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    Re: Polynesian navigation
    From: John Huth
    Date: 2009 Jun 6, 19:20 -0400

    Very true.   I've always wondered about two modern pieces of lore about the Vikings - the sunstone and the sun compass.   The sunstone, as I recall was only mentioned in one saga, but is partly supported by a large supply of calcite in eastern Iceland.   The sun compass artifact, discovered in Greenland also perplexed me.  A lot have been written about both, and I've actually tried out a chunk of calcite, and it indeed can provide information about the location of the sun (due to the polarization of the sky).   But, the lack of much historical literature always has me worried about these.   Again, if anyone is aware of more hard material on either had sunstone (not modern recapitulations) or about the sun compass artifact, I'd be grateful.



    On Sat, Jun 6, 2009 at 6:39 PM, <frankreed{at}historicalatlas.com> wrote:

    Greg, you wrote:
    "A book titled LATITUDE HOOKS AND AZIMUTH RINGS discusses the Polynesian latitude hook which was made of split bamboo and twine. This is a kamal like device going back to as early as 800 AD if the book has its facts right"

    Thanks for the reference. If you read that section again, the author is saying that the Polynesians were engaged in long ocean voyages from at least 800 AD. Then he describes this "bamboo and twine" device, and we're left to connect the dots. The book itself is not really trying to describe history per se. It's more of a "what if" history. I haven't seen any historical or scholarly references to the bamboo and twine device and it strikes me as the sort of thing a modern enthusiast for Polynesian navigation might dream up if asked how ancient Polynesians *might* have measured the altitudes of stars. It's a fairly silly contraption. It would be no more effective than a simple stick with two notches cut into it, and it would be much less effective than a cross-staff. Then again, silly contraptions are sometimes adopted, so it's not impossible.

    The big problem with modern "what if" speculations on ancient navigation is that we already know all the tricks. Also, inevitably, we approach the subject from the point of view of the "obvious" solution to long-distance navigation, namely navigation by the stars. But I do hold out some hope that there are actual records of early modern Polynesian navigation methods that have not yet been fully researched, perhaps tucked away in the papers of some defunct missionary society.

    -FER







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