Source Documents
harold gatty : the raft book, 1943 

Harold Gatty : The Raft Book, 1943.

Gatty, Harold:
The Raft Book.
Lore of the Sea and Sky

George Grady, New York, 1943.

Published in a pictorial slipcase, with 20" x 45" large folded page with 8 charts of latitudes and adjustments on one side, a world navigation chart on the other, plus a star chart of same dimensions, and folding Greenwich date and hour scales.
This guide to navigation without instruments, and without previous experience, based on Polynesian navigation techniques, was given to American pilots during WW II.

Harold Gatty was born on 5 January 1903 in Campbell Town, Tasmania and began his career as a navigator in 1917, at age 14, when he was appointed a midshipman at the Royal Australian Naval College at Jervis Bay, NSW, initially HMAS Franklin and later HMAS Creswell.

Right: Harold Gatty, Naval Cadet, Royal Naval College, Jervis Bay, NSW, c1918.
- Brown: Gatty- Prince of Navigators (1997) page 12.

In 1931, Gatty accompanied Wiley Post on an attempt on world record for circumnavigating the earth, previously held by the Graf Zeppelin airship in 21 days.
New York's Roosevelt Field on 23 June 1931 they completed the fight in 8 days, 15 hours, and 51 minutes.

Post and Gatty were honoured with a ticker-tape parade in New York City, and documented their fight in Around the world in eight days- the Flight of the Winnie Mae in 1931.
While the flight was closer to nine
days, rather than eight, the title referencing Julves Verne's 1873 work of science fiction, Around the World in Eighty Days.

Gatty's The Raft Book was followed with Nature is Your Guide- How to find your way on Land & Sea in 1958.
In 1997, Bruce Brown published a biography, Gatty- Prince of Navigators.

Internet Archive:
The Flight of the Winnie Mae

: Gatty- Prince of Navigators.

Page 1
Lore of the Sea and Sky.
Migratory Birds As Winged Pilots
Migration of Insects
Land Sighting Birds As Navigating Instruments
Land Indications from Sea Birds
Fish and Other Surface Life
The Scent of Land
Sounds from Land
The Sky As an Indicator of Land
Directions from the Wind
Directions from the Wave and Swells
Ocean Currents and the Color of the Sea

The Use of Visual Indications
Winds, Ocean Currents and Temperatures

Estimation of Distance
Use of the Base Chart
Use of the Compass
Measurement of Angles
How the Polynesians Used the Stars
How to Recognize the Stars
Directions from the Stars and Moon
Steering by the Stars
Directions from the Sun
How Far You Are North or South
How Far You Are East or West
Ocean Rainfall Charts
Making the Landing
Distribution of Sea Birds, Breed­ing Places and Dates

Explanatory Diagram for Frontispiece
Frontispiece—Overhead Stars in the Southwest Pacific
1-5. Illustrations of Sea Birds for Identification
6. a. Color Reflected from Cloud Indicating Lagoon Beyond the Horizon                                                                 
    b. Fixed Clouds Indicating Land Beyond the Horizon
7. Curvature and Meeting of Swells Around an Island
8-19. Winds, Ocean Currents and Temperatures of the Oceans
20. Stars of the North Polar Area
21. Stars of the South Polar Area
22-24. Star Diagrams
25. Paths of Stars at Different Latitudes
26. Moon and Sun Diagrams
facing 50.
facing 50.

facing 108.
facing 111.

vi and vii [Frontispiece]

The Polynesians viewed the stars as moving bands of light passing over the same islands night after night.
They knew the stars which passed over particular islands, and used these stars as heavenly beacons to lead them to their destination.

The frontispiece showing stars over the southwest Pacific illustrates a specific instance of the use of Sirius as an overhead star for Vanua Levu of the Fiji Islands.
The stars are in their actual positions for 3 minutes after midnight local time on January 1st 1944 (about 4 minutes earlier on each succeeding night).

The above diagram gives the names of the islands in the frontispiece, and the names of the easily recogniza­ble stars which are overhead at the same time in these islands.

The sun sags down on on Tama's path, across the changing sky;

New stars do leap above the deep to meet the wondering eye;
New seas are spread on every side, new skies are overhead;
New lands await the sea-kings, in the vast grey seas ahead.
Maori song. (After Best)
Page 1


This book has been written for those who, without previous experi­ence in navigation and without navigating instruments, find them­selves in small craft in the open sea and who have to make their way to land.

The methods contained in this book include the simple and effec­tive means that enabled primitive peoples to travel across the oceans, as well as other ways that have been devised at the present time to fit your particular problem.

It has been definitely established that primitive peoples had no more "sense of direction" than we have.
Realizing this, and follow­ing their time-tested methods, you can have full confidence that
you can find your way as well as, or better than, they could.

Many others before you have made long and successful voyages in very small boats and rafts.
Just because the methods of the Polyne­sians are frequently mentioned throughout this book, it should not be thought that these methods apply only to the Pacific Ocean.
These great seafarers happened to populate the Pacific, but they could have navigated equally as well by the same means in the Atlantic.

Several new applications of old ideas have been worked out and are included here
The use of a watch with the simple methods given in the book will enable you to fix your position in an east and west direction (longitude).
There are also a number of methods in this book for obtaining your position in a north and south direction (latitude).

However, it is of the utmost importance that you carry a watch kept running on Greenwich Time.
All persons who are sailing the

Page 2

seas or flying over the seas in these times, should have their watches set on Greenwich Time for their own safety.

With reasonable rations, even though you are far at sea, you should have no worry about reaching land.
There are simple ways described in this book to fit all circumstances.

Following are important suggestions which should be closely ad­hered to:
1.    If you know where you are when you board your craft, mark the position and the time on your Base Chart accompanying the book.
2.    Keep track of your course and speed as best you can.
3.    Keep as regular a course as possible without unduly exerting yourself until you are sure of the direction of land.
You have every chance of being picked up if you just keep your head and conserve your strength.
4.    Knowing your position and the direction to the nearest land does not mean that your best way is necessarily a direct course.
Let the winds and currents help you. The longest way round is sometimes the shortest way home.
5.    Do not let the direction of the wind at the moment be the basis of your decision.
Study the wind, current and water tempera­ture charts on pages 70-81 and from the resultant winds and currents make your decision as to the most advantageous course to follow.

This book is given with the idea that it should be read, if possible, before any emergency arises.
It is hoped, however, that the informa­tion and suggestions it contains will justify carrying it at all times for repeated reference in helping you to find your way to land.

Page 3

Present day navigators are apt to place so much reliance on mechan­ical and tabular aids that we sometimes forget that primitive peoples were able to voyage over a large part of the world without any such devices.
A study of these primitive methods shows that there are many valuable aids we have neglected or forgotten, and that a con­tinued reliance on mechanical aids places us in a very helpless posi­tion when deprived of them.
In the lore of the sea and the sky one can still find those fundamental and simple means which gave early man confidence and enabled him to find his way on the trackless sea.
The earliest navigators of history—the Phoenicians, the Arabi­ans, the Vikings and the Polynesians—all used very much the same basic methods but applied them differently.

In addition to the basic methods common to all the early navi­gators, the Polynesians had many unique and superior means; for this reason much of the material here presented deals with the art as practised by them.
 Having originally migrated from the west coast of India, the Polynesians peopled islands over the length and breadth of the Pacific.
Unlike continental races whose migratory urges never took them far from shores, the Polynesians were an oceanic people and were forced to develop the art of direction finding at sea to a high state of perfection.
Under the compulsion of economic pressure, tribal differences, or trade in semi-precious greenstone, the Polynesians made extensive sea voyages throughout this vast area and maintained frequent intercourse between groups of islands thousands of miles apart.

