Follow the Waves


One learns more from listening than speaking.  And both the wind and the people who continue to live close to nature sill have much to tell us which we cannot hear within university walls.”

Thor Heyerdahl

 The Pacific

Yesterday was the anniversary of the passing of Thor Heyerdahl (October 6, 1914 – April 18, 2002). Anyone who reads about his Kon-Tiki expedition, the 8,000 kilometre voyage across the Pacific Ocean in a self-built raft, cannot help but think back to the legendary Polynesian navigators that lived thousands of years before the Kon-Tiki set sail.

The Polynesians developed a system of navigation that allowed them to make extended voyages across thousands of miles of trackless ocean, notorious for its capricious unpredictability. They travelled to remote islands throughout the southern Pacific, gaining knowledge from their natural world.

Navigators were held in high esteem within Polynesian culture.  Each island established a guild of navigators which allowed oral traditions to be passed from mentor to apprentice, often in the form of a song.  A navigator memorized everything, including the motion of specific stars as they would rise and set on the horizon.  Much like our Viking friends, they understood weather patterns and the season of travel, cloud formations and the flight path of birds. Yet, the Polynesians used navigational techniques that made them distinctive. They watched the waves, deciphering from their direction and type which course to take.  And they observed the soft shimmer spread on the horizon that came from islands just below the skyline.

Modern navigators are still baffled by the accomplishments of the Polynesian seafarers.  Their navigational feats remain unequalled.

“For every minute, the future is becoming the past.”

Thor Heyerdahl