were master navigators who tracked their way across huge expanses
of ocean without any of the complex aids, such as the Greek
astrolabe or the sextant, compass and chronometer, which Europeans
as 1837 a British ship set sail for Rarotonga, in the Pacific,
from an island less than 150 miles away, but even with the help
of a chart, a compass and telescope failed to find it. Yet centuries
before, the Polynesians had pinpointed a minuscule landmark
like Easter Island.
they do it?
navigators they used the stars as fixed points of reference.
They understood the significance of stationary clouds, the presence
of birds and flotsam as indications of nearby land. But most
extraordinary of all, they had learned how to read and interpret
the changing patterns created by ocean waves.
thrown into a pond will set up a series of ripples. Any object,
like a rock or even a mooring post, which breaks the surface,
will affect the pattern of the ripples. Pond or Pacific Ocean,
the same principal applies. Islands and atolls have the same
effect as rocks and posts. The Polynesians observed that when
waves hit an island, some are reflected back in the direction
from which they have come while others are deflected at angles
round the island and continue their passage in a modified form.
of reading the waves was taught to Polynesian boys with the
aid of the mattang, a web of interlocking sticks which demonstrated
all the basic patterns that waves can form when they are deflected
navigator gauged these wave patterns entirely by his sense of
touch. He would crouch in the bow of his canoe and literally
feel every motion of the vessel.
In this way the original colonizers of Easter Island might have
felt their way across thousands of miles of open
sea to their remote new home.
with which Polynesian boys learned to navigate over the trackless
wastes of the Pacific Ocean by studying the motion of the waves.
Worlds Last Mysteries Readers Digest