How did Polynesian wayfinders navigate the Pacific Ocean? – Alan Tamayose and Shantell De Silva

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Imagine setting sail from Hawaii in a canoe. Your target is a small island thousands of kilometers away in the middle of the Pacific Ocean — a body of water that covers more than 160 million square kilometers. For thousands of years, Polynesian navigators managed voyages like this without the help of modern navigational aids. How did they do it? Alan Tamayose and Shantell De Silva explain.

Lesson by Alan Tamayose and Shantell De Silva, directed by Patrick Smith.

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50 COMMENTS

  1. Greater than all the land masses on earth COMBINED? Ok why did nobody ever tell me this fact before? That's incredible

  2. And Europeans said that they discovered shits like america and south east asia ignroring the fact that pacific islanders and Native american were already occupying those lands.

  3. People always praise Europeans for navigating the oceans and colonizing Indigenous Territories. But they were just riding on the backs of the previous and bygone cultures and innovations before them. The gunpowder and the compass came from classical China. Colonial powers have access to gunpowder and compass because China invented them first. True zero had only arrived in Europe around the 12th century ce as well. Phoenicians and Nordic people excelled in maritime navigation, while the rest of Europeans eventually adopted this technology in later centuries. Polynesians and their ancestors did it all on their own with their own devices and became the true people of sea.

  4. Pormpuraaw, Gauguin Ymithirr, Kuuk Thaayaorre in Australia and a tribe in the pacific (forgotten the name) that has retained their languages which doesn’t use “left or right” for direction and expression of time, they use cardinal directions to express space, time and location… I.e. could be expressed as…”my bag is just in front of you to the right” would be “my bag is north east of you…”. In oceanic languages there was usually two ways of expressing geo directions… one based on inland/ seaward axis and one based on land or near land (like body water on land like rivers)… these systems uses up down or left (on an inland body of water) or right to left (inland toward the sea) axis depending on where you, where as the sea based systems integrates northwest-southeast axis…

  5. I think you got the canoe building theory wrong. It's usually the boat builders and the priest that played a major role in the building process. What does hula have to do with building a canoe.

  6. There is an easier way to find South using the southern cross. Near the southern cross are two bright stars called the pointers. Draw a perpendicular line in the centre until it crosses with your southern cross line. Straight down from the intersection is South on the horizon. That's what was used by my people at least (Maori/Aboriginal).

  7. Crazy how the microneasians brought bacc the navigation techniques but still get no recognition🤦‍♂️ . R.I.P uncle Mau Piailug your teachings will not be forgotten

  8. Imagine being one of the first people who accidentally drifted too far from shore and after traveling through open ocean for days or weeks, suddenly landing on an uninhabited island

  9. Austronesian in general is well-known as great voyager. In Indonesia itself, we have a song that says “nenek moyangku seorang pelaut”, means “our ancestors are a voyager”.

  10. The correct is Austronesian people….because polynesian is part of them. Austronesian spread from Madagaskar to Rapa nui near Chile

  11. Very impressive. To take such huge mission of navigation in the greatest body water on earth and to do all of that 3500 years ago.

  12. Paul Theroux wrote a book called "We, the Navigators" based on his travels, inter-island expeditions and research in Polynesia.

  13. Polynésien ont utilisé l'observation des oiseaux et d'autres animaux , poisson etc…
    Leur compréhension de la nature était différent,leur croyance spirituel et le lien avec la nature,leur permettait d'avoir un sixième sens.
    Il était protégé par certain animaux, qui les découvraient en cas de danger ou d'avarie.
    Chaque famille avait des animaux protecteurs, baleines,requin, dauphin,tortue,oiseaux etc…..
    Les tahua' sorciers faisait des invasions pour les appeler.
    L'abattage de chaque arbre pour la construction d'un vaa, le sorcier devait faire une incantation pour l'âme de l'arbre, et planter le même à côté de celui ci.
    On oublie souvent que le polynésien 'maohi' étaient de très grand croyants, ils avaient plusieurs dieux.

  14. The tribal community include the continent of Americas, India, the entire Pacific and Southeast Asia. Austronesia was what left of it and that's the Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. The seafaring tribal people weren't all the Austronesian that's only the Oceania island communities of Micronesia and Polynesia who introduced and influenced some of the islands in Melanesia and the Southeast Asian community. In those particular places who tattooed and had seafaring ancestors were descend of Oceania.

  15. Where can I get a college degree in wayfinding, and can I study online? Do you need tattoos to be a wayfinder? I hate tattoos but I love finding ways.

  16. lets say they do yse those stuff i doubt it they have shamans in theory the only thing that they can do was follow the current if all else fail and wind also for sure they are search for another mainland because they are tribal most ancient people are

  17. If you have the time while in Honolulu, be sure to see the planetarium show at the Bishop Museum, which gives the fascinating details of how the ancient Polynesians determined longitude at sea. They believed that important star groups predicted the positions of island groups in the Pacific, and, sure enough, Castor and Pollux culminate over the Hawaiian archipelago. In much the same way, the meso-Americans ascribed importance to the Pleiades; ancient Egyptians configured their pyramids according to the constellation Orion, and the temple at Angkor Wat was configured to the constellation Draco. Yes, ancient peoples had our intelligence, but not our technology, and ascribed tremendous importance to the night sky. Oh, by the way, the pole star at the time of the ancient Polynesian mariners was Holopuni (Kochab), not Hokupaa (Polaris).

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