Wait for the West Wind

Ben Finney

in Voyage of Rediscovery

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 1994 | ISBN: 9780520080027
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520913059 | DOI:
Wait for the West Wind

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This chapter addresses the third basic adaptation for oceanic expansion by analyzing how, in 1986, Hōkūle'a sailed eastward across Polynesia from Samoa to Tahiti by utilizing westerly wind shifts. In making his case for the origin in America of the Polynesians, Thor Heyerdahl claimed that the islands of Polynesia could not have been colonized directly from the west because “the permanent trade winds and forceful companion currents of the enormous Southern Hemisphere” would have prevented canoe sailors from the Asian side of the ocean from sailing through tropical latitudes to the east. Instrumented sailing trials with the Hawai'ian double canoe Nālehia, and the long slant across and slightly into the trade winds made by Hōkūle'a when sailing from Hawai'i to Tahiti in 1976, indicate that a double canoe progresses most efficiently to windward when she is sailed “full and by.”

Keywords: Hōkūle'a; Polynesia; Samoa; Tahiti; America; Polynesians; Thor Heyerdahl; trade winds; Southern Hemisphere; Nālehia

Chapter.  9177 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Anthropology

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