The Steve Thomas Traditional Micronesian Navigation Collection, 1983-1989

The Steve Thomas Traditional Micronesian Navigation Collection is comprised of unpublished papers, audiovisual and photographic materials (including oral history transcripts and 35mm slides), publications and miscellaneous items related primarily to traditional navigation on the Western Carolinian island of Satawal, which is located within Yap State, Federated States of Micronesia.

July 13, 2010: Master Navigator Mau Piailug Dies. Several news outlet are reporting today that Mau Piailug passed away over the weekend on his home island of Satawal: Honolulu Star-Advertiser1 ;  KITV Honolulu web story2

July 20, 2010: News outlets worldwide continue to publish memorials to Mau Piailug: Wall Street Journal; The Economist; Washington Post; Saipan Tribune3; East West Center News; Chuuk Reform Movement4.

Origin of the Collection

As a young man piloting a small sailboat across the Pacific, Steve Thomas developed a fascination with ancient methods of navigation. He learned of a seafaring culture that, beginning 6,000 years ago, used arcane navigation arts to guide initiates unerringly across the Pacific with no compasses, no charts. Thomas ventured to the tiny coral atolls of Micronesia in search of these mysteries, this ancient language of the sea. There he found the last navigator. Mau Piailug, one of the last surviving palu, belongs to a dying breed of navigators who used only natural signs -- stars, waves, birds -- to guide their sailing canoes across thousands of miles of open ocean. Steve Thomas is the author of The Last Navigator and creator of the film of the same name. He has donated his amazing collection of slides of Satawal (Micronesia) and surrounding areas -- including canoes, island scenes, feasts, dancing, traditional arts and more -- to the Pacific Collection, University of Hawaii at Manoa Library.

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Collection Items