East is a Big Bird - Navigation and Logic on Puluwat Atoll
by Gladwin, Thomas-
pub. by Harvard Univ. Press, 1970 isbn - 0-674-22425-6 (LCCN = 75-95922 - - 241 p. - - maps, diagrams, index, black and white photos
This book is the examination of the residents of Puluwat Atoll in the Caroline group in Micronesia in the western Pacific. (about 7.5 deg N. and 149.5 deg E.) The stated purpose of the author is to study people who may be quite intelligent but who do not do well on western civilizations intelligence tests, comparing their situation to poorer people in USA. He then departs to describing navigation (in the broadest sense of the word) in the islands and does not bring up the intelligence bit until the small chapter at the end of the book.
The body of the book is a tour-de-force of boat building, boat handling, sailing, social mores related to voyaging etc. Gladwin is a keen observer. He appears to have had some background in engineering. His description of stresses on outrigger canoes sailing in various conditions is masterful. His description of the mores shows the islanders on Puluwat to be pragmatic as they do what is needed to get the job done more than slavishly follow the rules. His investigation of navigation was mostly under the tutalage of Hipour though other master navigators Ikuliman (greatest living navigator and canoe builder) and Winin among others. There are 2 schools of navigation on Puluwat, Wareing (aka Wareyang) and Fanur. Both schools are in agreement on the rudiments though they differ in certain areas, especially the more mystical. In general navigation - finding ones way - uses the (1) stars especially their rising places and setting places which on the horizon form a compass rose with some 32 points. (2) feeling wave sets. This area of micronesia has 3 different sets. (3) using wildlife - mostly birds - to locate islands (4) using reefs, even underwater recognizable reefs as location markers (5) using mystical wildlife as position markers. (6) using a magnetic card compass to hold a course, though not to set a course. (I may have missed some methods.) In general the navigators of Puluwat are careful pragmatic mariners/navigators who use all the resources at hand to effect safe and successful voyages.
This is a well researched and well presented book. Read it to have a good understanding of what some would call primitive navigation, which is not primitive at all, but well thought out methods to assure getting from A to B. Methods which can be adopted to small boat sailors in other places to assist their sailing from A to B.
See also David Lewis We, the Navigators The Ancient Art of Landfinding in the Pacific and Steve Thomas book The last navigator and Kenneth Brower A song for Satawal for other information on native Pacific navigation.
~ 2009-12-16 ~
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