Navigating Through Life
Marshall Island Mattang
Stick charts are made and used by the Marshallese to navigate the Pacific Ocean by canoe off the coast of the Marshall Islands. The charts represent major ocean swell patterns and the ways the islands disrupt those patterns.
Most stick charts are made from the midribs of coconut fronds tied together to form an open framework. Island locations are represented by shells tied to the framework, or by the lashed junction of two or more sticks. The threads represent prevailing ocean surface wave-crests and directions they take as they approach islands and meet other similar wave-crests formed by the ebb and flow of breakers.
Individual charts vary so much in form and interpretation that the individual navigator who made the chart is the only person who can fully interpret and use it.
Highly regarded, specially selected, and extensively trained.
Knowledge and technique are highly prized.
Knowledge is not given away to the unprepared, unready, or unwilling.
Ownership of knowledge carries responsibility for preservation and transmission.
The most respected and legendary practitioners showed special interest or aptitude as a child.