Wood and shells
Length: 56 cm – 22 in.
Ex collection J. Kennedy, Hawaii
Ex Bonhams Los Angeles, 2016
Ex private collection, Paris
The charts, unlike traditional maps, were studied and memorized prior to a voyage and were not consulted during a trip, as compared to traditional navigation techniques where consultation of a map is frequent and points and courses are plotted out both before and during navigation.
Marshallese navigators used their senses and memory to guide them on voyages by crouching down or lying prone in the canoe to feel how the canoe was being pitched and rolled by underlying swells.
"Fearless and adventurous voyagers as the Polynesians were in former centuries, they appear never to have studied ocean phenomena in their bearing on the science of navigation with anything like the painstaking and methodical skill which the Marshall Islanders devoted to this subject. Doubtless by observation their sailing experts could infer much from the run of the ocean swells, but this knowledge was comparatively elementary and was never detailed, tabulated, and set forth in the form of primitive charts. In the Marshall Islands, on the contrary, every chief and sea pilot possessed elaborate charts based upon his own experience and on knowledge handed down or gained from others." (Canoes Of Oceania, Haddon & Hornell, 1975: p. 372)