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By the mid-twentieth century it was widely assumed that ancient Pacific navigational skills had died out, as had so much traditional knowledge and customs.

In his 1956 publication Ancient Voyagers in the Pacific Andrew Sharp launched an attack on the idea that these skills had ever existed and that the ancient navigators made their way through the Pacific by chance and accident.

Model canoe, Trobriand
Model canoe, Trobriand. 990l x 310w x 280h mm. Collection: Auckland Museum.

David Lewis challenged Sharp by noting that some old navigators in Micronesia — such as Hipour and Tevake — still practised the old navigational skills. The modern Renaissance of traditional navigation and sailing began in the 1970s. Replica voyaging was in part about proving the effectiveness of traditional navigation, but it was also about a revival of cultural pride throughout many parts of the Pacific.

Reference: Howe, KR (ed), Vaka Moana, Voyages of the Ancestors, Bateman, Auckland, 2006.