Traditional Navigation in the Western Pacific

Living Seamarks

"Aimers" are living seamarks, purported to be associated with particular locales in the vicinity of islands or midway between them. They comprise such things as a tan shark making lazy movements, a ray with a red spot behind the eyes, a lone noisy bird, a swimming swordfish, and so on. Each of these phenomena has its own individual name and is located within a particular "drag" on a particular star course from its associated island. One does not sail to find them, rather one encounters them only when lost and not always then. They serve as a last recourse for the navigator who has missed his landfall or lost his bearings, enabling him to "align" himself once more in the island world.

When doing the "Island Looking" exercise, an advanced student includes these "aimers" among the locations to be named in boxing the compass from a given island. They also figure in other exercises. There are, additionally, special exercises relating solely to living seamarks. Thus, on the long course from Puluwat to Eauripik there is said to be a row of whales, each situated a day's sail directly south of an island. Each whale has its own distinctive characteristic. This scheme provides a basis for reorienting oneself when lost. The drill involves following the course to Eauripik, naming each whale along the way and the island that lies north of that whale.

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