Hawaiians sailed thousands of miles over the vast oceans of the pacific using the stars in the sky to navigate there canoes

29stars Nebula. NASA. 2005. unitedstreaming. 7 February 2006


The meaning of Hoku is "star". The Hawaiian stars were very important to the well being of sailing. Hawaiians used the stars as natural compasses that helped them navigate their explorations. Hawaiian navigators depended on the stars, as well as the seas, the wind, and the currents to travel. Stars, planets, and the moon were important to Hawaiian astronomers when they traveled across the ocean. The way the moon moves, and the sighting of Pleiades at sunset was the beginning of when the growing season begun. Planets or Hoku-ake, were separated from the stars and were named by their position in the sky, either east of west. Other planets were given special names because of their color, brightness, and the patterns it moves in. Before scientific navigation, Hawaiians sailors created star maps in their minds. Hawaiians also relied on stories they remembered, and the stars‘ positions. Hawaiians also used visual images, like fish. The Hawaiians who sailed the greatest distances, which were thousands of miles across open oceans, created the most detailed star maps. Hawaiian star maps were important to navigation.

Olelo Noeau

O na hōkū no na kiu o ka lani

The stars are the spies of heaven

The stars look down on everyone and everything

Genisis 1:16

God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.

Audio File



1. Clark R.K. John. Old Hawaii. University of Hawaii Press: Hawaii, 2002.

2. Abbot T. Agatin. Hawaiian Words. University of Hawaii Press: Hawaii, 1986.

3. “Hawaii.” How Hawaiians used the stars to navigate. December 19, 2006.