When one realizes that all of the habitable islands scattered over the Pacific Ocean in a triangular area of approximately 4,000 miles

Page 4

on each side extending from the Hawaiian Islands to Easter Island (2,000 miles off the coast of Chile) and to New Zealand, roughly constituting what is now known as Polynesia, were settled by one people, of one culture and one language, it should be conclusive evidence that the Polynesians were without doubt the greatest pathfinders in history.
The back and forth voyages between Tahiti and New Zealand over a distance of 2,500 miles are a matter of history, as are also the voyages between Tahiti and Hawaii over a similar distance.
The last of these voyages was made about the year 1350 A.D. when a considerable fleet from Tahiti permanently colonized New Zealand.
The last of the colonizing voyages to Hawaii had ended about a century previously.

There is very little, if any, difference between the problems con¬fronting a Polynesian voyager in the open ocean far from land and those of the occupant of a raft or life-boat; each must rely on his ability to determine his position and the course to the nearest land without the aid of modern navigating instruments.

You are in a much better position to solve the problem than the Polynesians were, because you are equipped in this book with additional simple and practical ways and means of locating and guiding yourself ashore.

Any system of navigation is a combination of a number of methods, each of which must be used at the appropriate time.
This is just as true today as it was a thousand years ago.
The direction finding methods of the Polynesians have not been easy to reconstruct; for aside from the fact that they had no written language, they kept their system of navigation as a very jealously guarded secret in the hands of the Tohungas, or priests. This placed the men who knew their way about the ocean among the most powerful members of the tribe, since it gave prestige second only to the chief, and entailed considerable material advantages.

In order to learn their methods, it has been necessary to look carefully into their legends and the accounts of early white ex-

Page 5

plorers in the area, and gradually piece together the essentials of their system.
Because students of primitive culture are not usually navigators, a complete understanding and interpretation of the Polynesian system of navigation has not previously appeared.

Having spent the greater part of my life in the South Pacific, with the opportunity of extensive research in primitive navigation, I am satisfied that solely by use of these same methods anyone in any ocean can find his way to land.
The Micronesians, inhabiting the many small atolls of the Caroline and Marshall groups, to the northwest of the Polynesian area, are people of a distinctly separate wave of migration and are of part Mongoloid origin.

Most of their methods for finding position on the high seas are identical with those of the Polynesians, but in addition they evolved a system of charts particularly suited to the conditions throughout their scattered groups.
As with the Polynesians, their means of find¬ing their way was kept a closely guarded secret. It was not a monopoly of the chiefs' families, but more the secret of certain intelligent individuals who, with marked powers of observation, were especially trained in this art, and, in turn, transmitted it to similarly gifted members of their families.
Like the Polynesians, the Marshall and Caroline Island navigators enjoyed special privileges usually reserved for the chiefs.
They were permitted to walk on the weather side of an island, and they possessed very high social standing to¬gether with the advantage of the use of more land.

It is interesting to note that a century after the last of the great Polynesian colonizing migrations, we read of the pre-Columbian navigators of Europe still being afraid to venture out beyond the Pillars of Hercules into the Green Sea of Darkness, the Atlantic.

Page 6


Birds have played a far greater part in the opening up of the world than is generally realized.
It is the writer's conviction that man has been led across the water to other lands by migratory birds.

A study of the tracks of the migration of land birds in the Pacific, and further consideration of the evolution of bird migration routes, shows that man's path in the Pacific has followed the paths of land birds.
No people, whether primitive or civilized, would set out over thousands of miles of ocean without knowing that they were going to some land.
The Polynesians, who were, like all primitives, close observers of nature, saw the land birds taking off year after year in the same direction, and knowing that they were not able to rest on the ocean, must certainly have realized that another land lay in that direction.
What else would lead these seafaring people from Tahiti to New Zealand but the repeatedly observed migration of the Long-tailed Cuckoo between these two places?

In such migration flights, the Long-tailed Cuckoos do not all set out at once, but straggle over a period of two to three weeks, the young ones taking off first and the older ones later; and, since their flight level is never very high some part of the migratory flock can always be seen by day or heard by night.

The Polynesians setting out to follow such a migration route took a careful departure by lining up range marks on the shore previously determined from the flight of the birds.
Having once made the voyage and observed the many other indications along the route, they eventually needed the birds no longer and voyaged back and forth with perfect confidence.

This same condition applied between Tahiti and Hawaii, along one of the tracks of the Golden Plover which migrates between Alaska and Tahiti.
As Wells Cooke, of the U. S. Biological Survey, has suggested in "The Book of Birds" by Henry Henshaw, there has been an evolution of the migration routes of birds in the Pacific

Page 7

as there has been on the American continent, where the Golden Plover has, over a period of centuries, shortened its tracks.
This latter far flying bird, many centuries ago, may have taken a path from the northeastern tip of Siberia down the Asiatic coast through the East Indies and a little south of the Equator to Tahiti and the Marquesas; along the very path from the East Indies across the Pacific as followed by the first Polynesian stream to these groups.

At a later period, the route of bird migration from Siberia is thought to have been from the Kamchatka Peninsula through the Japanese Islands and by way of the Caroline and Marshall Islands to Tahiti.
The second Polynesian route was through these Micronesian Islands.
A later, and in fact, one of the several present day routes of the Golden Plover is from Alaska through Hawaii to Tahiti.
It is believed that the Hawaiians were led to their islands from Tahiti by these same birds.
In a like way, I believe that the original inhab¬itants of New Zealand, who were Polynesians with mixed Melanesian traits, came to New Zealand from Polynesian settlements in the vicinity of the Solomon Islands, following the migratory track of the Shining Cuckoo.

I have dwelt on this to stress the fact that the flight of birds was very closely watched by these oceanic people.
Like all primitive wanderers, they realized the great value of noting the flight of birds as a means of finding direction.


Butterflies or other insects are sometimes seen hundreds of miles out at sea; hence, they should not always be taken as an indication of being close to shore. It has been established that some of them

Page 8

migrate very long distances over water.
Moreover, the direction of their flight is apparently little influenced by the prevailing winds since they have been observed in enormous numbers flying against the wind just as often as with it.

During migratory flights, butterflies rarely fly as high as 100 feet and hence are always easily seen.
Unlike migrating land birds, whose direction of flight is always from one point of land to an¬other, only the direction from which the butterfly has come is of any value in determining the direction of land.
Butterflies are known to cover several thousands of miles in their migrations.
It is definitely known that they do not migrate for food, for their mass flights take them into many unfavorable places such as out to sea, across the ocean or towards the Arctic regions where they perish.
As an aid in pointing towards land, the only clue to be drawn from the migration of butterflies when seen at sea is that they have come from land.

Although the direction from which migrating insects are coming points towards land, any one such indication alone is rarely entirely reliable of itself, but should be correlated with all other observations denoting land.
It has been recorded that a single stable fly alighted on a small vessel which was still fifty miles off the southeast coast of the United States.
This would not of itself be positive evidence of the proximity of land; yet, correlated with other equally suggestive findings, it would strengthen the probability of land nearby.


Shore sighting birds, carried by all primitives, when released, made their way to the nearest land.
This was a method common to the

Page  9

Phoenicians, the Arabian navigators of the Indian Ocean, the Vikings in the Atlantic, and the Polynesians and Micronesians in the Pacific.

