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  Topic Review (Newest First)
12-01-2013 09:34 AM
Re: traditional navigators

They're still doing it in Polynesia:
Hawaiian Voyaging Traditions
Polynesian Voyaging Society

Hokulea is going on a circumnavigation; check the pages out. Good stuff.
12-01-2013 08:14 AM
Re: traditional navigators

There are times when watching the jet planes can help.

11-29-2013 06:05 PM
Re: traditional navigators

I think what you are referring to is the practice of Bahamian navigation. This is a system where the locals use the water color to navigate with, dark blue, light blue, brown. They judge the waters by color and navigate around coral heads based on the color. There are none /few aids to navigation as we have in the US.

The Last Navigator, on Pacific Navigation the natives use stars, animal migration habits, birds, as natural navigational aids. Their is also a great deal of knowledge passed on, from generation to generation.

Where my boat is anchored, we know if the birds walking there, you dont want to go there.

Surprising how many people dont notice things like that.
10-05-2013 11:34 PM
Capt Len
Re: traditional navigators

I've had many experiences where the water just didn't feel right or days of steering by the waves in ice. Smelling the land way offshore. I don't doubt real sailors with a lifetime of survival experience did stuff we put down as fanciful folklore .No doubt there were some losers, we lose about a 100 thousand to the gods of the high way each year but still blithely drive to church or pub.
10-05-2013 06:36 PM
Re: traditional navigators

Traditional navigation was practiced in many was by many peoples for thousand’s of years.
Most was down to having been there before, Though there was always a few individuals who would go forth and explore where no one had gone before. Probably a lot did not come back while we remember those who did.
If they were wealthy powerful aristocratic or supported by the crown or the church.
For most they just came and went and nobody paid any attention.
The Phoenicians
The Greeks
The Romans
The Vikings
had no compass.
They knew the stars.
The had a means of determining angles.
They knew the main island and weather patterns. Currents. They could recognise hazards sometimes. Or they did not come back.
The Arabs knew of the monsoons, as did the Indians and the Indonesians
Seasonally trading by Dhow to East Africa and India was still going on until the 1970’s and early 80’s
Indonesian Prows were still trading to the island back then.

My Uncle, went to sea in a sailing fishing vessel in the early 30’s at the age of 14. He had been fishing as a boy in open row boats. Finding his way by traditional local knowledge and methods.

He later went to sea as an Ordinary Seaman
In 1942 he was torpedoed on a ship carrying Iron ore, He had just come of watch as QM, and was near a lifeboat. He cut the rope section of the falls with an axe. Picked up 14 other survivors.

He later served on another ship as QM. I cant remember the name, approaching the west of Scotland on a dark night.
He told the officer of the watch the were out of position and heading for the rocks. He could hear the seas breaking. And feel the change in the ships motion.
The OOW did not believe him, he left the bridge to call the Capt. who did. And ordered the ship stopped immediately they turned 180 and steamed slowly on a reciprocal course.
At first light they were just a couple of miles off the Torran Rocks at the south end of the Isle of Mull.

He next time out he sailed as the Uncertified 3/O.
He retired as a MM and Captain.
I knew him as an old man.
He came fishing with my Dad brother and I in a small open boat. We were fishing in or local water with no thoughts to navigation lifejackets or anything but fishing.
We head for an area we often caught fish. Just before we got there he suddenly sat up and said we have to get out of here were on to of a rock. There was a big swell at the time but not a lot of wind.
He grabbed the other set of oars and pulled hard with me until we were in his judgement we cleared.
He showed us the difference in the wave pattern that had altered him. Even though we assured him there was no rock. But we avoided the spot the rest of the night.
The next day my dad went and invested in a chart.
We looked at the chart and confirmed there certainly was a rock only a fathom deep at low water.
We had fished over it many times though probably not right at low water with a big swell before that day.

I cant claim to have any of the kind of knowledge he had. But I certainly believe it existed.
10-04-2013 02:40 PM
Re: traditional navigators

Anyone interested in this topic, and of an academic bent, should check out this book. Fantastic read and really explains how Micronesian (and modern) navigation works.
10-04-2013 02:35 PM
Re: traditional navigators

I wonder if Polynesian navigators of old could hear the sound of surf carried long distance by the water more so than by the air. That would help locating the nearby island. But I think they just had bigger balls and were not shying away from big risk journeys. None of us would even think of hunting grizzly bears with a spear, yet people used to do that long time ago.
10-01-2013 06:11 PM
Re: traditional navigators

Originally Posted by MarkofSeaLife View Post
Still off the location... in the Pacific in Tonga where these navigators were meant to be I saw absolutely bugger all evidence of them being able to do it now, or even ini the past.
I guess that is why the book is called the last navigator!
10-01-2013 05:44 PM
Re: traditional navigators

Still off the location... in the Pacific in Tonga where these navigators were meant to be I saw absolutely bugger all evidence of them being able to do it now, or even ini the past.

There are no, none or very few fishing boats going outside their protecting reefs, few even use boats except for water taxi type boats. None were heading offshore.

If they had any great knowledge apart from the normal ability to keep direction by the sun and the stars they have lost the lot.
But I dont think they had any such miraculous powers of navigating. One in particular always bugged me as being stupid to believe is the wave patterns around individual islands showing them to the island. Any wave pattern your see you will see the island at the same time. The only chance is it its quite a huge low island and you are just out of sight of it. (As you might if you are west of the east Caribbean islands... but only by 100 miles or so, not 1,000 miles or so. And what use is it in the trades to have missed the island and only realize its there when you are miles past it? Sail back upwind?

Finally, they didnt keep records upwind of how many arrived downwind so we dont know the attrition rate. A raft leaving Hawaii is 50% chance of hitting something if it goes SW. I wonder if 50% survived the voyage?

As for the Caribbean islands I could navigate up and down here with no compass, no binoculars and one eye tied behind my back!

10-01-2013 04:27 PM
Re: traditional navigators

I know this isn`t exactly in line with the question, but for what it`s worth, +1 for the "We the Navigator`s". I`d also recommend "Emergency Navigation" by David Burch from Those two books combined are a great read to generate a lot of thinking and ideas.
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