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    Mau Piailug appreciation
    From: Paul Saffo
    Date: 2010 Jul 26, 20:33 -0700

    Forgive me if this is a duplicate, but I didn't notice it in any of the Navlist messages. Mau Piailug of course is a legend and was wonderfully written about by Ben Finney in his book about Hokule'a. I esp like the way Cook is described in the first sentence ... discovering places with people already in them."

    New York TImes EDITORIAL
    Star Man

    Published: July 16, 2010

    Mau Piailug will never be as famous as Capt. James Cook, a master of the classic European feat of discovering places with people already in them. But Piailug, who died last week at the age of 78, could have matched Cook�s voyaging island for island across the vast immensity of the Pacific, and without charts, compass or sextant. He was a palu, a master navigator, one of the last experts in the ancient art of Pacific Ocean wayfaring.

    Crossing an open ocean without instruments in knife-edged canoes, as the Polynesians did a thousand years before Cook, is one of the great achievements in human exploration. To those of us who are blind to the night sky, and deaf to the language of clouds, currents and ocean swells, it seems like a mystical or superhuman act. It is not � the palu�s skill is an achievement of reason, memory and calculation, though a staggering one.

    Mr. Piailug (pronounced pee-EYE-loog), a native of the Caroline Islands, began his training as boy, studying chunks of coral on a woven mat. Over decades, he learned an age-old map of his Micronesian universe. On it were etched hundreds of star names, the habits of fish and birds, landmarks and routes through reefs and shoals. He earned wide renown in 1976, when he led a daring 6,000 mile voyage from Hawaii to Tahiti and back in a doubled-hulled canoe, the Hokule�a.

    The Hokule�a did not resolve the question of whether the first prehistoric voyages to Hawaii had been accidental or intentional, but it did show that long-distance navigation was still possible.

    The voyage was a watershed moment for Hawaii, whose people have been slowly pulling their trampled folkways back into existence, the way fishermen in Pacific mythology were thought to have pulled whole islands from the depths. In Hawaii, until Mau Piailug shared his knowledge, the palu�s art had been lost for a millennium. His Hawaiian student Nainoa Thompson became a navigator in his own right, and many voyages have followed, thanks to an extraordinary act of cross-cultural generosity.

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