Satawal Ways

Nang (Star Compass)

To learn about stars, stones or pieces of coral are placed on a mat in the ut (vaka house). These represent the stars in the sky. Europeans call this a star compass, but it’s really more like a map of the sky.

First, the student learns the names of the most important stars for navigation and where each rises and sets on the horizon GLOSSARY horizon - the line where the earth and sky seem to meet . The stars are divided into groups for memorising. He learns to recall pairs of opposite stars. This helps him to remember the return course for any path. The most detailed step is learning the star paths to certain islands. He learns the positions of the stars in relation to parts of his canoe when he is sailing on different paths. He also learns about the stars that pass directly above particular islands – the zenith star GLOSSARY zenith star - a star that appears to pass directly over an island and all positions west and east of it . He practises on the beach at night to learn his own island’s star paths.

Knowing the stars in Satawal

Satawalese wayfinder Mau Piailug shows the star compass to some children and names some stars as they are seen from Satawal.

From The Last Wayfinder © INCA 1989. Directed by Andre Singer.