MicroNavigation Forum

Training => Dictionary => Topic started by: Lyle Brotherton on January 23, 2012, 09:23:46 AM

Title: Common terminology
Post by: Lyle Brotherton on January 23, 2012, 09:23:46 AM
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.
Title: Re: Common terminology
Post by: Hugh Westacott on January 23, 2012, 12:43:27 PM
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'?


Title: Re: Common terminology
Post by: adi on January 23, 2012, 12:59:45 PM
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.

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

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.
Title: Re: Common terminology
Post by: adi on January 23, 2012, 01:16:51 PM
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

Title: Re: Common terminology
Post by: Stu on January 23, 2012, 04:18:07 PM
 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 used...so i can see this thread becoming a useful online resource!

just my 2p
Title: Re: Common terminology
Post by: Callum on January 23, 2012, 08:12:24 PM
I think we are going to see a real variation in our interpretation and common usage of navigational terms:

Adi - your definition of variation and declination is what I was taught as a Scout - 20 years ago!
Stu I also started with Protractor Compass and today call it a baseplate compass (I write this as one word too).
And Hugh, I would call the search pattern a Spiral Box, which is very similar to your description.

Here is the nub - many of us are involved in education, as in teaching people to navigate, therefore I think that it is important we use a shared and common terminology.

Could we few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, This day shall change the terms of navigation" - Sorry, not often I can use anything from my English Literature degree in outdoor education ::)

PS Maybe my age Lyle, but whilst I really like and use your description of the technique, I teach it as Aspect of Slope!
Title: Re: Common terminology
Post by: Lyle Brotherton on January 24, 2012, 11:14:45 AM
In total agreement with you Callum and Hugh and think that this community is as good a place as any to start to try and create a standardisation.

Does anyone know how to create a list which people can vote/poll against? Eventuallycreating an on-line navigational dictionary, complete with definitions and accepted best practice in the term actuall used.

Suggest we do this for each term after we have discussed it, what are your thoughts please?
Title: Re: Common terminology
Post by: Hugh Westacott on January 25, 2012, 11:59:40 AM
This is an interesting idea, Lyle. it would be easy enough to select a topic, discuss the various alternative terms and then to vote on them.

But I'm not sure that by voting on the definition of technical  terms we would always come up with a result that would be acceptable to everyone. This forum is new, and it is already apparent that some members are experienced navigators whilst others have, as yet, only limited knowledge and joined because they are eager to learn. Theoretically, the poll could come up with an incorrect answer because it had been skewed by those insufficiently familiar with navigation techniques.

We have a ballot, then what is the next step?  How are we going to influence those bodies, such as the British Mountaineering Council and its various training boards with their curricula and examinations? The military would take some convincing if the terms used in their manuals had to be revised. Also several books such as those by Langmuir and another by Long have achieved a certain status in the outdoor community, and now we have 'The Ultimate Navigation Manual!' They all use some different names to describe the same terms.

Here is an examp[le of the problems that we are likely to face. 'Magnetic declination' and 'magnetic variation', which are often treated as synonyms, seem to have at least four different meanings depending on the context in which they are used.

A scientist might use the term 'magnetic declination' to describe the projected path of the magnetic pole.
Walkers sometimes use both terms in three senses:
To describe everything that causes the compass needle to deviate from true north, (i.e. magnetic variation and also the influence of ferrous metals and electrical interference).
To describe the angle between magnetic and true north.
To describe the error caused by the influence of ferrous metals and electrical interference (also known as  'magnetic deviation'.

By all means let's have our discussions and at least draw up a list of terms and then, perhaps, consider publishing a glossary giving all the definitions with, if possible, a recommendation as to the most appropriate. This might interest the walking and climbing press.

This could run and run...

Title: Re: Common terminology
Post by: Lyle Brotherton on January 25, 2012, 12:54:06 PM

As always your observations and conclusions are pertinent, to the point and accurate!


In the first instance I believe that we should encourage everyone on this Forum to contribute, from all levels of experience, as the obvious is not always apparent to those already in the woods! Thereafter we establish a working group of 'experienced navigators' taken from varied backgrounds, to agree common terminology.

I have also emailed you :)
Title: Re: Common terminology
Post by: Callum on January 25, 2012, 02:52:10 PM
Great thread and one close to my heart.

