Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Sunday, April 06, 2003

Translating terrain to map


When I was training today I ran across the top of a hill that was thick with vegetation. When I came over the top of the hill, I wasn't sure which reentrant I was in. I stopped, looked at the reentrant, saw the shape and the shape of the reentrant next to it, checked the map, and realized I needed to go to my right to find the control.

Later, I spent some time thinking about the process of translating the terrain you see while your orienteering to the map during a race.

I also read something about the process...

As your...skills develop, your level of scrutiny will also change. The beginner might just see a [reentrant]...you will come to appreciate that each one is not "just another [reentrant]."...

While the expert may seem to have a mystical ability to discern detail and make an identification when you can see only a [reentrant], the secret, of course, is familiarity and practice. We all perform equivalent feats every day...Your brain has tremendous power to filter out distractions and fill in details of familiar patterns...

That said, there is a danger in filling in details in this way. You can jump to conclusions and convince yourself that certain desired details were actually seen.

The text I've quoted sounds like it might be about orienteering, but actually it is about bird watching. (I replaced a few words in the original text -- like "duck" -- with reentrant). The quote is from a book called Sibley's Birding Basics.

I suppose relating terrain to the map is a bit like bird watching. Both involve relating three dimensions to two dimensional images. Both involve conditions that can make it tough. An orienteer might be tired and feeling stressed. A bird watcher might just catch a glimpse of a bird. An orienteer looks at the terrain and figures out how a mapper might see it. A bird watcher looks at a bird and compares it to a picture in a field guide.

My mom gave Mary and I a bird feeder for Christmas. Lots of birds come to the feeder. I've begun to wonder a bit about the birds I see. I figured I needed to know a bit about birds in order to figure out what I was seeing. So, I picked up the Sibley book a few days ago.

posted by Michael | 7:52 PM


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