the SAR teams and military units I work with and yet frankly have never sat down and considered either why or if this is the general term used by all user groups.

So this morning I have visited the major compass manufacturers’ websites, to see what up-to-date terms they use to describe these compasses.

Brunton, Silva, Suunto and Recta all describe them as base plate compasses, which frankly did not surprise me. What did surprise me was that the last three of these manufacturers all use the term magnetic declination. 

Magnetic declination was a term that I struggled with in my book, as some folk who I worked with called it magnetic variation, and I arbitrarily settled on magnetic declination.

Yet the term in the book I had and still have the greatest difficulty with is Slope Aspect. When I first learned this technique my instructor called it Aspect of Slope and today I sometimes slip into using this term when instructing the technique. I used Slope Aspect because I believed it was the most modern term, yet the latter is still more appealing.

There are lots more and I will post my ‘take’ on these words later, I need to update my blog now about a terrific weekend at a water rescue conference.

Hugh Westacott:
Lyle has hit the nail on the head!

The terms that land navigators use vary according to the company they keep. I've been using Silva compasses since before Adj was born yet when I read 'UNM' and came across the term 'baseplate' compass I had no idea what it meant.

I believe that it is correct to state that 'magnetic variation' and 'magnetic declination' are synonymous terms, when used by land navigators in the UK, and they describe the angle of difference between magnetic north and true or grid north. I prefer the former term to avoid any confusion with 'magnetic deviation' which refers to outside influences on the compass such as ferrous metal and electrical interference.

I've been considering the terms in general use to describe the technique used by solo walkers to locate a small object. I've come across 'square search', 'box search' and 'spiral search', and Adj suggested 'expanding square search' which was new to me. None of them seemed a sufficiently accurate description but after some research discovered that the pattern created by this technique is called a 'square spiral'.

The terms 'slope aspect' and 'aspect of the slope' are in general use. Both Langmuir and Long favour the former term

This discussion has sent me scurrying back to amend the draft chapter on navigation which I've been preparing for the 5th edition of 'The Walker's Handbook'.

Lyle: are you going to move all posts in this thread to the more descriptive topic of 'Common terminology'?



Interesting thoughts their Lyle.

I was taught that magnetic declination was how the magnetic north moved whilst magnetic variation is the amount of change you make on the compass so when describing it, it is magnetic declination. So put simply; magnetic variation is what you set on the compass once you have worked out the magnetic declination.

--- Quote ---Brunton, Silva, Suunto and Rectal all describe them as base plate compasses, which frankly did not surprise me.
--- End quote ---

Brunton, Suunto and Recta would legally have to use the name baseplate compass because at some point in the past they would have had to buy a licence to use the patent from Silva. 

I am of the 'Aspect of Slope' camp, sorry Lyle.

I think in the main we are all right. The problem I have, is with authors, they often describe something that is common to an activity but to make it their own they will add their own name. Over the mists of time some people use that name or this name and it all gets very muddy.

I don't have a problem with authors trying to put their mark on a technique, after all they have invested a lot of time and effort in to writing the book but I truly believe they are responsible for the different terms. On the whole it is not a problem, in the case of navigation we all have an understanding on what a term means whether we use it or not. Its only when enthusiasts like use get together does it become a bit of a problem. Maybe this is a discussion we should have on a railway station platform whilst we have our train spotting cagoule's on! lol

 I tend to use the terms
Protractor compass
Aspect of slope
Magnetic variation for land nav [grid north - magnetic north]
Declination coastal nav [true north - magnetic north] ..... but Adi's definition rings a distant bell

and another to throw into the list
collecting feature [which i use] or ticking off feature

I tend to use these terms only because most of the people i know use these terms [common usage for my neck of the woods], if someone uses a term which differs or may cause confusion then I ask....simples

The main initial problem when learning any subject [math,physics...navigation! etc], is a accurate understanding of the terminology i can see this thread becoming a useful online resource!

just my 2p


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