The story of the deluge in Babylonian and Hebrew literature describes the well-established use of shore sighting birds.
When Floki, the Norse navigator, left the Shetlands for Iceland, he carried a number of Sea-Ravens (probably Shags).
A few days out, one of these birds was released.
It circled for altitude and seeing land astern flew towards it, thus giving Floki a back bearing on his point of departure.
Several days later, a second bird being released returned to the vessel after circling and seeing no land.
Eventually one of the birds, upon being released, took a forward course to Iceland which indicated the final direction to their destination.

The Frigate (or Man-of-War) Bird was the shore sighting bird of the Polynesians and being plentiful in these regions, was always available.
Although an oceanic bird, it does not normally land on or take off from water.
Even in recent times, Frigate Birds have been used as message carrying birds between the islands.

On Ocean and Nauru Islands in the central Pacific, Frigate Birds are still kept as pets but probably because the native voyages have ceased, the islanders have forgotten the origin of the custom.

The most adaptable bird for shore sighting would appear to be the trained pigeon, and there seems no reason why such birds could not be carried in lifeboats and in rafts.
Upon being released a pigeon would circle for altitude and either go to land, or, if no land were in sight, would return, and enter its cage again.

If two birds were carried, the first bird could be released, and after noting the direction which it took to the nearest land, the second bird could be dispatched with a message giving the bearing.
If carried, these "feathered instruments" would at least be available for food if not used as messengers.
Even the corn with which to feed them need not be wasted.

Page 10

He who, from zone to zone,
Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight,
In the long way that I must tread alone,
Will lead my steps aright.
To a Waterfowl—BRYANT

One of the most important ways of telling when you are near land and in what direction it lies, is by carefully noting the flight of sea birds.
There is nothing very difficult about this if the main bird types can be recognized.

Each area of the ocean has its own characteristic temperature, depth, salinity and movement, and thus its own particular marine life. It is this marine life which determines the type of bird found there, and, hence, by identifying the birds that you see you will know many things about the area in which you find yourself.

Robert Cushman Murphy, in his authoritative work, "Oceanic Birds of South America," states:
"... if the quality of the water may tell us something about the birds, the birds should also tell us much about the water.
The Snow Petrel requires water which is cool; Tropic Birds prefer water which is clear, dense, saline and moderately warm; the Brown Booby clings to water inhabited by flying fish which, in turn, are limited to water of definite temperature and gaseous content."

He goes on to say that in the Tropical Zone the relative scarcity of oceanic bird life contrasted with conditions in cooler latitudes, is very striking.
In general, the majority of tropical sea birds do not range far from their breeding grounds on islands, island groups and continental coast lines.
The presence of man, animals or other natural enemies on the larger islands reduces the bird population, but on the small islands in the Tropical Pacific and Indian Ocean, where the birds are not disturbed, they breed in large numbers.

One observer making a long cruise in the Tropical Pacific re¬corded an average of only one bird for every 125 miles of open sea. In fact, one may travel for days across tropical oceans and see no

Page 11

birds at all.
If you are in such an area, do not let this discourage you for there are many other ways of locating yourself that you can use. It will be realized then that the value lies in watching for the increase of birds and the presence of certain birds as an indication of approach to land

Another observer on a voyage between San Francisco and Tahiti noted that for the first two days North American coastal birds were seen, after which for five or six days he saw only an occasional petrel.
Nearing the Equator, when scattered woolly clouds became thicker and grayer, the swell increased, rainstorms came and suddenly numerous birds appeared.
Among these were Storm Petrels and Red or White-tailed Tropic Birds; then, as islands were approached, large numbers of Terns were seen.
As the ship proceeded farther along the birds dropped away as abruptly as they had first appeared.

This sudden appearance and disappearance of bird life in the Doldrums or when passing from one current or ocean area into another shows what different conditions may be found in neighboring waters.
One locality may be rich in its ability to support bird life, which conditions may be entirely lacking in another area nearby.
Such change in bird life is strikingly seen at the meeting of one current with another where an upwelling of the cooler water from the depths brings food to the surface.
An example of this is where the Gulf Stream meeting the Arctic Current causes extensive eddies and contrasts.

Far from land, especially in the tropical regions, sea birds are very scarce, and this is where you may need them most for food. All sea birds are edible and are not difficult to catch provided you have a fishing line and can float a baited hook.
The Albatross and other hook billed birds may be caught with a shiny metal object that will catch in their bill.
Other birds will dive and gulp any hook baited with a bright rag or suitable object.

The flesh of sea birds and fish may glow in the dark but is still good to eat.

Page 12

The top [left] chart of the North Atlantic shows the average number of birds seen per day.
We note that 100 birds were observed daily around the Faroe Islands, only 1 per day in the middle of the Atlantic, 4 in the vicinity of Bermuda and 34 around the Cape Verde Islands.

- After Jespersen

- From Murphy after Spiess

 It is interesting to note that on a line between Bermuda and the south of Spain, 1 bird per day was seen in the middle of the Atlantic, increasing to 4, 7, and 15 as Gibraltar was approached.
The lower [right] diagram for the South Atlantic shows that an increasing number of birds appears as one goes south of the Equator.

Page 13

The habits of a representative number of sea birds are given as a general indication of their value in determining the vicinity or direction of land.
From pages 24 to 33, plates and accompanying descriptions of 43 species of sea birds will be found.
The illustrations by the eminent bird artist, Francis L. Jaques, are drawn so that the distinctive features of each species may be easily recognized.
After recognizing a bird from the plates and description, a glance at the tabled summary,
"Land Indications from Sea Birds" following the identification plates, will show what may be deduced from observations of a particular bird.
Reference should be made to the distribution, breeding places, and dates of breed¬ing at the back of the book, pages 141 to 152, for a more certain indication.

It will be noted that at different times of the year, according to whether birds are breeding or not, their habits, and therefore their importance as indicators of land, will vary accordingly.
The tabled summary is given as a general guide.
It should be borne in mind that there will be exceptions, and that the art of finding land is made up of many evidences, which when put together, result in more certain assurance of the distance and direction of land.
General information on the habits of the families comprising the 43 representative species, which is intended to augment the tabled summary, follows.

See plate 1 and pages 24,141,142 for further data.

The albatross sleeps on the water, and like a number of other oceanic birds drinks salt water, thus never having need to seek land except in the breeding season.

It is not difficult to catch.
One method which I have used successfully off the south of New Zealand is to trail a small open triangle of brass on the end of a line.
The albatross, attracted by the shining

Page 14

metal, gets his curved bill caught in the triangle. It is then an easy-matter to haul him gently aboard, after which he becomes violently seasick.
If you do catch one, watch your hands because this bird has a very sharp bill.
The strong, hooked bill is common to all albatrosses.

There are thirteen known species of the albatross family.
Nine of these are found in the southern oceans, three in the Northern Pacific, and one which breeds in the Galapagos Islands off the northwest coast of South America.

Although the greater number of Southern Hemisphere albatrosses breed from December to February, it is believed that they breed only every second year.
For this reason, they may be found far out at sea at any time of the year and are, therefore, at no time a sure indication of land.

When the North Pacific albatrosses are not breeding, that is, from April to October, it is quite possible that any small number may be a long way from land.

See plates 1, 5, and pages 24,32,142,143,148,149, and 150 for further data.

The family which includes the petrels, shearwaters, fulmars, and the Cape Pigeon spend their time at sea when not breeding. The majority of them stay close to their breeding grounds, but others migrate from one hemisphere to the other.
Even when at sea, they like to congregate.
They are surface feeders and may be seen very often skimming the water, and some of them dive for food.
In order to derive any value from the observations of birds of this species as indications of land, it will be necessary, after identifying them, to refer to their distribution, the location of their breeding places, and dates of breeding.

