Voyaging is the Ultimate Ethnomathematics Laboratory

We love what our crewmembers are doing to better our shared planet. While we have featured the advanced work of crewmember Linda Furuto in the past, we’d like to call out a recent story in Brigham University Magazine highlighting Linda’s experiences both as a mathematician and Hōkūleʻa crewmember. Have a look at the following story by Brittany Karford Rogers:

With the stars as her guide and math as her compass, a BYU alumna sails the world’s oceans to engage, empower, and educate

“There are nights like a planetarium,” says Linda H. L. Furuto (BA ’00). Nights that tuck the canoe in under a star-spangled blanket of black. She knows some 200 stars—and their dance across the dome—by heart.

“The night sky is our friend,” she continues; the stars tell the crew where they are, even when all they can see is ocean for miles.

Master Navigator Nainoa Thompson with crewmember Linda Furuto

“Did you see the movie Moana?” Furuto asks. The part where the heroine’s outstretched hand in the sky, forming an L, becomes a celestial ruler. Furuto does the same thing—“kind of.” Moana’s thumb should be resting on the horizon.

Sailing south from Hawai‘i, Furuto uses her hand to measure the angular height of Hōkūpa‘a—Polaris. The star reveals the canoe’s latitude; the farther south they go, the lower it sits in the sky. “When we can’t see Hōkūpa‘a anymore, we are at the equator.”

There is nothing, she says, that compares to crossing the equator by canoe for the first time.

“There were so many unknown variables,” Furuto recalls of her first deep-sea voyage onboard Hōkūle‘a, the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s (PVS) traditional double-hulled voyaging canoe. There is no GPS, no clock, no sextant, no motor onboard Hōkūle‘a. The 62-foot-long canoe is steered by paddle. Her name in Hawaiian means “Star of Gladness,” and her crew navigates relying solely on celestial bodies, ocean swells, currents, birds, and principles of mathematics.

Continue reading the full article “How Far She’ll Go” at: https://magazine.byu.edu/article/how-far-shell-go/

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