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Navigating Without Instruments

The 2012–2013 voyage of the Waka Tapu closed the Polynesian triangle. This confirmed that it is possible to successfully and deliberately travel great distances by canoe while navigating without instruments.

In this story, navigator Jack Thatcher describes his waka hourua voyage from New Zealand to Rapanui (Easter Island) and back. Waka voyages had already traversed the Pacific from New Zealand to the northern and central areas of Polynesia, but it was this journey to the east and back that completed the triangle.

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What was special about this journey? Why was Jack so happy to speak with the Polynesian people from the islands in the Pacific? How do sailors navigate without instruments? What do they need to know?  

Explore this story to find out about the celestial sphere and the star compass. Discover how to navigate by stars, the Moon, the Sun, ocean swells and bird life. Read about waka hourua – the double-hulled canoes used for such voyages – and about the waka revival in New Zealand.

Nature of Science

Science, social science and cultural knowledge come together in this context. Navigational techniques of ancient voyagers are part of scientific explorations of the celestial sphere and the natural world of the navigator. Navigators use these techniques today, showing that successful and deliberate Polynesian migration was quite feasible.

The Polynesian Voyaging Society’s website includes educational resources from around the world that support voyaging education. Navigating Without Instruments has strong links to these resources and the Society’s stories about voyaging.
www.hokulea.com/resources external link