It will be noted that the fulmars are found only in the Northern Hemisphere and are truly oceanic birds.
They are one of the most numerous birds of the northern oceans.
The Cape Pigeons, also oceanic birds, are found only in the southern oceans.
These noted ship followers may be seen far from land.
They will be found in far

Pages 15 to 23

Booby Birds and Gannets, Tropic Birds, Frigate Birds, Cormorants (or Shags) and Pelicans, Penguins, Skuas and Jaegers, Sea Gulls, Terns and Noddies, Phalarope, Puffins and Murries, Guillmots and Auklets.

Pages 24-34
Plates and descriptions of birds.

Pages 35-38

Land Indications from Sea Birds [Tables]

Page 39

Suface life is an indication of the character of the sea water and may thus help you recognize some well known current or area of the ocean such as the Gulf Stream, Humboldt Current, Equatorial or Counter-Equatorial Current; for in passing from one region to another there are very noticeable and characteristic changes in the marine and bird life.

In the open ocean far from shore one does not find the rich life frequently thought typical of these deep waters.
The marine forms enountered are apt to be limited to whales, porpoises and the few particular types of ocean-ranging fish described below.

Rather than attempt to describe the countless different forms of coastal fish, we list below only those fish found far at sea, and which are few in number.
These deep sea fish are given so that they may be eliminated as indications of nearness to land.
Any other forms are likely to be coastal varieties.

Deep sea fish may at times be seen close to the shore, but the coastal fish, especially in any numbers, will not be found far at sea.

[Each species entry includes a black and white illustration]
This slender frequenter of the warm seas is the only shark usually found far out from land.
Most other sharks stay close to shore.
The Blue Shark, found in tropical waters throughout the world, is of a deep to bright blue color.
The average adult is about 12 feet in length but some reach as much as 20 feet.

Most sharks are accompanied by pilot fish swimming freely alongside of them wherever they go.
The pilot fish which accompany the Blue Shark, however, differ from the pilot fish found with the coastal sharks.
The Blue Shark's pilots are as round as cigars and

Page 40

have black cross bands, while the coastal sharks' pilot fish are flat.
The Blue Shark is excellent eating and not difficult to catch, provided you have heavy enough tackle.

Some sharks have a great deal of ammonia in the flesh and are inedible unless the ammonia is removed by washing or drying out.
If the flesh is sliced into small pieces, towed astern for a few hours and then dried out, it should be edible.

A simple method of catching sharks still used by Samoans is to hold some bait in the water near the bow of the canoe while a large noose is held over the side amidships.
The shark, attracted by the bait, comes alongside and swims through the noose towards the bait.
A sudden tightening of the noose around its middle is followed by a quick heave on the line by several natives.
In this manner the shark is hauled bodily into the canoe and is quickly clubbed to avoid upsetting the craft.

Trailing the foot as shark bait is not recommended, but, with other bait lacking, it has proved successful. It will be realized, of course, that there are limitations to what can be tried in a rubber boat or life raft.
Handling a fish that may be up to 12 feet in length requires common sense as well as a stout line.

If you can catch the shark, you can catch the pilot fish.
You may also find Remora fishes which attach themselves by a sucking disc on the top of their heads to the under surface of the shark's throat.
Remoras reach a length of 1 to 2 feet.

If luck comes your way and you catch a Remora you can put it to good use by keeping it alive.
Taking care to keep your hands away from its razor-like gills, tie a line securely onto its tail.
Now turn the Remora loose and give him as much line as you can spare.
He will fish for you and attach himself to any shark or turtle or large fish that comes in his range.
After he is stuck on, haul them both in.
Repeat this until you or the Remora gets tired.
This is not a "fish story" but is common practice among native fishermen in the tropics.

Page 41


There is only one really deep sea porpoise and it is found in the warm waters of all oceans.
It is somewhat smaller than most of the coastal types and has an irregularly shaded grayish body averaging about five or six feet in length.
Usually seen in large schools, it can be readily identified by its habit of jumping clear out of the water.
All other kinds of porpoises are usually coastal.
The porpoise is edible but difficult to catch except by harpooning.
The shoulders provide the best steaks.


Page 42
These fish, found in all the warm blue oceans, travel in schools and are the greatest enemy of the flying fish.
Having somewhat flattened sides, their bodies are elongated, tapering gradually from shoulder to tail.
They reach a length of 6 feet but a fair average would be 3 or 4 feet.
Dolphins are oceanic fish and in no wise indicate nearness to land.
The Dolphin is probably the fastest swimming fish in the ocean.
In vivid blues and yellows it is one of the most brilliantly colored of all fish.
It can be caught from any moving craft on a hook set in a piece of wood with a white rag attached.
If the lure is barely allowed to touch the water and jerked into the air and made to imitate the action of a flying fish, the Dolphin will usually strike.
Around any logs, cases, barrels and other drift found in the open ocean, young Dolphins 4 to 12 inches long will usually be found.
They can be caught with a baited hook.

Page 43


Although very welcome as food, Flying Fish are of no value as a sign of land for there are about 20 to 30 species, some of which are coastal and some only met with on the high seas.
They are quite easily caught at night by holding a light, mirror, or any available glittering object in front of a shirt, sail or other obstruction.

Pages 43-45
Sargassum Fish, Ocean Pipe Fish, Latern Fish, Black Rudder fish, Trigger Fish (Leather Jackets), Sea Snakes, Common Floating Forms.

Page 46

The Portuguese Man-of-War is also of the jellyfish family.
It appears as a crested, delicately pink and blue bladder-like form four to eight inches long floating on the surface and trailing long jelly-like threads
A very painful sting will result from handling them.
They may be seen in considerable numbers a long way out to sea.


A well known indication of land is seaweed, for it is usually a shallow water vegetation.
On being detached it may be carried for some distance off shore by wind, currents, or tides.
Thus, consideration should be given to the direction in which this plant life may have drifted away from its origin.
It will be recalled that Columbus observed seaweed and other floating debris as he approached the West Indies.

In one particular region of the North Atlantic, the appearance of seaweed does not necessarily indicate nearness to land.
This is the Sargasso Sea, an area of relatively stationary water 1,000 miles in diameter extending from 200 to 400 North and from 400 to 700 West.
Here, encircled by the Gulf Stream on the west and north, and the Northeast Trade Drift on the east and south, are enormous beds of densely growing sargassum, similar to, but apparently quite unassociated with the coastal type of such seaweed.

The attention early seafarers paid to signs of nearby land is illustrated in the journal entry of Abel Janszoon Tasman, the famous Dutch navigator, in 1642:

"Towards evening, we again saw various lots of rockweed floating about, and observed large numbers of tunnies [bonito] near and round about the ship; our boatswain's mate and one of the sailors also saw a seal from which we surmised that there may be islands hereabouts, since the said animals are not likely to go out far to sea; on this account we did not venture to run full sail."

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In the Temperate and cool latitudes, any seals and sea lions observed, may, as Tasman remarked, be relied on as being very close to shore.


The accounts of early voyagers all contain frequent references to the odor of land still beyond the horizon.
One of them speaks of the odor of rosemary off the coast of Spain more than ten leagues out at sea.
 And one who accompanied Sir Francis Drake in the Pacific in 1577 writes:

"From hence wee directed our course towards the South-Southwest... at which time wee had a very sweet smell from the land ... and wee had sight of the land about 3 of the clocke in the afternoone the same day."

