Polynesian Navigation

- carving

Aiga Folau o Samoa, the Samoa Voyaging Society (SVS), undertakes both lengthy open ocean voyages (usually together with other va’a in a fleet); as well as short, solo coastal voyages, to reconnect Samoans to their traditions of navigation and ocean lore.


Polynesian navigation was used for thousands of years to make long voyages across thousands of miles of open ocean. Navigators travelled to small, uninhabited islands using only their own senses and knowledge passed on through oral tradition from master to apprentice.

In order to locate themselves in the immensity of the ocean, Polynesian navigators learned to triangulate their position by reading the paths of specific stars, the weather, the seasons of travel, marine and faunal life (which gather at particular places in the ocean), the direction, size, and speed of ocean waves; colours of the sea and sky, especially how clouds would cluster at the locations of some islands and angles for approaching harbours.