Story: Canoe navigation

Pacific migrations

Pacific migrations

Between 4000 and 2000 BC in island South-East Asia, a new technology emerged – the outrigger canoe. Over the next few thousand years variations of its design enabled the south-eastward peopling of the Pacific. Lapita people, the ancestors of Polynesians, sailed mostly against prevailing trade winds in a south-easterly direction. They probably did this by waiting for the seasonal reversal of winds, from November to April, when a north-westerly monsoon would have carried them east. This strategy provided them with a safe return option – if no land was found they could turn around and let the prevailing easterly trade winds blow them back to their home island. Polynesians settled Hawaii by sailing across the wind, and reached New Zealand by sailing downwind.

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How to cite this page:

Rāwiri Taonui, 'Canoe navigation - Waka – canoes', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/map/2207/pacific-migrations (accessed 18 October 2019)

Story by Rāwiri Taonui, published 8 Feb 2005