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What is a Liquid Compass?

11/5/2013 3:48:04 PM | by Anonymous


A compass is a navigational instrument that shows the directions in a frame of reference that is stationary relative to the surface of the earth. The reference defines the four cardinal directions that are north, south, east and west. Intermediate directions are usually also defined. Usually, a diagram known as the compass rose shows the directions with their names abbreviated to initials and are marked on the compass. Whenever the compass is in use, the rose is aligned to the real directions in the frame of reference. For example, the N mark on the rose points to the north. North always corresponds to zero degrees. The angles will increase clockwise so the east is 90 degrees, south is 180 and west is 270 degrees. All these numbers allows the compass to show bearings that are commonly stated in the notation.


A liquid compass is a compass that is filled with fluid. The fluid within acts as a buffer at the same time absorbs any shock and vibrations. This is to avoid any damage done to the elements in the liquid compass. It also helps to stabilize the compass needle to make the device easier to read. Many compasses are usually liquid filled. They come in a variety of styles ranging from the ball compasses to small models that are designed to clip onto a keychain for easier reference that are readily available.


This concept of liquid compass was first introduced back in the 1600s. However, they did not catch on until later in the 1900s when they were first adopted as the standard navigational instruments by several navies. The compass includes a needle that is sensitive in order for it to always point towards the Earth’s magnetic north point. Along side, there is a backing which is marked with degrees so that users can determine the direction they are facing on the basis of the where the needle lands on the marking. Using the liquid compass, people can then determine which direction they are planning to head and what direction they should follow. They can now use this information in navigation.


The viscosity of the fluid within the compass can depend on the design. Three common fluids that are typically used for liquid compasses are kerosene, oil and alcohol. They can sometimes be dyed to increase their visibility. The compass is also designed to allow the liquid to expand and contract slightly without any breakage. One advantage of using the liquid compass is that the needle stabilizes very quickly which prevents wobbling. This way it allows people to take accurate measurements easily within a short time. Another is that the device tends to be more tolerant of dropping, shaking and any other forms of abuse.


These days, numerous companies have made liquid compasses in all types of shapes and sizes. The liquid damped compass however still continues to be a handy navigation tool despite that it has been largely supplanted by things like modern maps and GPS devices. A compass will still work when the GPS is broken or unavailable. However, many people learn the basics of compass navigation as part of their training for their boating, hiking and other outdoor activities which enhances navigation as an useful life skill.


Additionally, one important thing to be aware of when someone uses a compass is that the device points towards the magnetic north not the true north. The magnetic north actually wobbles around the geographic north thus making it necessary to adjust for declination which is the declination between the magnetic and true north. Many compasses allow users to adopt this and declination information is usually published on charts and maps.

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