Wave Piloting in the Marshall Islands

Panel Discussion with John Huth

For generations, traditional navigators in the Marshall Islands have relied on the techniques of wave piloting—the subtle perception of wave and swell patterns along with the sighting of atolls and islands—to safely guide their outrigger canoes across the oceans.

In 2015, several researchers replicated these voyages as they journeyed between the atolls of Majuro and Aur in an outrigger canoe without instrumentation.

In this discussion, these researchers will talk about their experience of wave piloting and explore possible links between modern science and this almost forgotten form of traditional Marshallese knowledge.


John Huth, Codirector of the science program at the Radcliffe Institute and Donner Professor of Science in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University

Joseph Genz, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Hawai’i

Gerbrant van Vledder, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands

Alson Kelen, Director, Canoes of the Marshall Islands, Marjuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands 

Isao Eknilang, Navigator, Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands

This event is free and open to the public. 

Part of the 2016–2017 Oceans Lecture Series. A larger, one-day public symposium on the topic took place on Friday, October 28, 2016.