stars and wave patterns.
An exhibit, "Island Pathways: Wayfinders of the Pacific," opened this
weekend at the museum, and if visitors look closely enough -- they may be
able to see the ocean as the first maritime explorers did.
"For the Polynesians, there was no separation between aspects of the
natural world, and those of the spiritual world," said Marcus
DeChevrieux, the curator of the exhibit. "Each aspect of canoeing, from
the selection of the tree to the end of the voyage, was under the
auspices of the gods."
The display returns to the origins of sea travel, featuring the canoes of
Polynesian voyagers in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. These
early sailers traveled from island to island in their surprisingly
seaworthy, handcrafted canoes.
Legend has it that a great Hawaiian chief made regular trips between his
home and Tahiti. On one of his visits, he fell in love with a Tahitian
woman, who ultimately rejected his advances. The chief, frustrated and
deflated, returned to Hawaii and never sailed again.
"Somewhere, there is probably a grain of truth in there," said
DeChevrieux, who tells the legend in one of his displays.
The exhibit also features ancient pottery -- some dating back as far as
1100 BC. There are also primitive tools, which were used to cut the wood
for the canoes. The Polynesians always sought permission from their gods
before taking a tree to build a boat.
The artifacts, which also include war clubs, paddles and decorative
items, are on loan from the Kelton Foundation, which has the largest
collection of Pacific Rim items, DeChevrieux said.
Paintings by Hawaiian artist Herb "Kawainui" Kane show scenes of canoe
building and sailing in vivid colors.
Miniature models of the old-fashioned canoes, crafted by Melvin Schinkel,
are also on display.
Life-sized canoes, and wayfinding, are making somewhat of a comeback,
DeChevrieux said. Some modern-day mariners are bringing back the method
of sea travel without instruments.
It's a handy skill to have, because hi-tech gadgets can still fail.
"If you have a wayfinder with you, you'll have no problem," DeChevrieux
The exhibit will be on display until June 18 in the Grand Salon of the
Newport Harbor Nautical Museum, 151 E. Coast Highway. The hours are 10
a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
For more information, call (949) 673-7863.