The Canoe Is the People
Indigenous Navigation in the Pacific
Tuita’s Finger (Tonga, Polynesia)
Once, the old Tongan navigator Tuita (from the Haa Fokololo oe Hau navigator tribe) was voyaging in his kalia (double hull) with the King’s fleet (group of canoes). When the fleet got lost, the King wanted to know where they were. Tuita was old and blind, so he asked his son to tell him what he couldn’t see. Then he put his finger in the sea and tasted the water. He told the King that the water tasted of Fiji … and soon after, the fleet arrived there! The matapule (talking chiefs) of the Tuita tribe are named after this story – fafa ki tahi: to touch the sea.
Steering by the Sea, Sun, and Wind
When sailing, a navigator notices every clue in the environment and doesn’t take chances. When the stars can’t be seen (in the day or on cloudy nights), he uses other signs to guide him – the sea swells GLOSSARY swells - rolling waves caused by trade winds and storms , sea marks, the sun, and the wind. He visualises these signs in relation to the star positions.
He uses all of his knowledge in an integrated GLOSSARY integrated - whole way. This is the great art of navigation.