Exploration, Seafaring & Navigation

Superb voyagers, Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands migrated to Hawai`i more than 1,600 years ago. Navigating by the sun and stars and reading the winds, currents, and flight of seabirds, Polynesians sailed across 2,400 miles of open ocean in great double-hulled canoes. They brought with them items essential to their survival: pua'a (pigs), `ilio (dogs), and moa (chickens); the roots of kalo (taro) and `uala (sweet potato); the seeds and saplings of niu (coconut), mai`a (banana), ko (sugar cane), and other edible and medicinal plants.

Advanced celestial navigation techniques; knowledge of ocean currents, birds, and sealife; and a strong social bond made the impossible journey across 2,400 miles of open ocean possible. Today, Native Hawaiians keep this traditional knowledge alive.

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    Last updated: August 19, 2019