An essential tool for every sailor, the nautical compass should never be missing, under any circumstances. It is necessary to choose the right one for your boat, install it in the correct way, know how to read it perfectly and take great care of it. Poetically called - and not by chance - also the needle of wonders, the nautical compass, in its simplest, oldest and most home made version, consists of nothing more than a container containing water and a piece of metal. Nothing trivial, in short. And yet... and yet this simple object was the real keystone that revolutionized the world of navigation, and not only.
How does the nautical magnetic compass work? A bit of history
The nautical magnetic compass is based on the invisible force that is magnetism, that is, it guides us by identifying the magnetic field that connects magnetic north and south - which, as we will point out later, do not correspond perfectly with the two geographical poles, although they are very close.
We all know that magnets have the property of attracting certain metals towards them, primarily iron. But that's not all: the same magnets - if developed in length and free of impediments - also have the tendency to orient themselves according to the magnetic field, that is, bringing one end towards the south, and another towards the north. The classical magnetic compass exploits this principle, starting with a magnetized steel needle, and therefore sensitive to the magnetic field, which is placed on a pivot, in the absence of friction.
But who invented the compass? Well, like many fundamental discoveries for mankind, from the wheel onwards, we do not know the name of the true inventor. What we do know is that, most likely, the first examples of a nautical magnetic compass appeared in China. At first this object was used as a toy and nothing more, but soon people began to think about what an incredible contribution it could have had in the field of navigation: without the nautical compass, in fact, navigation in the open sea and across the oceans would have been completely impossible.
In addition to being simple and intuitive, it should be noted that, despite its irreplaceable power, the magnetic nautical compass is completely autonomous. It does not require power supply or technical maintenance, as it does not actually malfunction: in fact, it cannot break the earth's magnetic field.