A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2017 Jun 17, 19:59 -0700
Scott Owen, you wrote of Hokulea's voyage:
"using only ancient navigating techniques"
It's often worded that way, but I think we can describe it more carefully. It was done, as often as possible, using "non-instrumental, non-technological" navigating techniques that, it is hoped, are similar to some historical, loosely desribed as "ancient," navigational methods. Without a time machine, we cannot say what techniques were used more than a few hundred years ago, which is the limit of the historical record. We know nothing about ancient Polynesian navigation from, let's say, a thousand years ago. ...Nothing. And we do know, without doubt, that many of the techniques used aboard Hokulea have been created by Nainoa Thompson and his team during their forty years of experimentation and voyaging in the Pacific and now around the globe. It's a great feat of "navigation" in the broad sense of "voyaging", no matter what. Just to be clear, I don't mean to imply that they "broke the rules". This voyage was not a reality tv show; there were no "rules" that had to be obeyed, and when techniques of navigation radically different from traditional mid-Pacific methods were reasonable, they were the rule of the day. For example, the navigation up the US east coast from Florida to New England was basically buoy-to-buoy --very ordinary, and thoroughly modern coastal piloting. They rarely sailed out of sight of land and frequently travelled along the Intracoastal Waterway. The point of the voyage, especially in this phase was outreach, education, communication, so they made many port calls and participated in numerous media events. Perhaps sadly, voyaging "feats" like this now seem rather commonplace. The miracle of Hokulea's circum-navigation, from my perspective, is as much about the practical challenge of getting it funded as it was the technical challenge of voyaging.