Polynesian Wayfinders May Have Reached the Americas Millenia Before Columbus
Most people think that the Pacific was settled by accident. But this clip upsets that notion by focusing on the lost technique of “Wayfinding.” Is it possible that Polynesians used the Pacific for trading routes and refined their navigational techniques to reach the Americas millenia before Columbus?
Polynesian navigation is a system of navigation used by Polynesians to make long voyages across thousands of miles of open ocean. Navigators travel to small inhabited islands using only their own senses and knowledge passed by oral tradition from navigator to apprentice, often in the form of song. In order to locate directions at various times of day and year, Polynesian navigators memorize important facts: the motion of specific stars, so where they would rise and set on the horizon of the ocean; weather and the seasons of travel; wildlife species (which gather at particular positions); the direction, size and, speed of ocean waves; colors of the sea and sky, especially how clouds would cluster at the locations of some islands; and angles for approaching harbours.
These wayfinding techniques along with their unique outrigger canoe construction methods have been kept as guild secrets. Generally each island maintained a guild of navigators who had very high status and in times of famine or difficulty these navigators could trade for aid or evacuate people to neighboring islands. To this day, the original methods of Polynesian Navigation are still taught in the Polynesian outlier of Taumako Island in the Solomon Islands.