Deep Phosphorescence

“To the east of Whangaroa, there is … Te Au-kanapana, or flashing current GLOSSARY current - the directional flow of the sea ... it is here that Kupe is said to have made land on his voyage from Hawaiki.”
From Evans, J. (1998).

Wayfinders use flashes of light occurring in the deep ocean to know the distance and direction of land. This light is known as te lapa in the Santa Cruz Islands (eastern Solomon Islands), te mata in Western Kiribati, talatala in the Lau Group of Fiji, and ulo aetahi in Tonga. The flashes occur as far out to sea as 150 km, in lines darting from the direction of the land. The closer land is, the shorter and quicker the flashes are.

Lewis, D. (1972, 1994), wrote that te lapa was like “underwater lighting” in that it appears a metre or more below the surface.

Chief Kaveia of Taumako explained that David must have misunderstood what Tevake was trying to tell him through a translator. Te lapa is seen coming on the surface of the ocean. Kaveia also said that the short or long, quick or not as quick appearance of it depends on which island it is from and how far from the island the observer is. Kaveia showed his students te lapa that was less than 2 km from the island and other te lapa that was over 350 km away from the island. Wayfinders often see it (and use it to steer by) on dark and cloudy nights. It is different from phosphorescence, or more correctly, bioluminescence GLOSSARY bioluminescence - light given off by plankton, jellyfish, squid, and fish , which is commonly seen in the wake of boats. It is also different from the underwater lighting that appears commonly over reefs. The source of te lapa remains a mystery to scientists.

Tiu Tiua Bera of Fiji explained that it is a sign from one’s ancestors, and one can touch the water and “ask ones ancestors for help when needed, and they will show it to you.”

Te Lapa is a feint flashing of a line of light that emanates from islands. It may be seen only a mile from the island that it comes from, or it may be seen over 150 miles from the island. Te Lapa is not always flashing. It takes training to see this light, and there is a spiritual element to seeing it. This is an altered photo that shows what it can look like (it has different appearances for different islands and at different times and distances). But it is so feint of a light that no one has photographed it yet because it is not bright enough for a normal camera to capture it.

Tala Tala, A messenger for the anscestors

Fiji Wayfinder Tiu Tiua Bera

I wanted to learn if other people around the Pacific also knew about some of our navigation techniques like TELAPA On my visit to FIJI, I met TIUA BERA. He heard about it from his father Our father used to tell us It's a messenger that connects you and your ancestors. They show you the light and that light will be coming to you or appearing to you fast if you're connecting you to them. Otherwise, you find it hard to let the light to be seen. You have families who passed away. Always you must remember them, must... They guide you when you are lost although they cannot appear by -- as form of a human, but they show you their presence in the form of a light. Any place you go and somehow you feel you are astray, you tap the ocean, tap the water and ask for their guidance. Definitely they will show you. Tala Tala. It's a messenger. Yes!

“From The Vaka Taumako Project.”