Students reflect on various aspects of their lives that act as anchors, waypoints, and sources of motivation as they continue to develop their practical self-care kit.
KEY WAYFINDER TRAIT: Keenly Self-Aware
ESTIMATED TOTAL TIME: ~ 55 minutes
MATERIALS NEEDED: None
This activity was inspired by the the idea that different wayfinding traditions each have their own unique set of environmental signs and signals that they rely upon to navigate. We believe that students should similarly be able to identify what their own most important set of waypoints and anchors are that are unique and personal to them. While there are definite similarities and overlaps across different wayfinding cultures, each one also had specific signs and signals that were more important than others based on their natural environment and what type of landscape they were trying to navigate. What unites all wayfinders is that they were incredibly attuned and self-aware, and knew which specific signs and signals could help them navigate and survive.
As we have already seen in “Centering Yourself”, the stars were one of the most important sources of information for ancient Polynesian voyagers. For Norse Navigators, the sun was especially important. Since they traveled primarily along an East-West axis in the far northern latitudes, the angle of the sun was more extreme than for the Polynesians, and critical for navigating. During the long, long days of the polar summers, when the weather was better for voyaging, the sun was often low on the horizon during twilight hours. The sun was often obscured when lower on the horizon due to a phenomenon known as “arctic sea smoke,” where the ocean “steams” when colder air moves over it, forming a dense fog. In this scenario, the Norse were able to employ a clever instrument called the sunstone, which was a naturally-sourced mineral with birefringent properties. Essentially, it allowed the Norse to very precisely find the location of the sun using only a small patch of overhead light and when surrounded by fog due to how their sunstone could read polarized light.
For the Inuit, who inhabit the Arctic regions of Greenland, Canada and Alaska, the wind is especially important. The skies are often dark and overcast, and most of the snowy tundra and surrounding landscape looks visually similar. Therefore the winds play a key role as they navigate in their canoes across vast lakes and down rivers.
Media and Story resources
- In this short video, Master Navigator Nainoa Thompson explains the Hawaiian Star Compass used for navigation and how it was designed.
- A great video that introduces the Hawaiian Star Compass and showcases a life-sized version created for teaching purposes, and shows apprentice navigators using their hands as calibration devices.
- Page on the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s website introducing the Hawaiian Star Compass
- Article about “Holding a Course” from PVS archival website that includes more information about navigating using the Hawaiian Star Compass
- Article about how the Viking Sunstone works