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Finding the Way

Among the Red Indian scouts, the man who was good at finding his way in a strange country was termed a "pathfinder". It was a great honour to be called by that name.

Many a "tenderfoot" has become lost in the veldt or forest, and has never been seen again, because he knew no scouting, nor had what is called "eye for the country".

In one case a man got off a coach, which was driving through Matabeleland, while the mules were being changed, and walked off a few yards into the bush. When the coach was ready to start the drivers called for him in every direction, then searched for him. They followed the man's tracks as far as they could, in the very difficult soil of that country, but could not find him. At last, the coach, unable to wait any longer, continued its journey, after someone else had taken over the search. Several weeks afterwards, the man was discovered, dead, nearly fifteen miles from where he had left the coach.

The coach through Matabeleland was pulled by eight mules.

The coach through Matabeleland was pulled by eight mules.

Don't Get Lost

It often happens that when you are tramping alone through the bush, you become careless in noticing in what direction you are moving. You frequently change direction to get round a fallen tree, or over a rock or other obstacle and, having passed it, do not take up exactly the correct direction again. A man's inclination somehow is to keep edging to his right, and the consequence is that when you think you are going straight, you are really not doing so at all. Unless you watch the sun, or your compass, or your landmarks, you are very apt to find yourself going round in a big circle.

In such a case a "tenderfoot", when he suddenly finds he has lost his bearings, at once loses his head and gets excited. He probably begins to run, when the right thing to do is to force yourself to keep cool and give yourself something useful to do-that is, to track your own footprints back again; or, if you fail in this, to collect firewood for making signal fires to direct those who will be looking for you.

The main point is not to get lost in the first instance.

Notice the Directions

When you start out for a walk or on patrol, note the direction by the compass. Also notice which direction the wind is blowing; this is a great help, especially if you have no compass, or if the sun is not shining.

Every old scout notices which way the wind is blowing when he turns out in the morning.

To find the way the wind is blowing when there is only very light air, throw up little bits of dry grass. Or hold up a handful of light dust and let it fall. Or wet your thumb and let the wind blow on it; the cold side of it will then tell you from which direction the wind comes.

Using Landmarks

Then you should notice all important landmarks for finding your way.

In the country the landmarks may be hills or prominent towers, steeples, curious trees, rocks, gates, mounds, bridges-any points, in fact, by which you could find your way back again, or by which you could instruct someone else to follow the same route. If you remember your landmarks going out you can always find your way back by them; but you should take care occasionally to look back at them after passing them, so that you can recognize them for your return journey.

The same holds good when you arrive in a strange town by train. The moment you step out from the station notice where the sun is, or which way the smoke is blowing. Also notice your landmarks- which in this case would be prominent buildings, churches, factory chimneys, names of streets and shops-so that when you have gone down several streets you can turn round and find your way back to the station without difficulty. It is wonderfully easy when you have practised it a little, yet many people get lost when they have turned a few corners in a town they do not know.

Concentrate on Your Job

When you are acting as scout or guide for a party, move ahead of it and fix your whole attention and all your thoughts on what you are doing. You have to go by the very smallest signs, and if you talk and think of other things you are very apt to miss them. Old scouts generally are very silent people, from this habit of fixing their attention on the work in hand.

Very often a "tenderfoot" out for the first time will think that the leading scout looks lonely and will go up to walk or ride alongside of him and begin a conversation-until the scout shows by his manner or otherwise that he does not want the "tenderfoot" there. On small steamers you may see a notice, "Don't speak to the man at the wheel". The same thing applies to a scout who is guiding a party. When acting as scout you must keep all your thoughts on the one subject, like Kim did when Lurgan tried to mesmerize him.


Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell (Chief Scout, London, UK)

Date of Creation


Learn A Continuation:

to the next page: Using a Compass

Back in The Past:

to the previous page: Night Work

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