The science of navigation and canoe making were trasmitted by oral tradition. The settlement of Europeans  brought writing and new technologies, and the ancient society started to slowly change and endangered the ancestral knowledge.

The missionary William Ellis[1] makes the sad observation: « Very few memories remained in the memory of the inhabitants, while the new generation grew in total ignorance of all that distinguished it from its ancestors. »

European instruments: compass, chronometer octant and sextant, replace the « tahitian science of the stars » , a practice old of two thousand years. The construction of the va’a falls into decadence, the large sailing canoe (pahi and tipaerua) are abandonned at the beginning of the 19th century for the benefit of small size canoes and European boats.

Edmond de Bovis notes that the Pahi Tama’i or war canoe falls « in disuse in the archipelago of the Society where the natives found that it was advantageously replaced by the whaleboats » [2].

Surgeon Lesson writes, « One of the arts that modern Tahitians seem to neglect is that of marine architecture. The fertility of their soil has rendered them less necessary for distant navigation. « [3]

Gradually abandoning war and long expeditions, the Polynesians no longer build large canoes. There remained small canoes, essential to everyday life, for fishing and traveling short distances.

[1] William Ellis (English Missionary). Polynesian researches(1829

[2] Edmond de Bovis (Lieutenant and Hydrographer). State of Tahitian society at the arrival of Europeans (1991).

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