7 May 99

Last night I stayed up to watch "Wayfinders: A Pacific Odyssey" on PBS. It was about the revival of the ancient art of ocean navigating, or wayfinding, as practiced by the peoples of the Western/South Pacific islands-- Polynesia. They could and did navigate the whole of the Pacific from Tahiti to Hawaii to Easter Island to-- wherever using only the stars and their knowledge of the winds, the ocean, the air, and the animals. And now the art is being revived and people are learning anew. They even built a beautiful ocean-going double-hull, two sail canoe, the Hawai'iloa, using traditional materials and techniques wherever and whenever possible. The sails were woven-- beautiful! How I would love to sail with them in that craft!

While I was listening to a navigator teaching how to read the ocean water, the waves, and the currents, I was reminded of Mark Twain telling about his experiences learning to be a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi. For those who have a talent, the skill surpasses craft and becomes Art. And then, too, I was reminded of the people of Ursula K. LeGuin's Earthsea archipelago, especially the people of the deep oceans who lived on rafts that followed the whales. The night Ged and Arren celebrated midsummer with them by participating in the long dance was particularly memorable for me. That was in the third book, The Farthest Shore. Wonderful books...

Oddly enough, LeGuin wrote a book in 1998 titled Steering the Craft: Exercises on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew, in which she cites some of Mark Twain's work as examples.

Tonight I went surfing for more information about all these things. I read the University of Pennsylvania Museum's Traditional Navigation in the Western Pacific pages. And on a Mark Twain site I was reminded that he traveled to Hawaii-- the Sandwich Islands they were called then, in 1866, and wrote quite a bit about it.

It's been a very interesting evening. I enjoyed it-- Oh! If you should feel the need to learn more about the Hawaiian language and its pronunciation, Ernie's Learn to Speak a Little Hawaiian is an excellent introductory site.

I'm off to bed. Aloha. Kipa hou mai! (Come visit again!)


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