Various parts of the world have their own particular odors.
The smell of burning peat may be picked up many miles out at sea from the Falkland Islands as can the scent of the orange groves approaching the Cape Verde Islands, while the sweetish rancid odor of the drying coconut may be detected far out at sea in tropical regions.
The penetrating odor of ammonia may betray the sea-bird roosts on small islands.
The smell of bush or forest fires, factories, oil refineries, or other odorous industries, all indicate land not far off, as do the characteristic odors of beach or tidal lands, or the sweet smell of earth, especially after heavy rain.

I have personally experienced the fragrance of new-mown hay 80 miles off the New Zealand coast in the springtime.
The detection of any land odor, especially in fog, mist, rain, or at night when odors are usually stronger and are carried out to sea by the land breezes, is very important, for you may be drifting past

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a nearby shore.
The Polynesians on their long voyages frequently carried pigs with them and watched them closely, since having a highly developed sense of smell, they became excited on smelling land still far out of sight.

Odors are carried by the wind and therefore any new odor detected at sea should be considered a possible indication not only of the vicinity of land but of its direction.


Nature provided you with ears that you might hear.
The fact that you have two ears not only enables you to hear but to tell the direction from whence the sound is coming.
Sound often carries very great distances over water and, when other aids are lacking, may be very valuable in locating land.
The distances at which sounds can be heard over water are, of course, affected by the strength and direction of the wind.

The roar of heavy surf may be heard long before the shore is seen.
At night, the continued cries of sea-birds from one particular direction will signify their roosting place on land.

Among sea-birds, as distinguished from migrating land birds, the gulls are practically the only ones that make any noise when in flight.
As the Kittiwake is the only gull that is found far out at sea and is restricted to the North Atlantic and the high latitudes of the northern Pacific, one may be safe in assuming that outside of these regions the sound of birds at night generally indicates land, or the direction of land.

It is possible that during fog or nighttime you may be close to a populated shore where the sound of trains, marine fog signals, facctory whistles or other signs of industrial activity can be heard.

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in fog and you hear a ship's whistle or siren, you may assume the vessel is moving; but if bells are heard at regular intervals the sound is either coming from a ship at anchor or from a bell buoy or other stationary marker.
When close to high rock-bound coasts, especially in fog or during the night, one may judge the distance off-shore by firing a pistol or shouting and listening for an echo.
This principle is followed by ships in the inland waterways of Norway, British Columbia, Labrador and Alaska, where the ship's whistle is used and the echo timed.
As sound travels at the rate of 1,100 feet per second (5 seconds to the mile), distance offshore can be deduced from half the difference between the time the sound is emitted and the time it returns.

By shutting the eyes, it will be found much easier to concentrate on the direction from whence the sound is coming.
By turning the head, in order to get equal volume of sound in each ear, it is possible to obtain a very close approximation to the bearing of the sound.
By taking into consideration the type of sound and the velocity and direction of the wind it may be possible to judge fairly closely the distance of the origin of the sound.
The cessation of the sound of waves breaking on shore may indicate the presence of an inlet or harbor.


Clouds were closely watched by the Polynesian navigators and were used in many ways.

The white sands of the coral atoll reflect more heat than does the surface of the surrounding water, causing a difference in the temperatures above these surfaces, which results in a small cloud hovering over the atoll.

It will not be directly overhead but a bit on the lee side due to

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the effect of the prevailing wind.
The bright turquoise lagoon is reflected from the underside of the hovering cloud and can be ob served by the navigator miles before these low-lying atolls appeal above the horizon.

Even in the absence of any clouds, lagoons or other shallow waters will cause a reflection in the sky itself that is very conspicuous.
Because light is lost in the depths, deep waters are poor reflectors and produce little if any such effect in the sky.
Matthew Fontaine Maury, the renowned American oceanographer, in his "Sailing Directions," speaks of hovering clouds being
observed not only over coral islands but over shoals.

"They are often seen to overhang the lowest islet of the tropics, and even to stand above coral patches and hidden reefs, 'a cloud by day/ to serve as a beacon to the lonely mariner out there at sea, and to warn him of shoals and dangers which no lead nor seaman's eye has ever seen or sounded out."

The reflections from the ground or water, on the underside of the clouds can be used in many other parts of the world.
In Polar regions, the reflection from the surface results in what are known as "water skies" and "ice blinks" and which respectively indicate the lack or presence of reflecting surface.

A "water sky" is a sharply defined shadow in an otherwise bright sky, most clearly defined in low clouds, and indicates open water in the midst of ice.
Conversely, an "ice blink" is a sharply defined patch of brightness in an otherwise gray sky and is a sign of areas of floe or shore ice in the midst of open water.
Polar explorers have always paid considerable attention to these effects.
These indications in the sky, usually seen as reflections on clouds, can even be seen in a clear sky.
This is illustrated in a desert region where the reflection of dazzling white sands is called "desert blink."
The light from cities can be seen at a very great distance as reflected in the sky, especially by high clouds and can be used similarly.
Lighthouses may be seen even when far below the visible horizon, by the light reflected in the sky or by clouds.

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Plate 9

Color of lagoon reflected from cloud indicating an atoll beyond the horizon.

Fixed clouds around peaks with moving clouds passing by them, indicating land beyond the horizon.

Page 52 [blank]

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There are innumerable examples of the practical value of the observation of reflections in the sky such as the following:

Henryk Arctowski states:
"On January 19 [1898], Commandant de Gerlache pointed out die ice-blink in In- South.
The sky was uniformly covered with a thin layer of stratus [cloud], mill just at the horizon a white line appeared like a longitudinal slit, detaching Itm If by its brightness from the grey of the sky.
 It was discontinuous, a little iiuilulated, not rising more than 10 to 25 feet above the horizon.
At 8.00 P.M. Lecointe reported the first iceberg, which appeared like a dome rising sharply out of the sea at a distance of about 10 miles."

Lieut. De Haven, during the search for Sir John Franklin, looked for an open sea to the northward and westward.
He saw, in that direction, a "water sky."
On this information, Captain Penny later successfully searched in this place for open water and sailed upon it.


It is characteristic of high islands or coastal land in many parts of the world to have fixed clouds or cloud crests around the summits.
At long distances off, when the peaks are not visible, these fixed clouds may be seen and may be recognized by moving clouds passing by them.

It is important to fix the attention on any stationary cloud mass and observe the movement of clouds around it.
This means of indicating land has been used not only by all primitive peoples but by all the early European navigators. Bougainville and Dampier paid very great attention to this means, as their log books testify.

La Perouse, one of the early French navigators in the Pacific, lacking many of the devices of modern navigators, was a close observer of visual indications of land, and states in his journal:

"We saw a great number of birds, among which were curlews and plovers, two species that never fly far from land.
The weather was cloudy, with squalls; but it cleared up successively in every part of the horizon except the South, where large clouds remained constantly fixed which made me believe that there was land in that quarter." [Italics by author.]

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The large fixed clouds were an accurate sign of land, but La Perouse was wrong regarding the curlews and plovers, because these are of a species seen upwards of 3,000 miles over ocean water on the migration route from the Aleutians to Hawaii.

When the land is high there often is a distinctive piling up of the clouds which, even when there are no moving clouds passing by them, reveal by their structure the presence of high land.
These masses of woolly clouds generally offer a contrast to the trade wind or other clouds which are typical of "over water" conditions in such areas.

In tropical regions lightning from one particular direction in the early hours of the morning before sunrise is usually a sign of land.
This is most often the case when the land is mountainous, or of con-siderable extent.


On most of the oceans of the world the prevailing winds may be used as indications of directions.
Although they are by no means constant, it is possible to tell from the character of the wind, that is, by the temperature, humidity, force and type of cloud accompanying it, the direction from which it has come.

If this direction can once be established and used to steer by, it is not difficult to note a change in direction by means of a change in any of the aforementioned characteristics.

