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Traditions & Encounters: Art of Africa, Oceania & Native North America

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Sailing Chart (Rebbelith)

14 5/8 x 20 9/16 in. (37.2 x 52.3 cm)

Unknown, Marshallese

Object Type: Mixed Media
Medium and Support: Wood, plant fiber, coral
Credit Line: From the collection of the Buffalo Museum of Science, C12983
Accession Number: 21.2009L
Location: Currently on view
Link to this object

Oceania is a sea of islands. The role of the ocean in the lives of the people cannot be overstated. This sailing chart is in the traditional style used by Marshallese sailors. Their navigation was based on the way islands cause swells in the ocean. Their sailing charts, used exclusively on land for study and memorization, documented these patterns. This map depicts the swell pattern as well as the islands (identified in text by modern scholars). Raymond de Brum, a skilled Marshallese navigator explained, “By the boat motion and the wave pattern a Marshallese sailor who has been trained in this kind of navigation may know if he is 30 miles from an island. He knows if he has lost his way, and by looking for a certain joining of the waves, will be able to get back on his course.”
[Gallery label text, 2009]

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