Friday, 30 October 2009

Tag team fun

Last week, navigator and friend Nicholas Mulder comes for tea. He hadn't been to my new place so he heads in the general suburb direction. I'd sent my address on email in the morning; but he hadn't retrieved it before leaving.

My phone rings.

"So where do I go?" Nic says.

"Where are you now?" I ask

"I think the end of Rocky Street."

I can only think of Yeoville - phew, haven't been there in decades.

"What can you see in front of you?" I ask.

"A big hill. I think I passed that old observatory place."

"Does the hill have a cross-statue thing?"

"No, a red water tower."

"Cool, that's where I run. What direction are you headed?"

"South." An orienteer in everyday life too.

"OK, you've got to get over this ridge and into the valley."

A moment passes.

"Look for a park on either side of the road, in the dip."

"I can see it," he confirms.

"Ok, go up the other side. You're heading for the base of the hill with the tower. You'll see a big building at the bottom of the hill. There's a set of lights too."

A minute later.

"I've come through the dip and I'm at the lights. The building and hill are in front of me."

"Turn left on to the main road."

"I'm there," he confirms.

"Take next road left - about 300m. Then the next road, on the corner - green and white, that's me."

A minute later he arrives. We were both grinning.

"Tag team," he says emerging from his car.

Directions, navigation and orienteering are about what you can see. In orienteering you're likely to find control planted on top or at the foot of cliffs (also known as crags). These are not adventure racing-scale cliffs, they near vertical rocky areas that are a physical barrier to easy forward progression. Yes, even a one metre cliff is a physical barrier (rock climbing is not a sub-discipline of orienteering).

Details on orienteering maps, like cliffs, boulders, significant trees, man-made objects and vegetation patterns are drawn by the mapper according to what is visually significant to a human moving through the terrain. The features they indicate are features that an orienteer would notice.

When people usually phone from the road looking for direction, they shout off road names or store names. Sure, I run around the area but I really don't pay much attention to road names and I don't know every road and shop. What worked so well with Nicholas is that he gave me what I needed to direct him. A big hill with a red water tower is very visually significant to a human in a car. He also clarified the direction in which he was travelling. I gave him terrain and feature information and used what he'd already observed (go down the hill, into the dip, look for the park, get to the base of the big hill).

And, most importantly, he did as directed. He didn't say, "I'm coming up to a road, should I take it?". He didn't second guess, he didn't assume, he didn't make his own decisions; he followed my instruction. And because my instructions were confirmed at regular intervals - no long gaps between features - he had no reason to doubt.

This is a bit of what navigation within a team is like. The navigator throws out instruction and encourages team participation. "Let me know when you see a path to you left; it should be in about 500m" or "Tell me when we've done two kilometres; we should reach a road junction" or even "When the powerlines come close to the hill, we need to turn off the road and head up". And if what the navigator calls matches their instruction, their teammates will trust their directions.

Our little tag team activity was excellent fun and I'm sure we'd rock at skattejag. I've also always fancied being a rally-car navigator; but I'd get awfully car sick reading a map at pace.

Next time you give someone directions to anywhere, pay attention to what would be visually significant to them - large malls, hills, towers, deep dips, parks, dams and even rows of trees. Little signs really don't register.

1 comment:

gene said...

great fun! i can usually do this with my sister and my father (all 3 of us have military ties), but not so with my other friends. i will keep after them, though, because i am a big fan of maps and directions and keen observation!