Enjoy Peru
Peru Tours Perou Tours Peru Tours Manual de Supervivencia en la Selva Handbook for Survival in the Rain Forest Manual de Supervivencia en la Selva

Handbook for Survival in the Rain Forest

How to determine your position

It is necessary to try to determine your position in reference to a known point. Obviously, to do this, you will first need to know where you want to go and where you are at that moment.

Basic orientation can be carried out through the following means:

a) Astronomy: By using the sun and the moon.
b) By using instruments like a compass.
c) By Orientation by Natural Means.

a) Astronomy

We all know about the four cardinal points of the compass and we all know that the sun rises in the East, not only in Peru, but everywhere and that it crosses the sky in an East Westerly direction. If we open our arms in the form of a cross and point the right hand towards the point where the sun rises, that right arm will be pointing due East and we will be facing North and due South will be at our back behind us. (See Drawing 3a).


Drawing 3 a

An alternative way would be to sink a pole vertically into the ground and observe towards where the shadow falls, if this is carried out before noon, the shadow will fall towards the West and if it carried out in the afternoon the shadow will fall towards the East. Then we can stand up with our arms in a cross as before and we will be able to find the point we are looking for. (See Drawing 3 b).


Drawing 3 b

If it is at night we will have to use the moon to orient us. We all know that the moon has four phases: full moon, waning crescent, new moon and waxing crescent. Well then, during the waning crescent the horns of the moon point due East and during the waxing crescent they point due West. When there is a full moon, it rises in the East and crosses the sky in an Eastern Westerly direction. To determine the cardinal points you proceed in the following manner: Face the moon and you will see the horns of the moon pointing towards your left in the waning crescent and if you draw an imaginary vertical line through the tips of both the horns you will have due North in the upper part and due South in the lower part.

By using the same method during the waxing crescent with the difference that now the horns will be facing due East towards your right. North will always be above and South always in the lower part. In the dawns of a full moon you will see the moon hide towards the West. (See Drawing 3 c).


Drawing 3 c

b) Compass

Orientation buy compass is very simple since the needle always points towards the North. With this reference point it is very easy to know where the other cardinal points are located.

c) Orientation by natural means

When we do not have available any instruments or other pieces of equipment that could help us to determine our position and when we do not know where the sun exactly comes out or if there is no moon that night, we will have to use signals that nature itself provides us with and which will give us indications which will serve us to orient ourselves and determine our position.

Normally trees need more sunshine than lower echelon plants, thus in an enclosed area or in a river bed running from the East towards the West, the plants will grow more on the North side.

If we observe the tree trunks and find that one side is greener than the other that is the side that faces East.

Trees sprout more new branches on the side facing due East than towards any other direction.

If we cut down an average size tree, we will find a series of concentric circles (annual growth rings) but of different thickness in their perimeter, the narrowest part points due North and the thicker ones towards due South.

If we find ourselves in a heavily wooded part of the Rain Forest and we are completely surrounded by trees, and where we can not look forward or even see the sun in the sky, what one should do is to lie down in the shadow of a tree and look upwards. There one will be able to see an illuminated section, while the other part remains in shadow, and then if you stand up looking towards the illuminated part you will have the sun in your back, thus if, this is in the morning, you will have due East behind you at your back and if the observation takes time in the afternoon you will have due West behind you on your back.

In areas where the vegetation is very dense and it is difficult to see the trail, where all directions seem the same, it is very easy to take a wrong turn and start walking in circles. To walk on the trails it is necessary to do it like the natives or the montaraz do it, breaking and bending the small branches of the bushes or making blazing cuts in the bark of trees with your machete or your knife. Another good system is to double the leaves upside down, thus leaving their less brilliant underside facing up. This is very noticeable wherever the vegetation is very dense.

As to the search for a quick recovery, the best thing to do is to find a small stream and follow its waters downstream until you reach a larger water course until you finally hit a big river where the possibility of finding human settlements on its banks are much larger since the people in the Rain Forest usually live by the banks of the big rivers.

General Information
How to determine
your position
Auxiliary signals
for air rescue
How to prepare to
enter the Rain Forest
How to get around
in the Rain Forest
How to build a shelter in the Rain Forest
Search for water
and food
Dangers within the
Rain Forest
How to ford a water course
How to act during
a thunderstorm
How to act when encountering natives
Snake bites. Prevention
Insect bites