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We, the Navigators: The Ancient Art of Landfinding in the Pacific (Revised) 2 Sub Edition

4.9 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0824815820
ISBN-10: 0824815823
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Frequently Bought Together

  • We, the Navigators: The Ancient Art of Landfinding in the Pacific (Revised)
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Intensely thorough... An exhaustive examination of the pre-European navigational system which should fill any scholar's need... Succeeds admirably." -- The Northern Mariner

"This superb book can be recommended as good literature for both scholar and general reader." -- Geopub Review

From the Back Cover

The second edition of David Lewis' classic book on Pacific navigation promises to satisfy yet again scholars and seafarers alike - and all others who have marveled at the ability of island mariners to navigate hundreds of miles of open ocean without instruments. The new edition includes a discussion of theories about traditional methods of navigation developed during the past two decades, the story of the renaissance of star navigation throughout the Pacific, and material about navigation system in Indonesia, Siberia, and the Indian Ocean.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 468 pages
  • Publisher: University of Hawaii Press; 2 Sub edition (January 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0824815823
  • ISBN-13: 978-0824815820
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #190,280 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"We, The Navigators" is one of the first books written about polynesian navigation over great distances without benefit of any instruments except the senses of the navigators. The polynesians steered by the stars, sun, swell patterns, wind, birds, clouds, phosphorescence in the sea. "The Navigators" began training as soon as they were weened and had to memorize thousands of factors to enable then to reach islands that their ancestors had been traveling to for generations. This book is a great source for both scholars and sailors. However; be warned that if you don't have some knowledge of sailing and navigation you may not fully appreciate "We, the Navigators"
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Format: Paperback
This book is written by an academic. I don't necessarily mean this in a negative sense. The author has done a very thorough research on the topic and presented his findings. The effect is a book that can be called a comprehensive treatment as far as it can be done given that the practictioners are disappearing fast.
The downside is that it can send you to sleep as the author systematically compares how the navigational techniques are practiced in the various island groups.
The strength of the book is not only its thoroughness but also the fact that the author is a skilled sailor who has gone on trips using these techniques. This makes the material so much more authentic, because the reader can relate how effective these skills are and yet how much practice they require.
The author provides commentary on many practices and relates them to our modern day knowledge. An example was their ability to recognize the impact of sub surface currents, something that is today a rather specialist piece of knowledge not available to the everyday sailor.
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Format: Paperback
A triumph! Lewis's "hands-on" investigation of ancient
sailing tchniques in the Pacific now includes a description of a
renaissance in celestial navigation in Polynesia. The old way, the way
of passing on knowledge of sighting stars and zenith stars, is once
again being passed on from one generation to another.
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Format: Paperback
I was a Naval Officer for 22 years. 5 years of that time was spent as a Navigator on two different submarines. I was fascinated by the way the Polynesians can find their way over hundreds of miles of open ocean with no instruments. As David Lewis observes, "It's amazing how much you notice when your life depends on it."

The "ancient art" in the title is a misnomer. They still have Navigators in Hawaii and they continue to both practice their skills themselves and teach their children. See the YouTube postings of Ed Kaiwi for more information about Hawaiian lore.
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Format: Paperback
The most complete study of early navigation I have come across. The author does a fantastic job of comparing the different styles of landfinding as used by the Pacific islanders. Lewis brings the knowledge and experience of an accomplished western sailor and navigator to his studies, and in doing so is able compare and contrast ancient and modern techniques. A scholarly study of primitive navigation, the book is not always an easy read, however for the reader looking for a complete comparison this is the volume to have.
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Format: Paperback
For most of us, sailing across 2000+ miles of open ocean from Hawaii to Tahiti (or vice versa) would be daunting enough even with using every modern navigation device such as a GPS. Consider that in 1927 with compasses, sextants, radio, etc, in the Dole Air Race from Oakland to Honolulu (the same distance as Tahiti to Hawaii) 3 out of the 5 planes that started out were lost at sea. Then consider that a thousand years ago the Polynesians in 50-foot twin-hulled canoes were regularly making such voyages without any kind of instruments, and that crossing 50 or 100 miles of ocean was thought almost trivially easy.

That a primitive (by European or American standards) people were skilled at ocean navigation was thought absurd. Kon-Tiki was an attempt to show that Oceania could be populated from South America by drifting on rafts and sheer luck of landfall. But it is now established that there was skilled and purposeful exploration and colonization--including Rapa Nui (Easter Island) which is 1000 miles from the nearest other habitable island. We, the Navigators is a fascinating look at "primitive" navigation techniques, and the author himself sailed from Hawaii to Tahiti using only these ancient techniques.

So you'll see how the Polynesians used the sun, moon, and stars to achieve accurate navigation. They also used the ocean swells (as distinct from waves): islands reflect and deflect swells, so by careful observation, you can get a sense of direction to landfall. Land also changes cloud patterns. Birds were watched intently. New Zealand was one of the last places found and peopled--from 1600 miles away from the northeast, perhaps by watching birds migrate in that direction.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
David Lewis’s We, the Navigators highlights the rich navigational history of the people of Oceania. A medical doctor and experienced sailor, David Lewis combined meticulous research with personal experimentation to create a unique narrative illustrating the navigational prowess of the Pacific Islanders. Lewis set out to reconstruct the ancient navigational traditions of Oceania and to better understand how these people were able to travel over long distances without the help of western instrumentation and knowledge.
Lewis created a unique book in which he combined personal experience and first-hand accounts with knowledge gained through the study of secondary sources. Lewis recognized that knowledge of the ancient art of seafaring in the Pacific is nearing extinction. He understands the importance of recording and preserving this knowledge for future generations because traditional navigation methods are all but lost. Lewis describes his interviews with surviving navigators who were willing to share their secrets and demonstration them.
The lack of written records in Oceania severely hindered Lewis in his task because he was forced to rely on the oral history that has been passed down for generations. Oral histories are tricky because it is possible that they have been altered or information has been lost over the years. Also, as Lewis points out, certain secrets were held by select individuals or families and as those people passed, so did their knowledge.
Lewis discussed various traditional navigators (Tevake, Bongi, Hipour) that he interviewed and who agreed to demonstrate their techniques. By using the sun, stars, wind, ocean swells, and bird patters these navigators were able to successfully cross the open sea and reach their intended destination.
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