Philadelphia Inquirer Article

The Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine December 24th, 1967

This photograph, made on a recent Sunday afternoon in Valley Forge State Park, convey some idea of a new participant sport - new to the United States, that is. It is called "orienteering," which may seem a somewhat stuffy tag for one of the very few sports that sometimes enables men and women - not to mention children as young as 12 - to compete on fairly equal terms. Not only that, but it is strictly an outdoor, round-the-calendar pastime. All a contestant needs is a compass and the ability to read and use a contour map (almost any novice can acquire that ability in about 15 minutes).

An orienteering meet might be dubbed a sports car rally on foot. Both pastimes have similar basic principles. In a sports car rally, a driver and his "navigator" employ a map and are constantly on the lookout for "check points" as they cover a course. In orienteering, participants do virtually the same thing, without benefit of wheels. The "master of the meet" selects a course over terrain which includes open fields, woodlands, hilly ground and, always, an assortment of natural obstacles calculated to make a straight line the longest distance between two points, with regard to time consumed.

There are "check points" in orienteering, too. They are code-numbered flags, set up by the "master" at various spots along the course and so concealed that none can be seen by a contestant until he is practically upon it. The "master" prepares a contour map of the course area (such a map shows ground elevations, streams, roads and landmarks), a copy of which is given to each contestant. Also marked on the map are the locations of the flags.

The object is for a contestant, using a compass to take frequent bearings, to locate the flags in numbered sequence and in the shortest possible time. - He must write down the flag numbers in order. The first contestant back to the starting point with a list of flag numbers in the right sequence is the winner.

This is not to imply that orienteering is limited to "singles" competition. Often there are "doubles" and team competition; it is not uncommon for teams of a half-dozen persons (sometimes more) to vie for victory in a meet. For most meets, courses are from 1.5 to 3 miles in length. On occasion, however, competition may be on a course of 5 or 6 miles, or even longer. As you might expect, such competition would involve orienteers who have demonstrated that the shorter courses are not a genuine challenge to their physical stamina or their efficiency in using the compass and the contour map.

Beginning orienteers are placed in various competitive categories according to their ages, sexes and physical prowess (proven or proclaimed), but don't necessarily remain there. If a feminine orienteer shows that she can match strides and savvy with top-notch men competitors, her ranking may be raised.

The man most responsible for creating interest in orienteering in the Delaware Valley is a native Norwegian, Harald Wybe, presently a designer of turbines at the Westinghouse Steam Division plant at Lester, Delaware County. In Norway, as in 12 other European nations (the sport originated in Sweden about 1897), orienteering is a popular pastime. In moments of great enthusiasm, Wybe speaks of orienteering becoming as popular as baseball in the U.S.