follow that canoe

Hokulea’s crew shows us how they navigate using stars, ocean swells, and all that stuff this song talked about…


“we see our island in our mind” is a line in the song…

…it’s a reference to something I’ve seen in several documentaries, and in Hawaiki Rising (the story of Hokulea’s early years): Nainoa Thompson, answers a question put forth by his teacher;

“Can you see the island?”

“I can see it in my mind.”

It is applicable to all our goals, whether actual islands or others.

Navigation at its simplest is about observation of your environment, and making sense of that environment to give you clues about where you are and where you are going.


…what these early voyagers cultivated and utilized was a very powerful sense of observation; that, coupled with an oral tradition that allowed those observations to compound generation upon generation, made for a robust information set over time.

In the song we hear: we tell the stories of our elders in a ever ending chain”… not just myths and legends, but oral information… observations of navigators for generations. One single navigator could not have seen it all, but the chain of people behind him had. Add it all up, and wow! A giant computer spread across time, a library of information all held in the minds of one group of people.

In some Maui legends, Maui’s fish hook is made from the sacred jawbone of an ancestor. OK, sounds creepy to us? No, the jawbone is where speech occurs, where the words that carry the chain of never ending stories is linked, where all the powerful knowledge of your people resides.

…at its essence, the navigation system answers two basic questions: 1) How fast are you going?, and 2) In what direction are you going?

How fast you are going is as easy as throwing a tiny piece of biodegradable rind overboard and seeing how fast it goes from one point on the side of the canoe to the last and counting.

For example, if you throw a watermelon rind or orange peel into the water at the first ‘iako and you count 5 seconds to reach the back ‘iako, the canoe is travelling at 25/5 = 5 kts.

While Polynesians two thousand years ago would not have thought in knots or seconds, they would have had math, and their own systems of measurements. And the practiced ability to do it all in their heads!

In the blog, Haunani, Jason and Nāʻālehu also show us the star compass and how it works.

Read the whole blog on the link above.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s