Crew Profile

Life Size Star Compass

“Foundational to navigation is the star compass because there’s all kinds of configurations, but it all comes down to a circle divided up into 32 equal parts,” said maser navigator Kālepa Baybayan.

An ingenious tool introduced to Hawaiians by Pwo Navigator Mau Piailug of Micronesia, the star compass is a mental construct that allows navigators to read the starline, wave direction, and bird flight paths.

“Every community brings its own kind of creativity to the circle. So I’m seeing how we can employ what Hector [Busby] has done here,” said Kālepa.

While the Hōkūleʻa crew was in the North Island of Aotearoa, they visited Māori canoe carver and master navigator Hector Busby in Aurere. There, they found that he had dedicated a part of his land to the construction of his massive rendition of the star compass. The kiʻi, or images, utilized as markers along the compass’ edge are made from the same kauri wood he used in the creation of Te Aurere, the first modern Māori waka. Among one of the other unique features of this starcompass is the navigational chair positioned in its center, allowing one to get an accurate 360 degree reference to the horizon.

“The way the compass is laid out, i’s very large, you stand in the middle on this rotating chair and you’re able to look on all directions on the horizon. It’s real great for orientating yourself to the Southern hemisphere stars,” said Kālepa.

Hector created this space as a gift to future navigators and sailors in Aotearoa and throughout the Pacific – all for the continuation of voyaging.

“This star compass is really awesome, I’ve never seen this kind of star compass before. Usually we study on the paper, or look at it, but here you can really measure your hands and you can really use the horizon around you to see the stars on the land,” said apprentice navigator Saki Uchida.

“You’d be surprised how many young people are interested in navigation and sailing. So I’m hoping in the future that some of the navigators that umm, would from Hawai’i, would come and help out with some of the teaching,” said Hector.

“I think the star compass is going to be an excellent asset and resource that we can use to teach wayfinding and navigation,” said Kālepa.


Click here to explore more about Star Compasses.


Please help keep us sailing for future generations. All contributions make a difference for our voyage. Mahalo nui loa!

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