Where is the Car Now? Game

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Aug 21, 2019
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Inglewood Fault, QLD
There is a little game I play when detecting, I call it – Where is the Car Now?

Anytime I stop for a drink of water or a rest after digging a deeper hole I try and estimate direction of the car & distance without looking at GPS ,phone or compass then I check my guess vs my GPS and see how close I was.

It is surprising how accurate you get with a little practice & feedback. It gives you a bit of confidence. Every now and again though I am WAY out in direction to the point that I wouldn’tve found the car without the GPS, which is sobering and takes all that cocky confidence away.

The way I make my estimate is:.

I know exactly the time I first left the car and roughly what height the sun was then. I can figure out roughly the time now from how high the sun is relative to noon- a bit before noon, a lot after noon… So I might say ok I started at 7am & it looks like late morning, say 10:30 so think I have been out 3.5hrs. I could be out by ½ hour either way.

Distance :
I know from previous GPS trails that I walk about 2km/hr if just strolling thru flat open land carrying backpack & detector, about 1km/hr if steep hills or thick bush. 100m/hr if trying to detect fairly thoroughly & 10m/hr if scouring. If say I think I spent a hour easy walking to get to a creek, an hour and a half going down the creek not finding much then another hour doing a nice rock bar then that might be about 2.2km total distance travelled. Straight line distance from car must be something less than that. I am generally not too far out in my guess as total distance travelled. Maybe 200m/hr. The devil is always the straight line distance, which comes down to guessing how my direction changed as I was walking.

When I set off I always know where I am heading relative to the car as I always look at the map for key geographical features before heading off eg I know will be following a creek heading roughly W then towards that particularly high hill to the N etc or I will always be to the E of that N-S track. Sometime there are no helpful features eg some bits of Clermont where you are constantly under low tree cover with gullys running to every point of compass or bits of WA where from ground level it is simply featureless as far as the eye can see, which isnt far due to scrub.

As I am going along, say following a gully, I semi-consciously note my changes in direction by how the sun is falling on me – face, back, left side, right side … Unless it is a really gnarly gully or I am walking around very randomly there should be a trend – eg sun has been on front left of me most of the time, so I have mainly been walking roughly East maybe a bit north.

So I make a call – the car is 1.8km ENE. Then I check the GPS & find it is actually 1.6km NE. In some places that error would be enough to still get me a visual of the car or find a nearby landmark I remember from 2.5 hrs ago, in other places I wouldn’t stand a chance of finding the car if ~200m out without a GPS.

Often when I turn for home I make the same call but don’t check the GPS and just walk the “straight line” to the car estimating direction based on the sun now and distance by counting paces then stop & see how far out I really am when I think I should’ve reached the car. Success rate with that game is not so great unless very open country or have easy landmarks. Sometimes I “win” other times I am 60 deg out ☹

Still, All good fun
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