Voyaging from the past into the future

Tā Hec Puhipi’s story

 “I once read a book by Elsdon Best where he disputed the traditional navigation techniques that guided Polynesian migratory travel throughout the Pacific. I recall thinking at the time, ‘I’m going to prove you’re wrong’, and we have.”

Voyaging expert Sir Hek Busby, shares his story and explains using a Maori star compass in the latest issue of the Education Gazette.

Our very own Tuia 250 flotilla kaitiaki and navigator Jack Thatcher also shares his story.

Awesome to see the Ministry of Education NZ supporting #tuia250 by incorporating voyaging into classroom learning.

Sitting on Tā Hekenukumai (‘Tā Hec’) Puhipi’s table next to his recliner is a rudimentary-looking device that seems to be of no practical use. The flat piece of cardboard with faded diagonal lines and points made in pencil makes little sense at first – until you see the double-hull waka, held in place by a paper clip, sliding diagonally along a slit in the cardboard.

It’s a star compass, and it has been the key tool of Tā Hec’s trade ever since he began reviving traditional navigation techniques in Aotearoa in the mid-1980s.

“We’re clever buggers, us Māoris,” the former bridge builder laughs as he demonstrates this simple yet sophisticated device.

How it works is ingenious. Te kāpehu whetū – the Māori star compass – divides the 360 degrees around a canoe in the open ocean into 32 different whare (houses). The location of these houses depends on where the sun, moon and stars set and rise. A navigator keeps the canoe on a course relative to those observations.

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