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    Re: Ancient mariners enjoyed Hawaiian holidays
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2007 Oct 30, 19:23 -0000

    Mike Daly wrote-
    | In one episode of a recent series on the History Channel*, "LIGHT AT THE
    | EDGE OF THE WORLD", the host, Wade Davis, travelled to Hawaii and looked
    | at the traditions of the native people.  In particular, he concentrated
    | on the navigation skills being passed down from an elder to a younger
    | man.  They followed this by doing a long voyage (1000s of km) on a
    | traditional style sailing boat.  They had no navigation aids like
    | sextants or GPS and relied entirely on the young navigator's learned
    | skills.  He watched the skies and weather patterns, the stars, the
    | currents and the materials floating on the water (indicating land),
    | birds etc.  The "map" of the Pacific was recorded in the mind in the
    | form of all this information.  They successfully reached their
    | destination with little error.
    | Davis, who tends toward a sort-of spiritual view at times (in spite of
    | being a trained anthropologist and ethnobotanist), found this suitably
    | remarkable.  While a single voyage is not scientific proof of the
    | navigation concepts, it certainly demonstrated that the navigator was
    | not lost.  The Pacific is not a giant featureless expanse of water - the
    | information on location is there if you've learned to see it.  It adds
    | to the evidence that these people certainly knew the ocean well and
    | could travel with confidence over long distances.
    As a habitual sceptic on such matters (and on most others), I would like to
    learn a bit more detail. Where, exactly, was the voyage from, and to? How
    many thousands of km? Did they REALLY have no GPS in a locker as a backup?
    (If that was really the case, it would indeed show a convincing level of
    self-confidence!). Was the exact intended destination announced in advance?
    Was there radio contact, or the possibility of it? Were any on board
    familiar with a chart of the Pacific? Were any such charts carried? Did they
    really trust their lives to that "map of the Pacific recorded in the mind"?
    Remember, large parts of the Pacific have many island CHAINS and groups; in
    many cases it's hard to miss an island as you sail through such a chain, and
    the chains themselves can present a large target. If the voyage was to an
    isolated island, that would be more impressive.
    How was the (often dangerous) entry to the end-harbour made? Under sail? Was
    the navigator familiar with the approach? These questions spring to mind.
    Were they tackled, in the programme?
    There's a school of thought which considers that if it's on TV it must be
    true and above-board. Give us more detail if you can, Mike, and then maybe
    we will admire the achievement more.
    I write as one with no experience whatever of Pacific sailing, or ocean
    voyaging in general.
    contact George Huxtable at george@huxtable.u-net.com
    or at +44 1865 820222 (from UK, 01865 820222)
    or at 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.
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