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Paper Plate Education
"Serving the Universe on a Paper Plate"

Activity: Wayfinding

The Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) has generously given its permission for Paper Plate Education to reproduce images and material they have created.  "The Polynesian Voyaging Society is devoted to educating our youth," writes PVS Executive Director Patrick J. Duarte succinctly.  We thank the Polynesian Voyaging Society for its generosity and commitment, both past and ongoing.   

The PVS drawings below inspire new contributions in multiple intelligences.  As we post these wayfinding images and ideas, we invite interested parties to contribute relevant materials to this page.  Please send your fresh paper plate activities, inventive designs, trans-era drama, meritorious art, scientific patterns, digital forums--whatever.    

Let us cast a wide net...

A description of the Hawaiian Star Compass
excerpted below, is at


Rising Point of 21 Brightest Stars of Hawaiian Star Compass









Mau Piailug's Star Compass


Star Compass (Color)


North and South Pointers 











32 Bearings Marked on Canoe Rail.




Steering by the Stars.


Steering by the Swells



Rising and Setting Points of the Sun.


 The Hawaiian Star Compass description excerpted below,
 courtesy of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, 
is at http://www.pvs.hawaii.org/navigate/stars.html.

Hawaiian Star Compass

Developed by Nainoa Thompson

Based on the Micronesian Star Compass of Mau Piailug

To help him orient the canoe to the rising and setting points of stars, the wayfinder uses a star compass with thirty-two equidistant directional points around the horizon, each point 11.25 degrees from the next point (11.25 degrees x 32 points = 360 degrees). Each point is the midpoint of a house of the same name, and each house is 11.25 degrees wide (11.25 degrees x 32 houses = 360 degrees).

The four cardinal directions have traditional Hawaiian names:

East is called Hikina ("Arriving" or "Coming"), where the sun and stars "arrive" at the horizon;

West is called Komohana ("Entering"), where the sun and stars "enter" into the horizon;

North is called 'Akau;

South is called Hema.

The four cardinal directional points divide the circle of the horizon into four quadrants, which have been given names associated with wind directions:

Ko'olau is the NE quadrant, named for the windward side of the islands, the direction from which the NE trades, the most constant of the Hawaiian winds, blow.

Malanai is the SE quadrant, named for "a gentle breeze" (PE) associated with Kailua O'ahu (SE part of the island) and Koloa, Kaua'i (S by E part of the island); on a wind map of Pukapuka, two "Malangai" winds blow from the SE...

Each quadrant contains seven directional points and houses with the following names. The names were devised by Nainoa Thompson, the first Hawaiian in over 500 years to practice long-distance, open-ocean navigation without instruments:

La: "Sun"; the sun stays in this house for most of the year as it moves back and forth between its southern limit at the Tropic of Capricorn (23.5 degrees S) at Winter Solstice to its northern limit at the Tropic of Cancer (23.5 degrees N) at Summer Solstice.

'Aina: "Land"; This house between 17 degrees and 28 degrees on the horizon from east and west can be remembered because Hawai'i ('Aina, or Land) is at 21 degrees N latitude and Tahiti ('Aina, or Land) is at 18 degrees S latitude.

Nalani: Named for the brightest star in this house, Ke ali'i o kona i ka lewa (Canopus), which rises in Nalani Malanai and sets in Nalani Kona.

Na Leo: "The Voices," referring to the voices of the stars speaking to the wayfinder.

Haka: "Empty"; named for the relatively empty skies around the north and south celestial poles; Kamakau say the names of these areas are Uliuli ("deep, dark blue") and Lipo ("deep, dark night").

(Information about the name of these houses is from Will Kyselka's Ocean in Mind 96-97).

Seven directional houses in each of the four quadrants combine to give 28 compass directions between the four cardinal points:

La Ko'olau = E by N
'Aina Ko'olau = ENE
Noio Ko'olau = NE by E...

A star that rises in a house on the NE horizon travels across the sky, and sets in a house of the same name on the NW horizon; A star that rises in a house on the SE horizon travels across the sky, and sets in a house of the same name on the SW horizon. Thus, the rising and setting points of stars are clues to direction. Recognizing a star as it rises or sets and knowing the house it rises or sets in gives you a directional point by which you can orient the canoe and head in the direction you want to go. Ocean swells, also used to hold a course, travel from one house on the horizon to a house directly opposite on the horizon (180 degrees away), passing under the canoe, which is always at the center of the compass.


The information below is believed to be correct, but is subject to change:

Polynesian Voyaging Society
Pier 7, 191 Ala Moana Blvd.
Honolulu, HI 96813

(808) 536-8405 
(808) 536-1519 (fax)


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