Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Carter. Carter Wonders, “How do you know which direction you’re going without a compass” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Carter!

Be it a voyage on a steam liner, a camel caravan through the desert, or a summer road trip in a minivan, there is one question passengers have been asking for as long as they've been along for the ride: are we there yet?

But getting from here to there wasn't always easy as it is today. In a time before Global Positioning System (GPS) devices and smartphone maps, knowing the cardinal directions — north, south, east, and west — was critical to finding the way.

Prior to the invention of the compass, people relied on nature to point them in the right direction. Many of these natural methods of identifying direction are still reliable today.

The Sun, for example, helps us identify east and west. Each day the Sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

If you are facing sunrise, you know that is east. If you raise your arms while you are facing east, your left arm will always point to the north, and your right arm will always point to the south. By letting the Sun be your guide, you have just become a human compass!

Long ago, pirates spent their days sailing the seas. With nowhere to stop and ask for directions in the middle of the ocean, pirates became master navigators with the help of the magnetic compass.

To use a magnetic compass, you just need to watch the needle. The needle on a magnetic compass will always point north. So if you're going north, simply move in the direction the needle is pointing. If you want to go south, just go the opposite direction! To move east, just go to your right, or move to your left to head west.

Wonder What's Next?

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s the Wright brothers! Hop a plane to Wonderopolis tomorrow and meet the fathers of aviation.