Ancient Hawaiian/Polynesian navigation?

Is it true that ancient sailors from Hawaii/Polynesia navigated the Pacific by:

1) Tasting the water to judge its salinity

2) Touching the water to judge its temperature and determine the ocean current?



Could you please give me any sources which state/support this if true?

5 Answers

  • 11 months ago

    1) No, they didn t navigate by salinity. They gathered water by salinity. The same way many air breathing marine creatures do when they cross the ocean. When it rains, pools of freshwater collect on the ocean s surface, riding atop the denser saltwater. Air breathing marine animals drink this water to stay hydrated. The Polynesians realized they could do this too. This allowed them to cross vast expanses of ocean without having to pack so much potable water that they had no room for anything else.

    2) Yes, feeling for ocean currents was one method they used for navigation. But it was far from the only one. They used multiple clues to get a complete picture of where they d been, where they were, and where they wanted to go.

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  • Bill
    Lv 4
    11 months ago

    Several good answers.

    Additionally, they knew the paths of certain stars, where they rose and which ones would pass directly overhead. By navigating from one location where they knew the star patterns they knew they could always return. They did not have the North Star, being in the southern hemisphere, but once they found Hawaii they could use that one. This implies they sailed and navigated at night and rested during the daylight hours.

    Also, by watching for signs like clouds that always were in the same place, birds that nest on land and flew in specific directions at dawn and dusk, small changes in currents that flowed around an island, debris in the water, a greenish tinge to the underside of clouds, etc., they could determine that land was in a specific direction.

    The novel, Hawaii, by James Michener talks about this. Granted, the book is fiction but he was known to research and to get his facts right.

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  • paul h
    Lv 7
    11 months ago

    Probably neither of those two methods would be reliable. They are thought to have used various methods to determine sailing passages along with oral history and stick maps. A combination of knowledge of the sun and stars, sea bird patterns, wave patterns/fractals, winds and currents, etc.. made it possible for them to accurately navigate over thousands of miles of ocean.

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  • 11 months ago

    They used currents for direction, and may have used sun and constellations also.

    What I recall reading, they used some bobber on a length of palm rope to tell their direction and speed.

    South Pacific Polynesia sailed to various islands beyond their horizon, Hawaiian had the luxury of view of their islands for reference.

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  • User
    Lv 7
    11 months ago

    I suspect

    that we do not know

    because we simply don't have records from that period and culture.

    I would expect

    that currents would have (at least on occasion) difference in salinity and temperature

    and so a sailor might be able to identify if they were currently in a current by those methods

    but of course one could tell by the fact that the current would be moving their boat!

    I suspect what you mean to describe is that they could tell WHICH current they were in by those methods

    if they were for some reason lost (e.g. "blown off course" by a storm)

    and I would suppose that some currents might very well be identified by those two methods

    but of course the taster and toucher would have to know what taste and what temperature was associated with each current

    and probably many currents do not have a noticeable difference in either compared to the "ocean at large".

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