National Geographic : 1974 Dec
(Continuedfrom page 754) wind by tacking, coming about and changing the side of the sail presented to the wind, as modern sailors do. The Mi cronesians (and the Polynesians of the Tuamotus and some western island groups) changed Winrd WaUv course by shifting Iu I the sail from one Sta nd Bird end of the canoe to Star, and Dirl the other, with the same side always to the wind. Thus the vessels were "dou ble ended," with bow and stern having the same design. Both outriggers and the method of tacking by changing ends seem to have originated in Indonesia. They spread not only eastward into the Pacific but also westward across the Indian Ocean, as far as Madagascar. In A.D. 77 the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder de scribed ships from Ceylon as having "bows at each end." I wonder what Pliny would have said about a canoe of stone. I had heard of one on the island of Beru, not far from Aranuka. When my son and I reached the island and located the "stone canoe," it proved to be a teaching device that I had never before encountered. Built by the father of the navigator Temi Rewi, and modeled on one his father had made, it was a simple array of stones enclosing a larger flat rock. The origin of the device has been lost in time. Rewi's son sat upon the central stone imagining himself in a canoe, while his father taught him the star paths and currents of the southern Gilberts. A little later, the "canoe" was used to rep resent an island. By their size, shape, and angle, the stones at the four corners represented the swell patterns around the island. The tallest, for instance, de picted the main swell from the east. Rewi lowered his voice: "Look under the seat stone." There, hidden from view, was a rounded lump of brain coral. "This secret stone," said Rewi, "represents the sea-god, who is the most important of all. He helps us sail over the sea because he rules the sea." After leaving the hospitable atoll of Beru, I found at Tarawa, also in the Gil berts, a wiry old tia borau, or man for voyaging. His name was Iotiabata Ata, and his ultralight 30-foot canoe was a perfectly balanced sailing machine, out rigger alternately flying airborne and slicing clean through the waves. lotiabata took me on a voyage from Tarawa to nearby Maiana to show me, when we were well out of sight of land, how the massing of trade-wind clouds over the invisible islands, and their breaking up as they drifted downwind, indicated the position of both atolls. Though their lagoons lay below the horizon, I could see clearly the green reflection on the undersurface of the clouds, and pointed it out to lotiabata. "I did not wish to embarrass or insult you by mentioning this green," he said. "For after all, you are a navigator, of a kind, yourself-and even Europeans notice this obvious sign." I was somewhat chastened as I con tinued in Isbjorn to the Caroline group. LONE in all the world, the Caroline Islands of Puluwat, Satawal, Pulu suk, and Pulap retain an entire traditional blue-water voyaging soci ety. Oceanic voyaging without charts or instruments persists as a way of life. Of Puluwat's 400 people, 18 are trained ppalu, navigators with status higher than chiefs. In a recent 16-month period, Puluwat's 15 big sailing canoes made 73 interisland passages. In such a setting, one might expect to find an exceptional navigator. I found him seated in his canoe house, a man of only 46 who had been initiated as a navigator more than twenty years earlier and had roved through the cen tral Carolines ever since. His thighs were tattooed with the traditional mark of the sea, leaping porpoises, and his shoulder with a more modern emblem, the Rising Sun of Japan. Old man of the sea, Yaleilei once rolled the sennit and swung the adz, helping to build the canoes he voyaged on. Now locked to the land, he passes the day in a Satawal canoe house and looks longingly toward the sea.