A competitive team mentality drove each team to want to map the most, as we were going to combine all of the teams mapped data into one larger geologic map of the area.
Our skills were tested one day when, as I was walking up a large hill, looking for some outcrop, I looked up and saw a cloud roll over and down the hill.
“Incoming fog”, I called on the radio.
“Really? It’s still sunny here,” one of my team members replied before the fog reached them. “Ah, there it is”
Everything got very quiet and muffled when that thick fog rolled in. I could only see about 50 feet, which was lucky, considering how dense the pine trees were. It seemed that my shouts couldn’t even travel that far. If someone wasn’t within 50 feet of me I’d never see them, let alone hear them. We only planned to go map this hill quickly and head back to camp, but first we had to find each other.
For the next half-hour we played 21st century Marco Polo. This involved us agreeing on a prominent topographic feature to meet up at, a nice round hill, measuring its UTM coordinates off of our topographic map, then comparing those UTM’s to each of our current positions to calculate which direction and distance we should travel to reach the hill (using our Brunton compasses) and backing up with our handheld GPS’s. Once we were at the top of the hill, then, we need to meet in the same spot within a range of about 50 feet. I first saw one of my team members, due to the bright green shirt they were wearing at the time, and they couldn’t even hear me when I shouted at them. After more walky-talking and GPS-checking we eventually met up with the third member. Each of our maps was filled with check and re-check UTM coordinates, lines, and scribbles near that little hill.
So when a student asks, "How accurate do I need to be?", I tell them this story. I tell them to be as accurate as they can, because you never know when the fog will roll in and you'll have to play Marco Polo with GPS coordinates to get your team back together safely.