Stick Navigation Chart (Marshall Islands), Before 1950
This is a Stick navigation chart.
In the Marshall Islands, a small Micronesian community, the organization of society and views of the universe were, and are, influenced by relationships with the sea—as a source for food and transport as well as occasional devastation. While known for its canoes, it is the navigation stick chart, a visualization of seafarers’ secret knowledge obtained over generations, that defines the Marshallese rapport with the sea. Acute sea observation yields a familiarity with ocean swells, what happens as they approach and pass land, and the characteristics of swell pattern interaction. From this complex information, a system of navigation depicted in stick charts developed in two ways: as models and as piloting instructions. Stick chart data are indicated by the arrangement of the sticks and by the forms given to them by bending and crossing, resembling the visual language of grid maps. Never taken aboard, these charts existed solely in the navigator’s memory.
It is credited
Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, E432083.
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Its dimensions are
H x W x D: 99.4 x 101.9 x 4.4 cm (39 1/8 x 40 1/8 x 1 3/4 in.)
This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Tools: Extending Our Reach.