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Abstract

The body of archaeological and other evidence tells us that the Polynesian race arose following ocean migrations from Asia via Melanesia through Fiji to Tonga and Samoa, probably reaching the Marquesas Islands near or before the birth of Christ. Subsequent migrations populated the other islands of the Eastern Pacific (Finney 1994). These events, extending over a period of some two thousand years, involved impressive feats of ocean passage, employing a growing body of knowledge of currents, winds, and above all, stellar navigation. The early navigators, capable of sailing against the wind, operated primarily in the near-equatorial latitudes, and are known to have employed a system of stellar reference involving the horizon and the local zenith. The rising and setting directions of stars were used to set and hold courses, and stars passing overhead at night were used as locators for certain islands (Finney 1994, Lewis 1994).

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