The Ocean Connects Us – Origins of Hawaiian Wayfinding
“I ulu no ka lālā i ke kumu’ translates to ‘the branches grow because of the trunk.” “Without our ancestors we would not be here.” –Hawaiian proverb
Hawaiians handed down their knowledge of wayfinding from one generation to the next through chants, songs, and stories. They also handed down a natural ease with the open sea, which is often described as connecting the people of these islands.
“The ocean was integrated naturally into Polynesian culture, as they came from small islands surrounded by vast ocean expanses. No other culture embraced the open sea so fully.”—Liesl Clark in NOVA article, “Polynesia’s Genius Navigators”
Navigators voyages are based on a lifetime of studying motion and the rising and setting of specific stars. They studied the weather, the activities of seabirds, the directions of swells on the ocean, and the colors of the sea and sky.
After the peoples’ first arrival in Hawaiʻi, voyaging continued between Hawaiʻi and Tahiti for several centuries. Many migrations and stories of voyaging chiefs are still well known today.
Long-distance voyaging continued in Hawai’i until around the 1400s, when for unknown reasons it stopped. Traditional navigation and shorter voyages continued on a smaller scale in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands.
It was one of the greatest human migrations ever undertaken.
Learn more about these early voyagers