For instance, if you are below the Equator, being blown before a wind which, by its condition, you know to be the southeast trades, and sometime afterwards experience a sudden drop in temperature and humidity, you would probably be correct in assuming that the wind had gone around to the southwards.

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Trade clouds in the tropics are usually recognized as small, isolated woolly tufts outlined against a blue sky, generally appearing in a uniform layer below 7,000 feet.
Should you see these trade clouds disappear and see the sky become overcast with heavy, billowing clouds, there is every likelihood that the wind has gone around through south to southwest or westerly.

Near continents or islands of any extent, especially in the tropics or in temperate climates in the summertime, changes of wind after sunset or during the night might mean a breeze from the land.

The surface of the sea takes longer to heat than the land area, but retains its heat much longer.
After sunset the surface of the land becomes cooler while the air over the sea is warm.
The warm air over the sea rises and the cool air from the land flows out to take its place.
The direction from which such land breeze is coming reveals the direction of land.
For this reason you should be on the alert for any possible scent from land during the night or early morning.

Steering in a direction relative to the wind, if the wind is reasonably constant, is quite practicable.
This is especially so when you have no compass, and was a method of steering commonly practised by Arabian, and, later, by Polynesian navigators.

The Polynesians left the coast of India before the introduction of the magnetic compass from China by Arab traders in about the second century A.D.
They were able to direct their courses without its aid, and, if necessary, you can do likewise.

A directional system brought into the Pacific by the Polynesians, but which was borrowed from the Arabs, was the division of the horizon into 32 points.

This division, which can still be found on our present-day marine compasses, originated with Arabian navigators before they had the magnet.
They took the rising points of 15 stars on the eastern horizon, their setting points on the western horizon, plus north and south, and used these 32 points in denoting direction.

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The Arabians constructed a dial of wood with 32 spikes spaced around its circumference.
If they knew one direction, as from a well-established prevailing wind, or star or other sign, they could steer any other direction relative to it.
In other words, the device was used as a pelorus or dummy compass.

The "wind calabash" of the Polynesians was evidently a pelorus to be used in the same way the Arab navigators used the dial of wood.
The commonly accepted story of the "wind calabash" being used to measure the height of the Pole Star for the direct determination of latitude is erroneous.


Lacking a compass, or with overcast skies, the direction of the swell or wave motion is the best nearby means of maintaining a steady, required direction.
Winds may suddenly change but the direction of swells will not; they are carried on by their momentum and it takes prolonged effect of a wind to disturb their path to any con¬siderable extent. With a change of wind the wave motion changes first, while the swell persists for a longer period in its original direc¬tion; thus a peculiar effect of a wave motion in one direction and a long swell in another is often seen.
Modern navigators would be at a loss if asked to navigate with¬out the use of radio or without reference to the sky, landmarks or soundings for depth. The surface of the sea is just a lot of water to them.
The ever-changing appearance of the sea was full of meaning to

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the Polynesians.
The general form of the waves and the innumer-able other effects caused by the vicinity of land on this wave motion were of the utmost value to them as navigating aids.
Careful observation of the sea close to the islands was all the more necessary because soundings were impossible in the extreme depths surround-ing their coral islands.
By using their eyes, they learned to interpret the characteristics of wave formations which in many instances were as dependable as definite landmarks.

The Micronesians navigated in the same way throughout their island groups but they evolved a unique method of charting the surface waters.
Using the ribs of coconut palms and tying them together with coconut fiber, they constructed a framework to represent the curvature and meeting points of the wave motion in and around the islands.
The islands were represented on this framework by small shells.
The charts were not actually made to scale, for the native thinks of distance in terms of time, that is, so many canoe days from one place to another.
They were really aids to memory.
There were three types of stick-charts; simple instruction charts used in teaching, general charts of a large area, and charts of local areas.
Although 43 examples of these stick-charts are preserved in museums throughout the world, charts of the same areas differ considerably.
The reason for this is that each navigator made one for his own use and incorporated in it any ideas that were of particular interest and help to him.
We have much to learn from a consideration of their methods.
The main thing to learn is to see the water, not as a meaningless mass, but to look for those indications which were so full of significance and importance to the native navigator.

The prevailing wind brings parallel swells towards an island.
As the swell approaches the island, even out of sight of land, it starts to curve, and, nearing the island, it curves to the shape of the obstruction.
At this stage, the swells which are directly in front of the island start to form into smaller waves which gradually build up and break

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on the reefs.
This wave motion from the direction of the prevailing wind is easy to see.

On the opposite side of the island is a counter-swell much less noticeable but nonetheless visible to anyone who looks for it. Knowing of its existence, I have seen this counter-swell with my own eyes, not only from the water but from the air where its curves as it approaches the island are easily recognizable.
At right angles to the direction of the prevailing wind each counter-swell meets a swell from the opposite direction, causing a slight eddy or disturbance in the water.

When the Micronesians were steering for an island and missed it, they would reach this row of meeting points of two opposing swells and sail down it as a line of direction to the island.
At nighttime, luminescence indicates the position of these wave intersections and can be used in a similar manner.

I have outlined merely the simplest case of the use of the Micronesian study of wave motion, but in addition, they used the crossings of the swells of one island with those of another.
In other words, the native navigators charted the directional characteristics of all the swells throughout their groups of islands.
A stick on their charts indicated the distances off land that the coconut palms could be seen.
Other lines showed how far out the effect of an ebb tide from a lagoon meeting the oncoming swell was noticeable.
The latter indication could be recognized in many cases well out of sight of land.
The same effect can be observed far off any coast where a bay or estuary will produce a like condition.

It will not be practicable to give examples of the many Micronesian charts, because each one was made for a particular place and condition.
What you can learn from them, though, is to observe and interpret the meaning of the many things that the surface of the sea can tell you; the curvature of the swell, interruptions to the swell, and the eddies and meetings of swells.

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Plate 10

Characteristic curvature and meeting of swells around an island.
Also showing the ebb tide from a lagoon interrupting swells.

Page 60

Page 61

Another effect that can be detected from the state of the sea is that, when there is high land on the shore and the wind is blowing off the land, benefit of the protection of this barrier will be felt even well out of sight of it.
Naturally, if it is a low coast line or low island, one will need to be close up before seeing any appreciable reduction in the size of the waves.
You may be sailing or drifting and find that the sea has subsided although the wind has not.
You can be pretty sure, in this case, that you are getting some protection from nearby land.

One other thing noticeable to the native navigator was the ground swell caused by the prevailing wave motion breaking on the shore and throwing back a swell from the land which ran over the top of the oncoming swell and could be distinguished quite a long way out.

It should not be thought that this was the only method of navigation used by the Micronesians because, in addition to a close study of the features of the surface waters, they used the sun and stars, the flight of birds and all the other indications that we have mentioned.


Page 67


To any raft or lifeboat in the open sea, the currents and winds will be of greatest importance.
Because the movement of such craft is necessarily slow, the effect on them of winds and currents will be considerable.
For this reason, the accompanying wind and current charts, plates 8 to 19, have been drawn so that the effect of currents and winds may be taken into account.

These charts have been made for two opposite seasons of the year so that the results for other months may be judged proportionately between these two seasons.
The directions of the cold current streams of the oceans are shown with black arrows; the warm cur¬rents are shown in red. Where the daily rates of flow of currents are known, they have been shown.
Sea temperatures are marked at various intervals and from these can be determined the ocean stream in which you find yourself.
It will be of great value to carry a small thermometer as standard equipment in rafts or lifeboats.
The thermometer need have only a range from 340 to 85° Fahrenheit.

