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

30 thoughts on “Follow the Waves

  1. It’s good to be reminded that not everything can simply be worked out by today’s society and technological developments. To have mysteries remaining sets the spirit soaring!


  2. Discussing about the ocean is like its ocean sphere. Endless of challenge, adventure and hope among the beauty and danger. My country consists of over 13,000 islands in which I have ever traveled few of them. Some day I was experienced sailing on the very calm sea water, no wind, no water movement I only saw deep blue water with nothing to listen to. I was so scared as frightening as when I was on another day sailing on huge waves with strong windy and heavy rainy day. We felt that we were nothing compared to the vast oceans. I have forgotten my family at home, my girlfriend at her wait and my friends on their lands and even my friends on the same boat ! the only thing we can do is looked up the dark sky and tell ourselves: God safe us, God safe us,God safe us…. I always remember still when we found ourselves heading to the right direction to find the shore. That was the changing colors and smells of the sea waters, deep blue turned to emerald and whitish to sandy beach. When I saw coconut trees waving on the shores signifying that we were almost ashore safely, I found myself lying almost powerless on the bow of the tired boat. Something I will never forget.


    • My dear friend, you were indeed lucky. Every year, the sea takes lives. Its power and might is an awesome sight that can only be understood by first hand experience. Your comments are very much appreciated. They add so much depth to this dialogue.

      “The sea – this truth must be confessed – has no generosity. No display of manly qualities – courage, hardihood, endurance, faithfulness – has ever been known to touch its irresponsible consciousness of power. “Joseph Conrad


  3. “For every minute, the future is becoming the past.” Wise words, so very important to live in the moment, value and love it, for it won’t come again. Those early navigators–truly amazing! What power of observation!


  4. Hello Rebecca!

    Another great and very helpful post. 🙂

    I remember doing a junior school project on the Kon-Tiki (yes some years after the experiment – thank you!!) , both building a model and filling a small exercise book on the project, I may still have the book ?

    The Model is long gone but I remember having the biggest 🙂 on my face the day I handed it over. Looking back it was probably terrible!!!

    Back to your posts: I am getting so much out of these Rebecca, thank you so much!!! 🙂


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