This is a series of activities to teach the basics of navigation and draw parallels between Pacific and European navigation techniques that were used when people travelled to New Zealand. It’s all about using the Sun, stars, and the Earth’s rotation to determine position and direction of travel.
Telling the time: One of the most important aspects of fixing a location on the surface of the Earth is knowing the local time and comparing it to a known local time somewhere else on the Earth. With this activity we show how you can calculate the local time by using the shadow of the Sun and then how longitude can be worked out from that. We can also use the planetarium for this, especially if the weather is bad as we can simulate the sky.
Finding latitude: Closely related to the above we have an activity where we can calculate the latitude based on the elevation of the Sun and the date, between both activities the longitude and latitude of a location can be calculated. This is another one we can use the planetarium for if the weather is bad. This is one of the fundamental techniques in navigation that was used by both Pacific and European navigators.
Triangulation: Building on from the previous two activities we look at triangulation, basically the principal behind the GPS satellites, in this activity we teach how to take bearings from prominent land based features to work out local positions relative to those features. This is an outdoor activity, though if the weather is bad it can be run inside as long as hill tops and distant features be seen from the windows of the classroom.
Dead reckoning: In this technique we demonstrate how a known speed can be used to navigate accurately. This can be an outdoor activity or in a gym or hall. This was one of the key techniques used by both Pacific navigators and European navigators.
Star Paths: In this activity we use the planetarium to demonstrate how the stars appear to move across the sky and how this consistency in movement can be used to determine the cardinal points as well as help work out latitude. This is one of the key underlying principles of Pacific navigation.
Supplementary activity: viewing the Movie Ngā Tohunga Whakatere.
Hari is the Creative Producer and concept lead for the planetarium movie Ngā Tohunga Whakatere. Please note that while we have this movie available in our planetarium, we are restricted to play it in Wellington.
Ngā Tohunga Whakatere - The Navigators is a planetarium show that tells the story of Māori, Pasifika and later, European navigation towards Aotearoa through the eyes of a young girl, Moko.
Moko dreams of becoming a master star navigator like her koro Jack.
Journey with Moko as she gains knowledge and understanding of Māori, Pasifika and European voyaging traditions and realises how skilled her tūpuna had to be to travel the largest ocean on Earth.