Finding North with sun and watch

zonnekompasAt sunrise and sunset you can quickly determine one of the regions. the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. There is another way to determine a wind zone with the help of the sun: In the Northern Hemisphere, between 11:30 and 12:30 p.m., local “Winter Time” is the sun in the South. With a hand watch you can – provided it is not too cloudy – determine where the South is. You point the small hand at the sun and divide the angle between the small hand and the 12 in half. This imaginary line points south. Facing the south is the North.


  • Make sure your watch is on winter time.
  • Point the small hand towards the sun.
  • The middle of the “smallest” angle between the large and small hand now points to the south.
  • The middle of the “largest” angle between the large and small hand now points north.

WATCH OUT!! Clockwise in the morning(A) clockwise (B). If you don’t have a watch with hands but a digital one, then of course you can draw a clock with the right time.


Finding north with sun and shade

If all day, no watch or the sun is not visible enough for the previous method but there are shadows there is another method that is even slightly more reliable. The sun goes not only from east to west but also up and down and is right in the south at its highest point. You need:

  • a straight, pointed thing as long as possible: for example, a straight stick, tent herring or telephone pole
  • one thing to measure a distance: a string (your shoelace) or something right
  • a flat, clean, horizontal piece of land where you can put the straight thing firmly in.
  • a few small objects to indicate a place: for example pebbles or crown corks



Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Put the stick firmly upright in the ground for at least an hour or so before noon so you can see its shadow.
  2. Mark the end of the shadow with a small object.
  3. Measure the distance from your stick to the mark.
  4. Continue to measure the distance of the stick every 10 to 20 minutes to the end of the shade. You’ll see that the distance first decreases and then increases.
  5. If the distance is again equal to the distance from the stick to the mark, mark the end of the shadow again with a small object.
  6. Draw a line from the first mark to the last mark. This line runs right from east to west.
  7. Now stand right on the line with the first mark on your left and last on your right. You’re looking north right now.

If you’re in a little more hurry and it’s fairly mid-day: put the stick in the ground or use a pole that’s already there, mark the end of the shade, wait about 15 minutes (the longer the stick the shorter you have to wait) , mark the end of the shade again, the line through the mark points runs approximately from east to west, get back on the line in the same way and you’re about to the north.


  • The shade method is not recommended in the polar regions, above 60° north or south latitude.
  • The watch method is not recommended near the equator, in particular under 20° north or south width.
  • Due to standardized time zones, the sun can reach its highest point between 11:00 am and 13:00, depending on your place in the world. Some time zones are wider than an hour.
Example: Amsterdam is 5° east of the zero meridian, so that the Sun reaches its highest point 20 minutes before London. Since Amsterdam is one timezone further, it is 12:40pm winter time or 13:40 pm daylight saving time.