Over 1,000 years ago, the scattered islands of Polynesia were settled by an ancient seafaring people. Where did they come from? How did they navigate across the vast Pacific Ocean to settle one-third of Earth’s surface?
To find out, anthropologist Sam Low visited the tiny coral atoll of Satawal, in Micronesia’s remote Caroline Islands, to film Mau Piailug as he guides his canoe by using subtle signs in the waves, winds and stars. In his lofty canoe house he teaches the intricacies of this ancient sea science in a ceremony called “unfolding the mat” by arranging 32 lumps of coral to represent the points of his “star compass.”
Thor Heyerdahl thought Polynesia was settled from South America by voyagers who drifted aboard primitive rafts like Kon Tiki, pushed along by prevailing winds and currents. But he was wrong. The Navigators follows archeologists working on the Tahitian island of Huahine, in Fiji and Hawaii as they prove that Polynesia’s settlers forced their way against the winds and currents from Island Southeast Asia aboard large seaworthy double-hulled canoes. In a dramatic demonstration, Mau Piailug guides a replica of such a vessel, Hokule`a, from Hawaii to Tahiti – 2500 miles across the ocean without benefit of sextant, compass, or any other Western navigational instrument.