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West Hawaii Astronomy Club

Serving the Big Island of Hawaii and Astronomy Enthusiasts Around the World

Ancient Polynesian Navigation by the Stars

Ancient Polynesian cultures, including Hawaiians, traveled thousands of miles across the oceans between islands from New Zealand to Easter Island, the Society Islands (including Tahiti) and the Hawaiian Islands.  Stars played an important role in Polynesian cultures including religious practice and navigation.  Hawaiians developed a deep knowledge of the stars, their patterns and how they could be used for navigation.  This allowed them to sail across thousands of miles of ocean at a time when Europeans feared straying far from the continent.    
You can find out more here:

Tupaia was one of history's greatest navigators

Tupaia was born around 1725 in one of the Society Islands.  He was trained in the origins of the cosmos, history, calendars and star navigation.  He developed an in depth knowledge of the Polynesian islands, including their coastlines, harbors and reefs.  

In 1769 Tupaia joined Captain Cook's ship Endeavour as navigator and mapmaker.  He drew a map of 130 islands within 2000 mile radius, including the island of Oahu.  Many of the "discoveries" attributed to Captain Cook, including Hawaii, were the result of Tupaia's navigational and map making skills.  Tupaia accompanied Captain Cook on many of his voyages including to New Zealand and Australia.  You can learn more here:


King Kalakaua brings astronomy to Hawaii

       King Kalakaua reigned over the Kingdom of Hawaii from 1874 to 1891.  In 1881 he visited the Lick Observatory near San Jose and was so enthusiastic about astronomy he expressed a desire to bring such a telescope to Hawaii.  In 1884 a five inch refractor was installed in a dome constructed at Punahou School.   Unfortunately the telescope mount made the telescope unusable.   In 1892 a meridian telescope was introduced on Mauna Kea.  An extensive recount of the history of astronomy in Hawaii can be found here:  history.dvi (
King Kalakaua.JPG
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