Thursday, May 11, 2006

Watch As Compass

I watched Gallipoli recently. Pretty good movie (with a then-almost-unknown Mel Gibson in the second lead) about a horrific time and place during WWI. Actually, "horrific" doesn't begin to describe it, and neither does the movie, really. If you ever had the idea that war can be romantic and glamorous (some people do), watch this movie to get that notion out of your head. And then realize that it was cleaned up a lot because it was only a movie.

Toward the beginning of the movie, though, there was a bit where the two young mates (Archy and Frank) were crossing the Great Desert (an insane proposition at the best of times) as a short cut to get to Perth. It's no spoiler to say they made it (otherwise they wouldn't have made it to Turkey, right?) -- but it's how they made it that had me fascinated.

In the Great Desert (Aussies call it The Lake), there are no landmarks, no roads -- no way to tell where you are or where you're going. If you get turned around, you're done for. But Archy kept looking at his watch every once in awhile, and would then shift his direction of travel. Frank's curiosity finally got the better of him, and he asked what was going on (and thank you, Frank, I was wondering the same thing, myself).

Archy was using his watch as a compass.

In the movie, at one point, the sun is hidden by clouds, and they get lost (until they find -- ah, you gotta see that for yourself). But if you can create a shadow of some kind, you can even do this on a cloudy day.

Don't forget to adjust for Daylight Saving Time.

Additional note of possible interest: Singer/songwriter Eric Bogle wrote a song called "And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" several years ago, after watching a parade of ANZAC veterans. Listen to him singing it here (mp3 -- click on the audio link at the bottom of the page, under External Links); lyrics here.


Blogger Dez said...

Cool science stuff. I love it!

Thursday, May 11, 2006 9:50:00 AM  
Blogger Howlin' Hobbit said...

That's way cool.

(Hiya, Dez.)


Thursday, May 11, 2006 6:57:00 PM  
Blogger Balbulican said...

Great film, one of Peter Weir's best. Gallipoli to Australians is what Dieppe or Vimy are to Canadians - a kind of brutal coming age in war.

Friday, May 12, 2006 4:28:00 AM  
Blogger Chimera said...

Dez, Howlin' -- I guess you two know each other... ;-p

Balb -- The movie was a sleeper of sorts, I guess. I had never heard of it until I saw it on the shelf. I picked it up because I know the song and I have a passing familiarity with the history of Suvla Bay. What a bloody balls-up that was!

But I just love it when I come across some interesting bit of "I didn't know that!" in an unexpected place...

Friday, May 12, 2006 6:55:00 AM  

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