Source: Scientific American
Tomorrow, June 17, marks the end of a three-year voyage for the Hōkūleʻa as the 62-foot-long double-hulled canoe completes the first-ever round-the-world trip by a traditional Polynesian vessel. Beginning in May 2014, and sailing westward from Hawaii’s Big Island, the canoe has navigated five oceans, traveled more than 40,000 nautical miles, and visited 19 countries.
The circumnavigation of the globe was planned as a celebration of Polynesia’s unique form of traditional navigation. Polynesians have long held that the settlement of the far-flung islands of the Pacific was made possible by the explorative journeys of skilled traditional navigators—not found by accident by sailors blown off course by storms, as European anthropologists once assumed.
The dying Pacific art of “wayfinding” was used to chart the Hōkūleʻa’s course, without the use of modern navigational aids like nautical charts, compasses or GPS. Instead, the crew used the positions of celestial bodies, wave motion, and seabird movement, and at night, the ship’s navigators made use of the nightly courses of over 200 stars. As expedition organizer and president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, Nainoa Thompson, put it: “If you took all of the genius that has allowed us to put a man on the moon and applied it to an understanding of the ocean, what you would get is Polynesia.”
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