Pete's Stuff

We, the Navigators - Part I

The day before I left Hawaii, Annie and I were browsing the shelves at Barnes & Noble before she headed to work next door. I was perusing the local interest shelves and I bought this book for the plane ride home:

Its author, David Lewis, has had years of experience sailing the world's oceans. In the late 1960s and early 1970s he undertook a study of the fast vanishing art of indigenous navigation across the open expanses of Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia. He sought out native navigators across the Pacific and learned many of their techniques in the most effective way possible - by actually voyaging with them for many days at a time and essentially becoming apprenticed to them. In 1976, as part of the bicentennial celebrations in Hawaii, he was one of the crew members who sailed the 65-foot voyaging canoe Hōkūle‘a (which is the Hawai‘ian name for Arcturus) from Hawaii to Tahiti using only traditional techniques, no instruments, and no Western knowledge.

In the book, he details the essential techniques he learned from these very competent navigators, and tries to convey the completely different worldview that informed their practice. In particular, none of the navigators he worked with were ever really able to understand nautical charts, something we would consider absolutely basic to the task. Nevertheless, it was pretty amazing to find so many correspondences between the navigational techniques of the islanders and the techniques many of us use every time we run an O-course, or do an adventure race.

More detail (much more!) below the fold.


The Man Whom The Trees Loved

Over the past few months, I've been reading up on a few of Algernon Blackwood's short stories, courtesy of Project Gutenberg. This one in particular struck me, so much that I decided to add some formatting and repost it. Only three people are introduced in the story, and either two or three primary characters, depending on your point of view (although I tend towards the former analysis, the author probably intended otherwise.) A few excerpts:

...He painted trees as by some special divining instinct of their essential qualities. He understood them. He knew why in an oak forest, for instance, each individual was utterly distinct from its fellows, and why no two beeches in the whole world were alike.

..."Pah! the vegetable kingdom, indeed!" She tossed her pretty old head. And into the words she put a degree of contempt that, could the vegetable kingdom have heard it, might have made it feel ashamed for covering a third of the world with its wonderful tangled network of roots and branches, delicate shaking leaves, and its millions of spires that caught the sun and wind and rain. Its very right to existence seemed in question.

...She saw him go away from her, go of his own accord and willingly beyond her; she saw the branches drop about his steps and hid him. His figure faded out among the speckled shade and sunlight. The trees covered him. The tide just took him, all unresisting and content to go.

...The tide was coming in, indeed, yet not for her.

It's a very quiet and primarily psychological story, almost boring until halfway through, but gains a tremendous amount of power towards the end.

Read the entire story.