Bougainville said about polynesians that « « Their compass was the course of the sun during the day and the position of the stars during the nights « . The Austronesians, ancestors of the Polynesians, developed tourough time a real science for navigation and canoes especially designed for long journeys”[1].

By the stars

Among the best-known stars were the « Pou », or celestial pillars, numbering 10. The most brilliant stars, they served as a landmark for a North-South navigation. Following the direction of Zenith star Ta’urafaupapa (Sirius), they could reach Tahiti, Huahine or Raiatea. To reach Hawai’i, they had to follow ‘Anatahu’ata’ata (Arcturus). The constellations were represented by their environment and everyday tools taking aspects of fishing & navigation tools, sea animals or birds, thus facilitating their identification, learning and memorization. Ultimately, the stars, planets, the sun and the moon, their entire environment were « a gigantic celestial compass »[2]  With natural elements Polynesian seafarers lived in harmony with nature. In the absence of astral landmarks, at night (in cloudy weather) as in daylight, all the elements of nature allowed them to navigate and locate an island. Attention was then focused on seabirds, swells, currents, winds, cloud coloration, the location and degree of putrefaction of floating debris.  

With natural elements 

Polynesian seafarers lived in harmony with nature. In the absence of astral landmarks, at night (in cloudy weather) as in daylight, all the elements of nature allowed them to navigate and locate an island. Attention was then focused on seabirds, swells, currents, winds, cloud coloration, the location and degree of putrefaction of floating debris. 

[1] Louis Antoine de Bougainville ( French Navigator) A voyage around the world (1771)

[2] Jean-Claude TERIIEROOITERAI (Linguist and ethnologist). Myths, astronomy, cutting time and traditional navigation: the Oceanian heritage contained in the words of the Tahitian language (2013).