Tejano History

1850 Handheld Compass

Artifacts | Surveying |

       A compass is a navigational instrument that shows directions in a frame of reference that is stationary relative to the surface of the earth. The frame of reference defines the four cardinal directions (or points), north, south, east, and west. Intermediate directions are also defined. Usually, a diagram called a compass rose, which shows the directions (with their names usually abbreviated to initials), is marked on the compass. When the compass is in use, the rose is aligned with the real directions in the frame of reference, so, for example, the “N” mark on the rose really points to the north.

       Frequently, in addition to the rose or sometimes instead of it, angle markings in degrees are shown on the compass. North corresponds to zero degrees, and the angles increase clockwise, so east is 90 degrees, south is 180, and west is 270. These numbers allow the compass to show azimuths or bearings


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