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The Navigators: Pathfinders of the Pacific 1983

Catalog Data

Physical description:
reference 1 DVD (58 minutes) sound color DVD
master 2 film reels (2,088 feet) sound color 16mm
archival original 2 film reels (2,088 feet) sound color 16mm
Motion pictures (visual works)
title from credits (published work)--archival collection
supplementary materials: camera and shot logs
Donated by Sanford Low in 2015
Edited film, shot on the atoll of Satawal in the Caroline Islands under the supervision of anthropologist Sam Low, explores the continuity of Polynesian navigational methods. These methods are introduced through over-dubbed interviews and subtitled footage of Mau Piailug, the last man on Satawal to be initiated in recognition of his control over navigation and magic. Mau and a crew sail a replica of a traditional Polynesian canoe from Hawaii to Tahiti without using modern tools; Mau is depicted teaching the crew ancient astral and wind navigation techniques. Other footage includes: boat handling, men building a canoe and braiding rope, a communal fishing expedition, prayer at a Christian chapel, and women preparing food including coconut and breadfruit. Substantial time is allotted to interviews with anthropologists, explanatory narration, and animation, establishing the wide historical reach of Polynesian sailors by identifying similarities in artifacts such as pottery and canoes among far-flung islands. Emphasis on navigation as dying art, both by Mau and the third-person narrative. Cinematography by Boyd Estus, directed by Sanford Low and Boyd Estus and written and produced by Sanford Low.
Cite as:
Courtesy Sam Low
Repository Loc.:
Human Studies Film Archives Smithsonian Museum Support Center, Suitland, Maryland 20746
Language and culture  Search this
Navigation  Search this
Outrigger canoe  Search this
Ethnology  Search this
Fishing  Search this
Sailing  Search this
Boatbuilding  Search this
Food preparation--cooking  Search this
Prayers  Search this
Local number:
HSFA 2015.17.1
Restrictions & Rights:
Information on reproduction and fees available from Human Studies Film Archives
Data Source:
Human Studies Film Archives