It is no secret that women, in general, are not as able as men to comprehend compass directions or even be aware of east from west. I seem to have a built in compass for finding women who are especially clueless about such things. Recently I asked a few of the females in my class if they could tell me on which side of the street (north, south, east or west) was the house where they grew up. They were unable to do so. One woman said she lived on North Elm Street, but didn't know which side of the street.

I suppose this is one of a number of reasons why there are not a lot of notable female explorers in histsory. In fact, I can't name any female explorers. There was Amelia Earheart, but she disappeared while attempting to fly around the world and was never found. I presume she had a compass, and she did successfully fly across the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, so I won't suggest that she was directionally challenged. However, someone braver than I might question it.

This is not to say that there are no women explorers in history. In fact there are a number of books about female explorers. I thought it curious that the authors were also all female. None of their names, authors or exporers, were familiar to me or to anyone else I asked. But this is not the point of this short essay. It is to record a rather striking example that just occurred.

A 'blonde female' (who will remain anonymous) and I decided to go to Atlantic City for the day. She likes to play craps, and I like to observe people gambling, so we made a day of it. She has been there more often that I, and so she was actually giving me helpful driving directions to the Tropicana Casino. Just before sunset we took a walk down the boardwalk along the beach, and I noticed that the sun was setting in front of us.

Intuitively, one would think that walking along the Atlantic Ocean in New Jersey would mean either walking north or south. Since this section of the shoreline curves around to the west, we were actually walking west towards the setting sun with the ocean on our left. I casually mentioned that one wouldn't expect to see the sun setting in front of us. She looked at me as if I just said that I had never seen the sun set.

I attempted to clarify my statement by asking her in which direction she thought we were walking. She didn't know. I gave her a hint. I said, "We are walking towards the setting sun." This was of no help, since she didn't know whether the sun sets in the east or west. Trying to control my astonishment, I said, "The sun sets in the west." This did not seem to clarify my initial observation, so I tried another tact.

"When we drove to the shore, which direction did we drive?"

"East," she replied.

Now we were making progress. Actually we drove more southernly than we did east, but I'll take what I can get. "Yes," I replied, hopefully. "And so when we stand on the boardwalk and look out at the Ocean, which direction would you expect to be looking?" 


I broke the silence by saying, "We should expect to be looking east at the ocean since we drove east to get here. But since we are walking west, towards the setting sun, and the ocean is on our left, that means the ocean is actually south of us."

She replied, "Well, this is South Jersey."

I rest my case.

Later, in her defense, she admitted that she was not good at math.