Where can I find information about Pacific navigation?
Entry last updated: 13/01/21
In the early 13th to 17th century Māori, Polynesian and European voyagers did not have maps or tools to guide them to New Zealand. They used double-hulled canoes, ships and environmental guides such as stars, birds, clouds, ocean swells, and fish to guide them on their way.
New Zealand websites
These New Zealand websites will provide you with the best information on Kupe's legendary journey, the different people who sailed to Aotearoa via the Pacific, types of ocean transport, and navigation tools that were used.
Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we scroll down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.
- Search Māori New Zealanders under Sections from the home page. Select Māori origins and arrivals to read about Pacific migrationsand Canoe navigation.
- Next search New Zealand Peoples and select Origins and arrivals to read about European discovery of New Zealand.
NZHistory is a great website for information about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we go all the way down the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.
- Use search words ‘explorers’ to find out about the people who discovered New Zealand.
- Go to Encounters from the results, then select Ngā Iwi ō te Moana-nui-ā-Kiwa and European voyaging and discovery to read how and why people from Europe and the Pacific came to New Zealand.
Tips: Search words, or keywords, are the most important words in our question, eg explorers, or Pacific navigation. We can always change our keywords or add more if we need to.
Museum of New New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is New Zealand’s national museum located in Wellington. The collections cover Arts, History, Taonga Māori, Pacific Cultures, and Natural History.
- Use terms like ‘Pacific navigation’ in the search box to find articles and images of waka (canoes), compasses, and octants.
- For example the link Voyagers: Discovering the Pacific has links to information on Pacific canoes, The first navigators, Secrets of the navigatorsand Chartering the unknown – European navigation in the Pacific.
Tips: A website’s address (URL) can give you a hint about how reliable it is. Look for addresses in the results that include .govt or .edu in the URL. These are quality sites from government or educational organisations.
Pictures and videos
These are also New Zealand sites, but they have lots of different types of information, like pictures, videos, and primary sources.
Topic Explorer is an online tool from the National Library of New Zealand. It contains a wide range of quality resources for students in a range of formats (eg articles, books, images, videos, primary sources, sets, websites) on a variety of topics.
- Scroll down the page to select the topic Pacific Navigation.
Tips: These resources have been selected from reliable national and international sources to inspire and support inquiry.
DigitalNZ is a search site that focuses on New Zealand history and brings together results from lots of different websites. The results are grouped by the type of information, like images, videos, newspapers, articles and research papers.
- We suggest you use search words like ‘Pacific navigation’, ‘Captain Cook’ and ‘Abel Tasman’ to find information related to this topic.
- This database is a good source of primary sources such as images of tools and maps used, or stories of navigation in the Pacific Ocean.
Tips: This website is reliable as it is run by the National Library of New Zealand.
NZ On Screen showcases NZ television, videos and web series. It is a reliable source of New Zealand history, culture and society.
- The search terms ‘Pacific navigation’ brings up videos such as Kupe – Voyaging by the Stars and Tagata Pasifika – Hine Moana: A Journey Home.
- Both these videos are about voyagers using traditional skills to navigate the Pacific Ocean.
Tips: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the company’s mission and values are.
These websites provide a broader and general overview of early navigation in the Pacific Ocean.
This website is about learning and sharing of information and animated videos for students and teachers.
- The keywords ‘Pacific navigation’ brings up the video How did Polynesian wayfinders navigate the Pacific Ocean?
- Even though this video is not about navigating to New Zealand, it covers how early Pacific navigators used the sun, stars, ocean swells, clouds and birds as navigation tools.
The Polynesian Voyaging Society is about promoting the art and science of traditional Polynesian voyaging, while caring for natural environments.
- Go the tab called Learning Centre and find the link called Polynesian Navigation.
- Explore Polynesian Wayfinding and The Star Compass to read about modern and traditional methods of navigation.
- Select Resources to visit articles, images, films and videos on this topic.
Tips: Many web pages have links to further information or to other recommended sites. Following these links is a great way to find out more. This searching method is called “pearl growing” because you are picking up pieces of sand to make a beautiful pearl!
There are a number of books and stories that have been written about navigation in the Pacific Ocean — check out your local public or school library to see what they have there.
Here are some titles to begin with:
- Explorers of the sunrise by Jeff Evans, Damon Ieremia Salesa, Elspeth Alix Batt.
- Vaka moana: voyages of the ancestors: the discovery and settlement of the Pacific edited by K.R. Howe.
- Polynesian canoes and navigation by Judi Thompson and Alan Taylor.
- Polynesian navigation and the discovery of New Zealand by Jeff Evans.
SCIS no: 1886877