Calculating the traverse that represents a parcel can benefit significantly from something that is not properly taught: The use of azimuths.

What is an azimuth? It is a horizontal angle of a line, with the zero at astronomic north, and measured clockwise. It can range from 0 to 360 degrees. Figure 1 shows that line AB has an astronomic direction of AzAB.

Those familiar with bearings will agree that the continuous handling of bearings in calculations is a pain. If all necessary bearings of a traverse are first converted to decimal azimuths, calculations become much easier.

Let’s assume that line AB in Figure 1 has a bearing of N 60° 50’23” E. This converts to an azimuth of (60 + 50/60 + 23/3600) = 60.839722°. I like to use six digits for all angles. If I now have another traverse leg to a point C (as shown in Figure 2), and I measured an angle of, say, 70° 00’00” (or 70.000000°), what would be the azimuth of line BC? It is the azimuth of line AB, plus 180° (to get the direction opposite to line AB, or direction BA), minus the measured angle at B: AzBC = AzAB + 180° - 70.000000° = 60.839722° + 180° - 70.000000° = 170.839722°.

So, that is the azimuth of line BC. Let’s now add the north arrow at point B and draw the azimuth angle for line BC (see Figure 3). This shows that the azimuth of a line shows as much directionality as a bearing does. And, operations with Decimal-Degree (DD) format azimuths are much faster than with Degree-Minutes-Seconds (DMS) format bearings. In addition, the calculations and adjustments of closed traverses are more direct.