How Humans Would Navigate the Unknown Without Any Instruments

#Travel

Mon, Nov 3rd, 2014 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

Nautilus looks at how ancient Polynesians, lacking modern instruments like "compasses or astrolabes," still managed to find distant island and return to their island of origin. Their tools: understanding their environment, the stars and, most importantly, their memories. The wayfinders would have the relative position of hundreds of stars memorised and, with the use of hand calibration techniques, could approximate their latitude.

What was the motivation behind risking these long journeys at sea with no guarantee of finding land or even being able to come back at all? Some did it for status: Those who discovered islands would achieve higher social standing. Others did it for survival: They were in search of resources that were not native to their own islands. No matter the incentive, the search for islands became embedded in Polynesian culture and lore, and so too was wayfinding.

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