Maori master canoe builder, Hekenukumai Busby (New Zealand):

I hope that our youth recover the art of canoe building as the canoe is a mainstay of our culture. We must not forget that it was the canoe that brought our ancestors to this land. If we were to lose this part of our culture, we lose our heritage. I want to share this knowledge with youth today. My dream is for all the tribes of New Zealand to choose a suitable tree each and I could travel to each of these tribes to teach them how to build their own canoe.


Thousands of years ago, when most sailors were still hugging the coast, the island peoples of the Pacific held the knowledge and skills to explore the great ocean paths around and beyond their homes.

Modern instruments didn't exist - no compasses, no radio, no radar GLOSSARY radar - a system that uses electromagnetic waves to locate surrounding objects , no GPS GLOSSARY Global Positioning System (GPS) - a handheld computer that tells your position by communicating with satellites . The Pacific peoples navigated their canoes with their own sophisticated GLOSSARY sophisticated - highly developed techniques, using the seas, skies, and sea life to guide them. Their knowledge was built up through generations of experience.

It was handed down through careful teaching, stories, and songs.

An experienced Tongan navigator once said,
"The compass can go wrong, the stars never."
From David Lewis in Bader, H. and McCurdy, P., eds (1999).

And that is the beauty of Pacific navigation. Voyage into this site to find out more ...