How to Tell the Time—Naturally!
It wasn’t until the 20th century that our lives truly became regulated by clocks—and only a few years since the trusty smartphone replaced the clock itself in governing our daily schedule.
But what happens when you forget or misplace your watch, or a string of Snapchats drains your smartphone battery while you’re strolling through the woods? Luckily, nature’s given us several ways of gauging the time of day without the aid of modern technology. Here are five back-to-basics ways to tell the time that could help you keep your appointments—and maybe even save your life.
1. Use your fingers to calculate remaining sunlight
If the display on your smartphone ever fails you, there are other digits you can use to tell the time—that is to say, your fingers.
Start by planting your feet towards the sun, extending one arm fully in front of you, and rotating your wrist so your palm is facing you horizontally. Close your fingers together and align your pinky with the horizon.
Now, count how many finger widths it takes to reach the sun. Depending on the season and time of day, you may need to continue stacking one hand over the other to keep count. Four finger widths represent one hour of sunlight, so unless you have exceptionally thin (or thick!) fingers, a count of eight finger widths during a southern Ontario July would equal two hours of remaining sunlight (roughly 7:30 p.m.).
2. Tell the time by tracking the sun’s position
You don’t have to have been a Girl Guide or Boy Scout to know that when the sun is sitting in the centre of the sky, it’s around noon; and that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Basic stuff—and usually not enough to tell the time with any degree of precision.
To get a more refined reading from the sun, you’ll need to have an idea of the number of daylight hours in your particular location, given the season. If you’re in Winnipeg, for example, a typical June day casts 16 hours of daylight. With this in mind, you can divide the sky into an imaginary arc from east to west consisting of 16 equal segments to represent the approximate time. In this particular case, sunrise would be due east at about 5:30 a.m. and sunset would be due west towards 9:30 p.m.