Polynesian Navigation

This passage discusses navigating techniques used by Polynesians.

Lexile Level: 590L

Categories: People & Places


Polynesians are people from the islands of the Pacific Ocean. The ocean has always been important to them. These people sailed hundreds of years before people from Europe sailed. In ancient times, they used canoes for traveling. They built their canoes with stone tools and things from their island. Polynesians had their own way of sailing. They didn't use compasses to find their way. They also didn't have maps to help them. Instead, they used observation methods. They studied the ocean swells. They looked at the night stars. They watched the clouds and the sun. For them, navigating was an art. It was something they learned from their elders. As skilled navigators, they were able to travel long distances. In 1976, a team from Hawaii proved this could be done. Using a canoe similar to the kinds used in ancient times, they sailed like their ancestors. Without navigation tools, they sailed from Hawaii to Tahiti, which was a 2,000 mile trip.


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