As an organisation we introduce literally thousands of youngsters to the great outdoors and elementary navigation, and for a long time I have been driving an initiative to ensure that we deliver exactly the same content, to the same standard, across all the centres and common terminology is central component in this.

I think that the idea of eliciting the opinion of all users, irrespective of age or relevant navigational experience, is an excellent idea for the simple reason that what may well seem straight forward and matter of fact to us could potentially be confusing and misleading to a lay audience.

I would also like to be considered to be part of the working group – feel like I am making a job application :P
Title: Re: Common terminology
Post by: Pete McK on January 25, 2012, 06:04:59 PM
Surprised that nobody has done this before (they haven’t have they?)

If not, it is an excellent idea and where better to make a start than this community.

We can contribute as:
# Newcomers to navigation.
# In secondary education and will establish what terms the kids are taught for maps, compasses and navigation in general in geography.
# Have specialist interest, from my degree, in Earth’s core/magnetic field.
Title: Re: Common terminology
Post by: Lyle Brotherton on February 02, 2012, 04:50:22 PM
How about I start the ball rolling by compiling a list of terms?

Does anyone know how this could be an on-line document that anyone can add to?
Title: Re: Common terminology
Post by: Skills4Survival on February 02, 2012, 07:00:54 PM
yes, you make a hotmaIL account (someone needs to take responsibility for the backup mail account you have to enter), share the password between all, do not use it to e-mail, connect a skydrive to it (25GB for fee) and use google docs to make, store and edit the file, if needed you can share a gmail account for that as well, just for that purpose. People can link to the file, you can make it a public file to read or keep it in the group.

If needed I can set it up for you, handover the passwords for someone to change. I would also need a backup account to fill in (only the e-mail address, nothing more)

best regards,

How about I start the ball rolling by compiling a list of terms?

Does anyone know how this could be an on-line document that anyone can add to?
Title: Re: Common terminology
Post by: Lyle Brotherton on February 02, 2012, 07:14:04 PM
Superb - please go ahead Ivo :)
Title: Re: Common terminology
Post by: Skills4Survival on February 02, 2012, 07:50:15 PM
it is done, just let me know to whom to send the word file I made with all info needed in it. I am in as secondary mail address, anyone can change, I do not mind we can keep it like that. If you need changes I can facility or see whether we can adap functionality.
Title: Re: Common terminology
Post by: Lyle Brotherton on February 27, 2012, 08:55:40 AM
Hi Ivo,

I tried accessing the account without success yesterday,pleasecan you check it for me.

Some of you will see that I was waiting for this months copy of 'Trail Magazine' to be published as the listofdifferent termshas been started here. It is a start and nothing more, I will transfer this information onto the account, I presume Ivo that I create a file inside the account, could you let me know how please? Then we can PM other members who wish to contribute.

Thanks, Lyle :)
Title: Re: Common terminology
Post by: Skills4Survival on February 27, 2012, 06:16:40 PM
see the folder public with the file "test for Lyle" created with the online version of MSOFFICE, in this case a word file. You can save the file and close as if it were regular office. If needed I can share my desktop from home via skype and show you (at least ..that should work)
Title: Re: Common terminology
Post by: janso on March 13, 2012, 08:04:26 PM

This is such a great idea! Many a time I've got confused chatting to someone about about a navigational technique and when theory turns into practice its either something completely different or we both call it something else!!

It would make sense to try and get some universal terminology on the go... however, being ex-military, I know that a lot of ex-forces still use 'military terms and this seems to be a point of common confusion :-\ :-\ :-\
Title: Re: Common terminology
Post by: Callum on March 14, 2012, 08:36:43 AM
Saw your article in this month’s Trail Lyle, about the different names for features in Britain, which I guess was your starting point.

I have added them all to a text file, (saved as .txt so folk with Macs can access) and if you let me know where to upload it we can start this great project.
Title: Re: Common terminology
Post by: Rescuerkw on June 20, 2012, 12:04:32 AM
Magnetic variation - a nautical/aeronatical term - I prefer it as the term declination doesn't do it for me.
Slope Aspect? Aspect of Slope for me every time. After all who would say "Slope, the way it is viewed" rather than "the way the slope is viewed". Aspect - the way something can be viewed (Oxford Dictionary)
Baseplate compass - a good term as far as I can see. For me it says what it is and separates the type from say a lensatic compass that wouldn't normally have a base plate.

My thoughts for the day for what they are worth. :) :