By Monica McFadden (SAR Dog News, April 2012)
Navigation into, through and out of a search area is one of the most essential skills for any wilderness search dog handler. Until now, there have been few comprehensive manuals on navigation skills to aid in that education. The Ultimate Navigation Manual successfully seeks to fill that void.
Lyle Brotherton is a Scottish SAR expert in navigation. The book seeks to compile the best navigation practices of SAR teams from around the world, to guide both SAR teams and anyone who wants to venture into the outdoors. More than most navigation books, the Ultimate Navigation Manual emphasizes awareness of the environment as the best way to navigate in all types of weather and light conditions as opposed to reliance on GPS.
The book teaches navigation (with and without technical aids), focusing on the concept of micronavigation or navigation in short legs using immediate features in the landscape to continually ascertain position.
Chapters are short, detailed descriptions of key navigation concepts heavily aided by some of the finest high quality color photographs and diagrams this reviewer has ever seen in navigation texts.SAR Dog News, APRIL 2012 Page 9
Brotherton begins with an introduction to the basics: maps and mapping systems, the basic features of maps and compasses and even an introduction to celestial navigation.
The pictures and diagrams in this section are excellent and could easily be used (with credit of course) in any SAR navigation instruction.
The meat, however, is the section on techniques and it is here that the book particularly shines. Once again keeping things focused and heavy with pictures and diagrams, Brotherton gives clear explanations of some of the most essential navigation methods, including but not limited to handrails, collecting and catching features, measuring distances in the field, pacing, bearings, aiming off, route planning, dead reckoning, leapfrogging and the use of grid references. The instruction is very succinct, rarely more than 3-4 pages per concept.
There is nothing new in these techniques but Brotherton’s explanations and visual presentation make them clear and easy to learn. Again, these would be excellent educational materials for SAR navigation instruction (again with appropriate credit).
Brotherton also suggests some lesson plans for teaching and learning basic through advanced navigation skills. These could be the agenda for excellent SAR training.
The book has sections on GPS and specialized environments and discusses smart phone applications for mapping. It concludes with a unique set of appendices on basic care of equipment and tips for maintaining it (the author is very fond of
tethers to attach key equipment), what to do if lost and a great two page chart of the 12 most common navigation errors and how to remedy them.
The Ultimate Navigation Manual is a comprehensive, easily accessed primer on the core concepts of navigation. As an instructional manual and a reference guide, it earns a place on the SAR bookshelf and groups might even consider it as a textbook for SAR navigation training.