Traditional Navigation in the Western Pacific


Nifty Globe Before Europeans entered Micronesia, the known world of Carolinian navigators extended from Palau and Yap in the west to Ponape in the east and from Saipan and Guam in the north to Nuquoro and Kapingamarangi in the south. Their sailing directions also included places beyond this region in the west, south, and east, but these lay outside the limits of intentional voyaging and were mostly mythical rather than real places. Knowledge of such distant places met no practical need but served to show off one's learning.

Within Micronesia, the low islands of the coral atolls are where navigation and seafaring have been known and practiced. People living on the high islands of this region - Palau, Yap, Truk, Ponape, and Kosrae - did not maintain seafaring traditions and depended on the atoll dwellers for trade and ocean travel. Puluwat, Pulap, and Satawal, all west of Truk, were where Carolinian navigation was most highly developed, and where it continues to be in active use today.

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