Ancient Polynesian navigators were the first to explore and then settle the great Pacific Ocean – a vast expanse that covers a third of the earth’s surface. Their journeys began a millenia before the arrival of the first European explorers in the 16th Century.
Next week in Porirua, north of Wellington, New Zealand, the awe-inspiring achievements of ancient Polynesian explorers and scientists will be remembered during a week of “Mata Ora” celebrations hosted by the Society for Maori, Astronomy, Research and Tourism and the NZ National Commission for UNESCO.
The event is also part of celebrations to mark the International Year of Astronomy 2009 - "a gobal effort initiated by the International Astronomical Union and UNESCO to help citizens of the world rediscover their place in the Universe through the day and night time sky, and thereby engage a personal sense of wonder and discovery.
The first Polynesian voyagers used indigenous scientific astronomical knowledge, harnessing the night sky and the environment to guide them across 162 million square kilometres of ocean. Their journeys and settlements stretch from South East Asia and Melanesia in the West, to Hawaii in the north, Rapanui or Easter Island in the East and Aotearoa New Zealand in the South. To this day, the indigenous peoples of the Pacific while separated by the largest ocean on earth, remain linked to one another through language, culture and history.