Story: Canoe navigation

Using a canoe as a compass

This diagram shows a canoe, looking from above. The 360° horizon around the canoe was divided up into different sectors named ‘houses’, and these were marked on canoe railings. Navigators would know that the arcs of the sun and other stars cross the sky at different heights depending on the time of year. This canoe is travelling due north at the spring equinox, when the sun rises due east and sets due west. At night the rising and setting of stars were used to align the canoe in a direction of travel. For example, when Star A set, Star B was used, and so on through the night until the earth’s own star, the sun, rose. The sun was used at dawn and dusk.

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How to cite this page:

Rāwiri Taonui, 'Canoe navigation - Ocean voyaging', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 20 April 2024)

Story by Rāwiri Taonui, published 8 Feb 2005