Magnetic Compass – A Friendly Instrument For Mariners

A magnetic compass is a useful instrument which has been created centuries ago and it has numerous applications in couple of today’s latest fields. The instrument has a needle which is used for finding a right direction and its north and south poles are specified on it. Sailors and mariners found their desired location using these simple but useful compasses which made it possible to fix a location as per requirement. Most of us have studied huge applications of these small compasses in aircraft navigation too, but let’s discuss few interesting facts about its history.

images1 Magnetic Compass   A Friendly Instrument For MarinersThe origin of magnetic device is linked back to thousands of years ago when people discover magnetic properties of iron and their North and South Pole theories. Greeks and Chinese are the major contributors in creating its history. First time a compass was used in the 12th century and later on they become more popular and popular with time and used by hundreds of sailors and navigators to locate their desired locations. Although these were used in large number but the working of magnetic compass was unknown at that time. Researches were conducted to find the working principle of these compasses which is as follows.

 Working mechanism of magnetic compasses:

Working principle of magnetic compasses is simple. The south and north pole of the compass is attracted by the earth magnetic field only if the iron needles of the compass are magnetized which is done by a lodestone. The earth is also acting like a magnet and it has two poles which are surrounded by a large magnetic field. The same principle is followed in the magnetic compass. In ancient times when the compass was used to find the location, its magnetic effect is created in needle with the help of lodestone each time its magnetism disappears.

It was observed that the north and south poles which needles point out are not the actual north and south poles of the earth but needle makes an angle with original poles. To resolve this problem further research has been performed and design of a compass was changed and it was enclosed in a small box with slightly different arrangements and 32 points representing wind directions. Mariners and sailors were well aware of these wind directions and they easily used the new arrangement to locate the four poles using the cardinal points.

The new arrangement has solved a lot of navigation problems and people started using it efficiently but at that time another problem had been faced by the mariners. Iron Ships had their own magnetic field which affects the compasses magnetic field. People generally placed some opposite poles of magnets and pieces of iron to cancel the effects of ship magnetic field and allow compass to work in the earth magnetic field.

As the time passed these problems were reported and consulted by the experts of electromagnetism. Later on with the development of new devices magnetic compasses are also redesigned and enhanced. The new compass is easy to use and its accuracy level is great as compared to old compasses.

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