The area contained by the Doldrums, which is a belt of calms between the northeast and southeast Trade Winds, is indicated by a gray band.
In the doldrums the wind will be found most variable, the sky generally overcast, with frequent rain and wind squalls.

The resultant winds in various parts of the oceans are designated

Page 68

by large gray arrows.
An arrow does not mean that you will always get the wind from that particular direction, but is the resultant wind.
This resultant direction will be of more value than the directions of what are usually termed prevailing winds.
The prevailing wind is the direction from which the wind most often blows.
The resultant wind, as the name implies, is the result of the prevailing and other winds which are ordinarily found at that time and place. It is the effect over a period of time and distance that will be of most value to small craft.

Neither currents nor resultant winds should be considered by themselves.
Your judgment must be made with consideration of both of them; or if they are in opposite directions, which of them will be to your greatest advantage.
It will depend upon your capacity to sail whether the winds will have more effect than currents.
If you are in a strong current which is flowing in the direction in which you desire to go, and the wind is directly opposite, it may be of more advantage to put out a sea anchor, thus holding yourself to the water, than to be drifted in the other direction by the wind.
A sea anchor may consist of any object lowered below the surface and which will act as a drag.

Gray band ...     Doldrums
Broad gray arrows  ...  Resultant winds
Red arrows  ...   Warm current streams
Black arrows ...   Cold current streams
Red figures in italics   ...  Ocean temperatures, warm streams
Black figures in italics   ...  Ocean temperatures, cold streams
Upright figures (as 10-30M)  ...  Drift of currents in miles per day

Pages 78 and 80

Plate 16 Southwest Pacific and Plate18 Indian Ocean - February,
adjusted and detail [Torres Strait]

Page 93



Polynesians viewed the heavens as the inside of a shell or pit which revolved around them.
The stars in this dome were seen to rise over the eastern horizon and to descend and finally disappear over the western horizon. Watching the heavens night after night they saw that the stars stayed in the same relation to one another; rotated around an imaginary axis, and that the same stars month after month passed over the same islands.
They noted that although they kept this same path, they appeared earlier each night (about four minutes with our way of measuring time).

Page 94

In the course of a year, they observed that the stars had the same position in the sky at the same time at night as they had exactly a year before.
A complete rotation of this star sphere had taken place and it was very clear to them that star time gained on sun time by the amount of one day a year.

They viewed the stars as moving bands of light and knew all the stars of each band which passed over the islands they were interested in.
Their method of navigation by these heavenly beacons was to sail towards the star which they knew was over their destination at that particular time.
This was an amazingly simple system and required no instruments.

To clarify this, let us imagine the stars stationary for a moment.
Each star in the heavens will be exactly overhead at some place on the surface of the earth.
If we know at this moment what star is over the island of Hawaii, we have a shining beacon standing immediately above the island and which can be seen thousands of miles away.
If we steer for this star, we actually follow the shortest possible course which is called by navigators "a great circle."
In modern navigation, due to the fact that a compass course is not the shortest distance, an approximation has to be made.

We then realize that the Polynesian system was more perfect in principle than our modern methods.

Not only does this star give us the direction and the shortest course to our island, but we are able to tell when we are reaching it by getting right under the star.
This is all very simple while the heavens remain stationary.

Although primitive peoples had no mechanical means of telling the time during the day or at night, they had a perfect concept of time.
We think of distance in terms of miles and our whole habit of thinking is one of space; whereas the Polynesian had no word for distance, no use for space, but thought only of time.
It was the time he took to get to a place that determined how far away it was to him.

Page 95

The Tahitians divided the daytime into six divisions of time and the same number during the night.

Without mechanical aids, it is not difficult for people to judge accurately the passage of time, especially when their habits are regular, as were the Polynesians', who ate at ten in the morning, four in the afternoon, and retired at nine o'clock at night.
The stomach is an excellent time keeper from its degree of fullness or emptiness.
Once having established the definite and short period of time that the stars rose earlier each night, they could then be used as a reliable check on their time sense.

Now let us start the heavens moving again, and we are back to the star that we are steering for, and which was over Hawaii.
This star is now moving on a definite track westward.
Other stars which are the same distance north of the Equator follow along exactly on that same track and the next star which passes over Hawaii will be used to steer by.
In turn, this star will move on and the next star in the same band will be used as a guide.
This process will continue until we arrive underneath the star which, at that time of the year and at that time of the night, will be directly over our destination.
It will be seen that, disregarding time entirely, we can reach our destination by sailing along underneath this narrow and circular band of stars which rotate year after year over the island to which we are sailing.
Without taking time into account we can not make the shortest course, but we will eventually get there if we know whether we are east or west of our destination.

By following the Polynesian method, we are able without instruments to arrive at any desired latitude closely enough for our purpose.
I am not describing a precise system to supplant modern navigation and instruments but a method which was effectively used by the native navigators to bring them within a reasonable distance of their island destinations.
Using only eye observations in this manner and

Page 96

getting within range of, say, 50 to 75 miles of the island, they brought into use all the other natural means that we have described earlier in the book for making the actual landfall.

Not having had the opportunity to practice and thus become as proficient as the Polynesians in the mental measurement of time, if we want to sail as direct a course as they could, we will have to make up for our lack of time concept by the use of a watch.
The native navigators were walking almanacs in that they remembered all the stars in those bands which passed over the island to which they sailed.

Captain Cook was amazed at the ability of a native who joined him at Tahiti and accompanied him as far as the East Indies.
At any time during the passage, even as far as Batavia, when asked in what direction Tahiti lay, he was able without hesitation, night or day, to point very accurately in its direction.
It is entirely impossible for any modern navigator to do the same thing unless he does so by the Polynesian system of "overhead or direction stars."
You will note that I said also during the day. He was able to do this by knowing where the sun was overhead each day and the relationship of its position with his home at any time of year.

Should modern navigators not be impressed with the accuracy possible by eye observations of overhead stars, it is well to point out that the most modern ship afloat today goes from dusk to dawn, even though the sky be filled with glittering stars, without being able to determine its position by those stars unless, on a rare occasion, moonlight enables the horizon to be seen.

The Polynesians, on the other hand, were not tied to the horizon, and made no use of it; they were not restricted as we are and their system enabled them to use the stars all night long.

The Polynesian method of overhead stars is particularly suited for present day use in rafts or life boats.

As we have said before, the problems of the Polynesians were identical with those of people in small craft on the high seas.
No other method has been devised which is so practical for ap-

Page 97

proximate navigation especially in tropical regions where clear skies at night are the rule rather than the exception, and where modern precision navigating instruments are either lacking or unusable.
For this reason, we have brought the Polynesian methods back to life, with certain improvements.

It has been recorded that accomplished Polynesian navigators had names for 150 stars, knew their positions, knew the position where they rose, and the time they rose at different seasons of the year; knew which islands they passed over and could direct their course at sea by them from island to island.

This required long years of learning, which time we are not prepared to spend in this way.
The native navigators were restricted to a knowledge of the stars passing over islands with which they were familiar.

To obviate the necessity of remembering these positions, the stars have been superimposed in red on the world chart, with the stars in their proper positions relative to one another and the earth, for a certain date and time.
To make up for our lack of time sense, a pocket watch should be carried set to Greenwich time.
In this way, the Greenwich Date and Time Tape can be used to find your position on the earth by means of the star which is directly overhead at the time showing on your watch.
This is the only stellar method of navigation yet devised in which the observer does not need to know the name of the star he is using as long as he is able to recognize the star on the Combined World and Star Chart.

