Cardinal directions

In the countryside or on the map we orientate with the help of the cardinal directions. The main cardinal directions are four basic directions (north, south, west, and east) that coincide with the direction of parallels and meridians. The meridian is an imaginary line that connects the North and South poles by the shortest route. The length of all meridians is the same and from the pole to the pole is 20 000 km long. The time difference between each meridian is 4 minutes, one hour between 15 meridians. On Earth, a meridian passing through the Astronomical observatory in Greenwich, England was selected as the Prime meridian. A circle of latitude is a circle on the surface of the Earth (sphere) with the same latitude. Circles of latitude are shortened from the Equator (longest one) towards the poles (point). Circle of latitude are usually referred to their latitude and hemisphere they are located on. Some significant circles of latitude have their own names, the North Pole (90° N), Arctic Circle (66° 33‘ N), the Tropic of Cancer (23° 27‘ N), the Equator (0° latitude), the Tropic of Capricorn (23° 27‘ S), the Antarctic Circle (66° 33‘ S) and the South Pole (90° S). Only between the Tropical Circles the Sun reaches, at least once, the zenith during the year. Only north of the Arctic Circle, or south of the Antarctic Circle, the Sun does not set at least once during the year (polar day and polar night).

For a more accurate determination of direction, the intercardinal directions are used. They lie between the cardinal directions – northwest (between west and north), northeast (between north-east), southeast (between east-south), and southwest (between south and west).

Determination of the cardinal directions

To determine the cardinal directions, we use a compass or an orienteering compass, which consist of a compass rose and a magnetic needle that always points to the north. The cardinal directions are marked with the initials of their English name on the compass rose. N – North, S – South, W – West and E – East. To make it easier to remember, it is possible to use a mnemonic tool with the English word „NEWS“. Beware of the treacherousness of the letter S, which in the Czech language indicates the north, but in English it is the south. If the observer faces the north, the east is on his right, west on the left, and the south is behind the observer. The map is a reduced and simplified picture of the landscape from a bird‘s eye view. The orientated map means that the north on the map coincides with the north in reality. On the map or plan, the north is always at the top (unless the compass rose marks another orientation).