Thursday, 14 December 2006

Lecture tonight at the Museum Dome

Aucklanders have an oportunity tonight for an interesting lecture, and another chance to visit Auckland's new and magnificent Museum Dome.

Anyone with even a passing interest in the origins of the first New Zealanders and the how the Pacific was populated will surely enjoy 'nautical anthropologist' Ben Finney' lecturing tonight on the new light his study of traditional Polynesian navigation system has thrown new light on the study of the how the Pacific was populated.

Lecture is tonight, under the Museum's new atrium. 7pm. $10.

RELATED: New Zealand, Science, History


  1. I've always been told by my parents (and their parents, their parents parents, and so forth) that Polynesians did use the position of stars to navigate.

    I have read some comments from researchers, saying that Polynesians navigate by drifting randomly. Now, I am starting to get confused. First, it is illogical for someone to sail in a boat hoping to land somewhere such as a new land (or island). Second , the first time to find a new land must have been a fluke. The third, fourth, and so on, were guided by some knowledge, such as location of stars or something else.

    To say that Polynesians were just sailing on a purely random phenomena is an understatement, since if the laws of probability (Random Walk , Brownian Motion or Monte Carlo simulation in 2D) is used to map out such aimless navigation, it would definitely shows that it needs a huge number of trial and error attempts. A sailing crew in those days might be made up of at least 20 people. Typical simulations of today to map out the drifting direction of wind in weather forecasting are in the million runs. So, if a 20-man crew in a million lots were doing such a trial & error, those samples must at least come from population of more than 20 million, which is hard to believe that any population in those days were numbered that high. Therefore, I would rule out navigating randomly all the time. First one might have been but subsequent travel might have been star-navigation.

    I am not sure whether Archaeologists & Anthropologists are familiar with Monte Carlo simulations or not, but I assume that they are not, because all the reports denying the ability of Polynesians to navigate by stars, have not quoted any simulation work at all.


    "Markov Chain Monte Carlo"

    "Random Walk"

  2. To say that Polynesians were just sailing on a purely random phenomena is an understatement

    However to say that Polynesians were great navigators (as some are prone to do) is an overstatement.

    And much discovery was random (or rather serendipitous). Columbus and Tasman were looking for something and found something else. However, the great thing about their navigation abilities was that they got back home.

  3. I think the pretty clear evidence from the various researchers into 'archaeological navigation' is that there's no need at all to assume random-ness -- that the efficacy of both equipment and navigational techniques are quite able to suggest intentionality to Pacific exploration.


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