Mapping and navigating on the ocean is a bit different to working on land. It is hard to see below the surface. So, ocean mappers need to use a system called sonar (Sound Navigation and Ranging). Sound waves are transmitted from the ship and reflect off the seafloor. Animals also use sonar to navigate and detect prey. This is known as biosonar.

Ages 8+

10-15 minutes

To demonstrate your ability to navigate and map using sound, you will need to apply the principles of sonar. Can you navigate close to unseen objects without crashing into them? Using a jar lid as your sonar tool, you will need to navigate to within 1cm of a wall without knocking into

Activity steps

  1. Select your jar lid with safety button and practise clicking. Change the position of your thumbs to get the loudest click.
  2. Your challenge is to walk to within 1cm of a wall using your jar lid and the principles of sonar to guide you.
  3. Close your eyes and hold the jar lid in front of your face, with the safety button towards you.
  4. Click the button to send your sonar signal and walk slowly towards the wall.
  5. Can you sense a change in the sound as you near the wall? This is often felt as a slightly ‘fuller’ sensation in the ears as the sound waves from the clicking rebound off the wall to your ears.
  6. Keep on practising until you manage to get within 1cm of the wall without touching it first.

More ideas

Experiment with the frequency of your clicking. Does how often you click help you navigate more effectively?

Change the position of your thumbs to alter the pitch of your clicks. How does this affect your navigation skills?

Safety guidance

  • Ensure that there are no trip hazards or objects to bump into between the ‘ocean mapper’ and the wall.
  • Have a responsible adult on hand to support the ‘ocean mapper’ in case they veer off course.
  • Walk slowly towards the wall, almost at a shuffle.
  • Keep the jar lid in front of your face to protect yourself in case you walk into the wall.

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