Another advantage is that you do not need any instruments to measure the height of the star above the horizon.
If you do not have a watch running on Greenwich time, you are still able to obtain your latitude.
Included in this book are star diagrams to help you recognize the general design of the principal constellations or groups of stars so that you may pick out overhead stars which are in their general vicinity.

Further details of these overhead stars and their movements will

Page 98

be found in two subsequent chapters entitled, "How Far You Are North or South" and "How Far You Are East or West."

In addition to the stars overhead at their destinations the native navigators of the Pacific used "Steering Stars" which method is discussed on page 117.


Page 117

"If thou," he answered, "follow but thy star,
Thou canst not miss at last a glorious haven."


The native navigators in the Pacific were not limited to the use of stars overhead of their destination.
It will be realized that, even though the heavens seem to be filled with stars, there are occasions when no overhead star is visible at the particular time that it is needed.
At such times, the Polynesians used a steering star which was in line with their destination, either between their position and the island or beyond it.

Imagining for a moment that the stars are held still, there will be a considerable choice of stars in a direct line with the place to which we are sailing.
These stars will be in a different band of latitude and will not pass over the destination. However, for the moment, they act as signposts in the heavens.
If the stars remained stationary, we could follow them exactly as we do street lights.
Even though they are actually moving, if we pick one of these stars to steer by and know its movement each hour, we are able to keep a straight course by taking into account this movement and by steering an increasing or decreasing amount to one side of it, according to whether the star is moving away from the destination or towards it.
We do not need to guess how much to steer to one side of it, if we move our position in relation to the stars as described in the last chapter.
By following this procedure we are able to measure the angle at any time between the destination and the present position of the star.
After the star moves to a point where it is no longer practicable to steer a course relative to it, another star may be chosen.
There will be a considerable choice of stars in line with the destination, either on your side of it, beyond the destination, or even behind you.

Page 120
As long as the heavens are clear, you can find your way anywhere on any ocean by following the stars; thus giving a more literal meaning to Emerson's advice, "Hitch your wagon to a star."

It is believed that this simple Polynesian method of chasing stars, the knowledge of which has been buried for several centuries, is a most practical one for the navigation of rafts or lifeboats, and an adaptation of it might well be used in up-to-date marine and air navigation.

The legends of the Polynesians are full of interesting information regarding the direction stars used in sailing to certain islands. One ancient Maori lament describes Rigel as being the direction star which one navigator used sailing to Rarotonga, and Castor as being a direction star for Hawaii.
Other accounts list the stars used during the long voyage of the Maori fleet, which took place about 1350 A.D. from Tahiti to New Zealand.
The biblical reference to the Star of Bethlehem would seem to indicate a still earlier knowledge and use of "overhead" or "direction" stars.

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The realization and application by the Polynesians of the continued passage of the same stars over the same islands year after year provide a simple means of obtaining latitude at any time of the night without the necessity of having a watch or any mechanical means of measuring height.
A watch is necessary for determining our position in an east and west direction, but is not necessary for latitude.
In order to use the star chart it will be necessary to be able to recognize the principal groups of stars or constellations.
For this reason, star diagrams have been given covering the main constellations.

If the sky is clear about you, look directly overhead and pick the

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nearest star to your overhead point.
Find the next group of stars to it that you are able to recognize from the star diagrams or the star chart.

Knowing a prominent constellation and seeing what direction this particular star is from it, you will be able to tell which one it is on the star chart.
Whether or not it is named on the star chart does not matter. It will be easier to find on the chart if you will look along a line at your approximate latitude.
The stars are superimposed in red on the world chart and to use them for our method of position finding they appear on the chart as viewed from above them.
In order to see them as they appear from an observer on the surface, it will be necessary to turn to the back of the world chart where the stars are in white on a black background and are viewed as from below them.

After you have found the position of the overhead star on the star chart, make sure that this star is actually overhead.
You will find this quite easy in any small craft by remaining stationary and picking out the star you think is directly overhead and then either turning yourself or, what will be much easier, paddling the raft or boat in circles.
You will usually be surprised when you turn 180 degrees and find that the star you thought was overhead you will almost break your neck to see.
The height of a star is invariably underestimated.
By turning yourself in this manner, you should actually be able to determine the point directly overhead to half a degree.
Even if the sea is rough, by taking longer over the operation and judging it each time you think you are temporarily level, your results will be reasonably close.

After you have found your overhead star and have recognized it on the combined world and star chart, you know that this is your latitude.
Remember that this means that you are on a line somewhere around the world at this latitude, but that it does not in anyway indicate your position in an east and west direction.

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find your position in an east and west direction, a timepiece is needed running on Greenwich time.
This is explained in the chapter "How Far You Are East or West."
[pages 133-138, not reproduced]

The method of obtaining latitude by overhead stars can be used on the darkest night when there is no horizon, and will require neither instrument, watch, nor even the Harp.
One considerable advantage of the overhead star method is that you do not have to identify the star by name as long as you can recognize its position on the chart.

Should there be no star directly overhead at the time of your observation, look for the star nearest to your overhead point. Determine by methods previously explained, the north and south, and east and west points of the horizon.
You are then able to judge whether the star will pass overhead or not, or which stars may shortly become overhead stars.

If you find that the star nearest your overhead point is passing north or south of you, you may use hand measurements to determine how many degrees north or south of your overhead point it is passing.
If you find that a star is 50 directly south of the overhead point, your latitude on the chart will be 50 farther north than the latitude of the star.

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Watching the state of the sea near possible harbors or bays easy of access, little or no difficulty should be experienced in making a landing.

In tropical waters, it will be useful to realize that where the prevailing wind and the current are of the same direction, atolls will almost invariably be shaped with lagoon entrance on the side opposite the wind.

Because the coral polyps, whose skeletons form coral reefs and islands, can only exist in water which is constantly flowing over them, the islands assume different forms according to the flow of the surface water.

As an illustration, in the northern part of the trade wind belt, where the winds and currents are almost consistently from the same direction throughout the year, an island assumes a V shape with the

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apex directly into the prevailing wind and the wide base of the V is on the lee side.
A perfect example of this is Kingman Reef about 1100 miles south of Honolulu.

In regions where the prevailing winds may vary slightly, the atoll assumes a somewhat oval shape with an entrance to the lagoon on the side opposite the generally prevailing wind.
It is well to bear this in mind when approaching such an island in order to make a landing. It will be usually dangerous to attempt a landing on the windward side of an island.
Even on the lee side of small solid islands, it will be often found that there is an extremely heavy surf which is hardly noticeable until it is too late to go back.
The writer had a sad experience at Baker Island in the mid-Pacific in this way, where he was marooned for six days because of capsizing in a short heavy surf.

With volcanic islands, such as American Samoa, where the harbor of Pago Pago is formed from a crater, the entrance will be on the windward side, for the reason that during the time of eruption the scoria and lava blown by the wind made the windward side of the crater much lower than the lee side.
The action of the wind and sea in time has broken down the low side of the crater and thus formed a deep water harbor.

Between Kingman Reef and Samoa, islands are encountered along the Equator, such as Ocean Island, Nauru, Baker Island, Jarvis Island, Maiden Island and Howland Island, all of which have no lagoon and are built up on each side.
They are in a region which is subject to easterly winds at one time of the year and westerly winds during the other.

When there is any doubt about the landing it will be wise to remain outside breakers and try to signal the shore for help from someone with local knowledge.

Gatty, Harold:
The Raft Book.
Lore of the Sea and Sky
George Grady, New York, 1943.


Brown, Bruce: Gatty- Prince of Navigators
Libra Books, Tasmania, 1997.

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Geoff Cater (2014) : Harold Gatty : The Raft Book, 1943.