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To locate their position, they are pointing the sextant to the polar star. When they got the partial result "latitude: 30 degrees", they are still wondering if it is the northern or the southern hemisphere. However, since you cannot see the polar star from the southern hemisphere, it is quite obvious on which hemisphere they are.
Urban legend presented as fact: Breslin deduces which hemisphere they're in based on which direction the drains flow. This effect, known as Coriolis force, is quoted by Breslin as causing moving objects on the surface of the Earth to be deflected in a counter-clockwise rotation in the Northern Hemisphere and in a clockwise rotation in the Southern Hemisphere. It is not effective on water drainage, so it cannot be used to scientifically and surely determine in which hemisphere one is.