Maps and compass are two of the most essential equipments for navigation. As far as finding yourself in from a particular point to another or determining your exact location in a unfamiliar territory is concerned, instead of the conventional maps and compass, the Global Positioning System (GPS) is now playing a vital role. However, GPS alone can’t complete the process of navigation and works with the help of these two equipments.
Maps generally offer a bird’s-eye view of any area with some prominent landmarks. This shows your position if not the exact in relation to the places around you. On this basis of this one can figure out his final destination. There are several kinds of maps are available and the two most common ones used for navigation are topographic and the planimetric maps.
Topographic maps are developed with the help of high-resolution aerial photographs in which the earth surface is shown by contour lines. These are imaginary lines created by joining points of same elevation above or below the surface. These are useful in measuring the height, depth, steepness and slopes. These also include symbols that represent different features. In case of planimetric maps, the earth surface is represented as a flat surface and provides basic information like distance, direction and location of important landmarks. They don’t provide any kind of information related to elevation and only one can relate to places in relation to each other. However, both the maps are not able to provide accurate information about a place.
However, a compass navigates point to point and provides the accurate direction according to the magnetic field of the earth. So here the compass needle detects the magnetic north and on the basis of which you have to figure out the actual north.
Global Positioning System or GPS detects the signals send out by satellites and store them on the basis of which the unit first calculates the coordinates of the satellites and then determines its own position. This functions with an accuracy of about 30 feet giving both latitude and longitude. It also specifies real time information, as time is an important factor in GPS. This allows storing coordinates of various explored or unexplored places and by using these you can get back to a particular place again.
Hence, how much develop GPS can be but it should not use as a primary source of navigation as it is associated with technological fails and never deals with direction. GPS only directs you to a place, which you have visited earlier, or have the coordinated stored in your unit. So if you do know the coordinates then you have to take the help of a map and compass to determine the longitude and latitude and enter them. GPS unit is worthless if you don’t know the coordinates of your location. So GPS and map can go side by side with compass an extra safety measures.