stick charts

Bill Palmer palmer_bill at
Fri Jun 1 00:56:35 UTC 2001


I am looking at a Marshallese stick chart propped up next to the computer in
my office as I am writing this. These charts are still made, for sale to
tourists, though I understand few Marshallese know how to read them fully
these days. Stick charts were used throughout Micronesia. Other similar
strategies were also used. For training navigators patterns of islands would
be laid out with rocks on the ground. In some places the beams and rafters
of the roof of a building would be laid out as a chart, with the timbers
representing currents, wind directions, routes etc, and some of the joints
representing the locations of island. This then functioned as a permanent
training map.

I can refer you to an excellent brief monograph providing an overview:

Turnbull, David, 1991, Mapping the world in the mind. An investigation of
the unwritten knowledge of the Micronesian navigators. Geelong: Deakin
University Press.

This will refer you on to other more detailed accounts.

Bill Palmer
Dep't Linguitics and Applied Linguistics
University of Melbourne
Get Your Private, Free E-mail from MSN Hotmail at

More information about the An-lang mailing list