Welcome to the NavList Message Boards.


A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding

Compose Your Message

Add Images & Files
    Re: Traditional Wayfinding
    From: Paul Saffo
    Date: 2022 Jan 22, 21:34 -0800

    I think it is the real deal, but I also believe that it is specific to the Marshall Islands.  I have one of the swell charts here on my wall that I picked up in the early 1980s when I was a student.  It came with a back story that felt very authentic, and later I had a long conversation with Ben Finney over lunch about these charts and he didn't give me any indication it was other than an authentic practice.

    David Lewis devotes much of Chapter 7 in his book "We, the Navigators" to the charts, and it seems that much of what is in the wikipedia entry was drawn from it (but they got the page #s wrong). On page 201 he notes that they were first described by western missionaries in the 1860s, and that there were three kinds of charts:

    Mattang: instructiona and mnemonic

    Meddo: Shows swell patterns in relation to a few islands

    Rebbilil: covers a larger area and is more concerned with islands than swells

    Mine was obviously made to sell and isn't an antique (tho now being 40 yrs old, I guess it is at least as much an antique as I am!), but was told it was ethnographically authentic, made by a navigation practitioner. And a few years back, a friend asked about it and wanted one, so I looked on the web, etc, and to my surprise, no one seemed to be offering them for sale.

    I've attached a pic of mine below. It has the nice touch that the place that sold it to me (it was in  a gallery in Lahaina specializing in Pacific culture ethnographic items) thoughtfully taped the names of the islands on the sticks (1980s typewriter fonts and scotch tape!) so I can compare it to an actual chart/map.  The labels have faded over the decades, but are still quite readable.

    Now that you have raised the topic, I look forward from hearing from others on the list!



    Browse Files

    Drop Files


    What is NavList?

    Join NavList

    (please, no nicknames or handles)
    Do you want to receive all group messages by email?
    Yes No

    You can also join by posting. Your first on-topic post automatically makes you a member.

    Posting Code

    Enter the email address associated with your NavList messages. Your posting code will be emailed to you immediately.

    Email Settings

    Posting Code:

    Custom Index

    Start date: (yyyymm dd)
    End date: (yyyymm dd)

    Visit this site
    Visit this site
    Visit this site
    Visit this site
    Visit this site
    Visit this site