Australia has recently announced a 1.8m shift in its mapping coordinates, to compensate for the country’s 7.5cm shift north each year. Inevitably the question is why, and could the same thing happen here?
In Australia, the shift is to take into account the growing difference between maps (and the coordinate reference system they’re based on) and the system used by satellite positioning (GPS). It’s a fact that the world is constantly shifting on tectonic plates, but maps (and their users) like fixed coordinates that don’t change. Before GPS, this was simple to achieve as most positioning and mapping was created from fixed ground points in a coordinate reference system tuned to a particular country. In Great Britain our fixed points included the very familiar trig pillars and we have a mapping coordinate reference system called OSGB36 National Grid which is fitted closely to our little bit of the Earth. Tectonic plate movements had little or no impact on the mapping coordinates or fixed points because they all moved “as one” and generally stayed the same shape.
Most of us are reliant on a GPS in our day to day life – whether it’s following the reassuring voice directing us around a traffic jam or grabbing our phone for a quick check that we’re walking in the right direction in a new city. Many now rely solely on GPS for navigating in the hills too. But what happens when GPS fails? It’s something that walkers near Benbecula are likely to experience next month…
Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite-based navigation system owned by the US government. GPS was originally intended for military use, but in the 1980s the government made the system available for civilian use. GPS will work in most weather (although space weather can impact – see our previous blog on solar flares), across the world, 24/7. Something that we all benefit from today.
However, the military can (and do) jam GPS signals for their own priorities, such as military exercises. The communications watchdog Ofcom issued a warning recently about GPS jamming due to take place for periods between 1 and 29 July while aircraft crews train over a military range on Benbecula. In these circumstances, would you be able to navigate?
Face it – if you spend any time outdoors you are going to get wet. This is the reason a lot of the outdoor gear we sell, especially electrical items like GPS devices and torches as well as bags have an IPX rating.
In any discussion of routes, navigation or GPS devices, you have probably seen people mentioning ‘GPX files’. GPX is shorthand for GPS eXchange Format and is a type of file that’s really helpful to anyone who loves the outdoors, and is the most popular way of saving and exchanging routes.
What’s in a GPX file?
You can actually open a GPX file in any text editor, and you’ll get something like the image here. While this looks complex, all most people need to know is that it is a list of precise locations, in order, that make a up a route for walking, running, cycling or any other activity. This route can then be placed on top of a map for printing or following on screen.
From geocaching to Easter egg hunts around the house for the kids, we love a scavenger hunt. These games have everything: you have to be quick on the mental draw; you get a bit of exercise when you race from point to point, and you get to satisfy your competitive nature by being the first to collect all items being hunted.
A great scavenger hunt can provide hours of entertainment, improve team-work skills and get you out and about in nature, yet they don’t require much more than a well-thought-out plan. Here are a few tips to help you plan your own…
The future of paper maps has been the subject of lively debate in recent months. Interestingly, while the popularity of GPS devices and mapping apps for mobile devices continues to grow, paper maps are still being used by millions of outdoor enthusiasts every year, who are increasingly looking to access both paper and digital mapping for their activities.
That’s why for a number of years we’ve been looking to bring paper and digital mapping together in convenient ways that suit your activities and uses. For this reason, we’re launching a new series of maps called OS Explorer Map +, which include the same high quality mapping you’ve come to expect from our paper maps, but are printed on a more robust, weather-resistant paper and come with a free 14 day trial subscription to our online mapping application, OS getamap.
Guest post by Andrew of Outdoor Look.
For hundreds, if not thousands of years man has explored his surroundings with a compass and maps. Now we see GPS units and apps for smart phones available a plenty, so has the humble compass had its day? Both have their fans with some seeing the GPS as just the latest ‘boys toy’ with lots of buttons and flashing lights and those who see it as a valuable aid to navigating your route that anyone who is serious about walking and hiking must have with them at all times. I lean towards the compass and map, simply because that is how I was taught, but I can see how technology changes and obviously a GPS unit doesn’t take up as much space, but is one better than the other? Let’s see.
Many of us have fond memories of exciting treasure hunts as children, with Easter eggs and other small treats often the subjects of our searches. These days, though, it’s much more normal to find youngsters glued to their television screens, completing quests of a more virtual nature. Technology has certainly affected the ways in which people explore the world and enjoy themselves, but it’d be wrong to assume that old and new can’t be combined to great effect. Geocaching is a fantastic example of this.
Love them or hate them, GPS devices are rapidly becoming more popular for all kinds of outdoor pursuits. They can be used for checking your position, following a pre-defined route and automatically recording your route. Some offer additional features, such as cameras or altimeters. Here’s the Ordnance Survey guide to choosing a handheld GPS device.
A Global Positioning Device or GPS is a very handy tool for walkers who want the security of knowing their exact location. If you’re walking somewhere relatively featureless then a GPS provides the peace of mind that you’re going in the right direction. It will also allow you to give the emergency services your exact location, should you get in a spot of bother and need their support.