Reuters top ten news stories delivered to your inbox each day.
You are here:
Business & Finance
The Great Debate
Do More With Reuters
Make Reuters My Homepage
Support (Customer Zone)
About Thomson Reuters
Ancient Polynesian seafaring renaissance
Sun Jan 25, 2009 8:38pm EST
Email | Print |
| Reprints | Single Page
By Michael Perry
SYDNEY (Reuters) - A Polynesian voyaging canoe will set sail from Hawaii in March and head into the South Pacific, aiming to reach tiny Palmyra Atoll near Kiribati using only an ancient seafaring skill known as "wayfinding."
The double hulled canoe, similar to the canoes that sailed across the Pacific thousands of years before European explorers voyaged to the world's largest ocean, will cover some 2,000 miles in the round trip.
The open ocean trip, using no modern navigational equipment, will be a training exercise for future voyages and is part of a renaissance in Polynesian voyaging that is helping to preserve and spread an ancient seafaring culture.
"We sail because we believe that the voyaging canoes have a role in today's society ... keeping us connected to who we are today in the 21st century, by clearly knowing who we were and where we come from," says Hawaiian navigator Nainoa Thompson, who has sailed on 24 voyages across the Pacific.
"In the absence of that understanding we have no identity, we have no distinction and to be homogenized into the rest of the world, to me, would be a cultural failure," Thompson says in a video presentation that is part of the "Vaka Moana, Voyages of the Ancestors" exhibition at Sydney's National Maritime Museum.
Vaka Moana means Ocean Canoe and traces the world's first blue-water sailors as they set out from Southeast Asia in sailing canoes to explore and settle the islands of the South Pacific.
Using an open ocean navigation called "wayfinding," based on sea and sky observations, they crossed the vast Pacific some 2,500 years before Portuguese, Spaniards and other western seafarers made their first trans-ocean voyages.
"It was the major final push by humans to the most remote and inaccessible parts of the planet," New Zealand historian Kerry Howe, an expert on Polynesian voyaging, told Reuters.
"Once the islands of the Pacific were discovered and settled that was the end of terrestrial exploration and settlement on earth. If we want to go further we have to leave the planet."
By the time Western explorers such as Britain's Captain James Cook sailed to the Pacific, only a handful of islands had not been settled by these ancient mariners using "wayfinding."
Wayfinding navigation involved an intricate knowledge of the stars, such as memorizing a 32-point star compass by Micronesian navigators, knowing where stars rose and fell over the horizon, reading ocean swells, cloud formations and bird flight patterns.
Charts were made of sticks that recorded ocean swells and attached sea shells depicted islands, allowing a navigator to judge the distance he had sailed.
Islands were positioned using ancient Polynesian stories and "wayfinding" allowed a navigator to steer his canoe toward an island hundreds of kilometers away.
Once ancient Polynesians discovered new islands, they would sail home in the east-west trade winds and return back in large canoes with people, food and livestock. Continued...
View article on single page
In Brazil's industrial hub, crisis starts to bite
Also on Reuters
Video: Thai Scorpion Queen breaks record
Full Coverage: Year in Review 2008
Pope becomes one of world's oldest YouTube stars
More International News
Israel promises troops legal backing over Gaza war
Congo warlord stands trial in child soldier case
Bicycle bomb kills five in NW Pakistan
Aid for poor urged ahead of U.N. food summit
Bolivians approve Morales' leftist constitution
More International News...
A selection of our best photos from the past 24 hours. Slideshow
Most Popular on Reuters
UPDATE 3-'Slumdog' emerges as Oscar favorite after SAG win
Challenges loom as Obama seeks space weapons ban
Recession hits Silicon Valley as layoffs pile up
Lehman's Fuld sold Florida mansion to wife for $100
BofA played role in $4 billion Merrill bonuses: report
Pelosi signals willingness to add to TARP funds
Jews struggle to come to grips with Madoff
Goat detained over armed robbery
Venezuela's Chavez warms to Obama after insults
Obama acts to reverse Bush climate moves: officials
Most Popular Articles RSS Feed
Thai Scorpion Queen breaks record
Indian PM undergoes surgery
Israeli PM's promise to his troops
Ten dead in Turkey avalanche
Bullfighter, 11, 'breaks record'
3 killed in Scottish avalanche
And Finally... Hostel Flyover
BBC resists pressure over Gaza
Busy week for President Obama
Gaza's children go back to school
Most Popular Videos RSS Feed
The Great Debate
Obama, Iran and Nixon
Should President Barack Obama take his cue from Richard Nixon and his 1972 breakthrough with China in dealing with Iran? Commentary
Full Coverage: Barack Obama's First 100 Days
The global destination for corporate leaders, deal-makers and innovators
Knowledge to Act
Help and Contact Us |
Advertise With Us |
Interactive TV |
Reuters in Second Life |
Site Index |
Thomson Reuters Corporate:
Professional Products |
Professional Products Support |
About Thomson Reuters |
Latin America |
United Kingdom |
Thomson Reuters is the world's largest international multimedia news agency, providing investing news, world news, business news, technology news, headline news, small business news, news alerts, personal finance, stock market, and mutual funds information available on Reuters.com, video, mobile, and interactive television platforms. Thomson Reuters journalists are subject to an Editorial Handbook which requires fair presentation and disclosure of relevant interests.
NYSE and AMEX quotes delayed by at least 20 minutes. Nasdaq delayed by at least 15 minutes. For a complete list of exchanges and delays, please click here.