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Brian Hooker

New Zealand

Reinvented traditions




Brian Hooker


The online Te Ara encyclopaedia is a commendable concept but can it maintain credibility when a section promotes false traditions? One doesn't need to be a specialist in any subject to be able to see through the argument.

Details are given of replica voyages and a Micronesian mariner named Mau who supposedly understood early Pacific skills. A star compass attempts to add verification to the belief that Polynesians had long-distance navigational ability. There are references to the upright Southern Cross, other constellations, and degrees. Since the main data in the compass originates from European sources it is a fraud.

Grouping stars into constellations was an early Middle Eastern invention and there is no evidence that Pacific people devised an identical system. The Southern Cross was unrecognized as a constellation until the middle of the fifteenth century when European explorers sailed down the west coast of Africa and southern stars came into view. The significance of the upright Cross does not automatically occur to someone looking at the configuration. The arrangement was found to be useful long after it was proved by geographers that the earth is a sphere, has an equator, and poles. The earliest known reference to the fact of the north/south axis from the Pole Star to the Cross is recorded in a work published in 1514.

The division of the circle into 360 degrees dates back at least to the Sumerians. Since there is no evidence that Pacific people devised a similar system Mau obviously borrowed the idea.

The false star compass and associated data have no place in a history of Pacific exploration. Since all modern sailors have a knowledge of basic navigational data gained from thousands of years of research by eastern and western scientists, replica voyages are useless for proving any ancient navigational theory. □