Story: Canoe navigation

Replica navigation chart

Replica navigation chart

Marshall Islands navigation charts were made of sticks tied together. Cowrie shells represented the relative positions of islands, while curved and diagonal sticks showed swell and wave patterns. Today, they are mainly sold as tourist souvenirs, but these ancient navigation aids were once vital for island hopping between the 1,000 and more islands that make up the Marshalls group. The charts were not carried on board, but were memorised. They were also used to record collective knowledge and to train young navigators.

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Private collection, Jock Phillips

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How to cite this page:

Rāwiri Taonui, 'Canoe navigation - Locating land', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 12 December 2023)

Story by Rāwiri Taonui, published 8 Feb 2005