The Canoe Is the People
Indigenous Navigation in the Pacific
Aotearoa, the Maori name for New Zealand, means long white cloud for a very good reason: some Maori traditions tell how, on the voyage of discovery to Aotearoa, the wayfinder Kupe’s wife said, “He ao, he ao, he ao tea, he ao tea roa!”, which means “A cloud, a cloud, a white cloud, a long white cloud!”
Clouds give many clues about land beyond the horizon GLOSSARY horizon - the line where the earth and sky seem to meet . Wayfinders study their formation, shape, and colour for hours and see how they change through the year and under different weather conditions.
Formation and Movement
Clouds that keep forming in one place indicate land below.
• In cloudy, calm weather, the clouds tend to be thicker over land.
• In cloudy, windy weather, one cloud might sit above an island while others move fast.
• Clouds often move freely as they move towards an island. They slow as they near it, then break up and speed off on the other side.
V-shaped clouds often form over islands, especially in calm weather when few clouds are in the sky. The centre of the unmoving cloud stays above the land.
Clouds over land can reflect the landís colour - white for coral reefs GLOSSARY reefs - areas of rock or coral below the surface of the water and sand, pink for exposed coral reefs, and dark for plants.
Even a cloudless sky shows signs of land. White sand and lagoons reflect the sun as a pale, shining beam over an island. A lagoon reflects the stars more than the ocean does.