how to explore (without a map) – part 6

Make a map. Doesn’t have to be a map in a geographic sense, it could be making a note of where you think you are, and what you think you’ve seen. The map will help you find your way back out of the labyrinth, and also will be helpful to those people following you. And you will be followed. Go back to the buzzwords in (3). Don’t use them, but see what answers they help you arrive at, and you can add them to you map.

In Cook’s case he made maps of some parts of New Zealand so accurately that they were still in use until quite recently. Banks made meticulous and beautiful drawings of the botanical specimens he collected. Both wrote journals. I expect they retired to the salon after dinner and told stories of what they’d discovered during the day, what this meant now, and what this might mean in the future. The kind of academic description of this is forming a narrative. I like to think of it as having a bit of a yarn and a glass of port after dinner.

The big difference between what Cook came up with and what some of the Micronesians came up with is, in my opinion, Cook’s maps are designed so that someone who doesn’t know the context can find their way there – perhaps from the cultural tradition of ‘photographic’ likeness in portraits. And, of course, the written word. But what if there were no written words?

Polynesian, Micronesian, and Melanesian peoples, with their rich oral tradition, used stick charts as a method of helping learn the navigation. Stick charts have islands identified with shells, and bent sticks to show winds, wave patterns, and ocean currents between islands. This presupposes the navigator knew how to read the waves, reflections on the water, winds, cloud formations, stars, sun, moon, the sound of the water against the canoe hull, water temperatures, and birds and fish sufficiently to know the context. Using these combinations of information, the knowledge of the location of where they were, even if this was travelling across open water, out of sight of land, could be deduced.

One of the problems for the USS Enterprise (apart from where did they go to the bathroom?) would be: where are we? Navigation on the earth is essentially two dimensional – latitude and longitude – whereas in space it is, at the very least, three-dimensional.

Part of the cultural landscape of the pacific peoples is abstracted representation rather than the photographic likeness. Interesting. Go map on that. Blog it!

how to explore (without a map) –
< part 1 < part 2 < part 3 < part 4 < part 4 cont. < part 5 || part 6 || part 7 > part 8 >

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