E Mau Micronesia at ns.gov.gu

The 1999 Voyage Back Home for the GrandMaster Navigator "pwo" Mau Piailug.

Sailing from Hawaii through Micronesia, Guam, Rota then to Saipan

GrandMaster navigator Pius "Mau" (venacular for 'strong') Piailug (1932-July 12, 2010) was welcomed to Guam on April 16, 1999 in ancient ceremonies honoring his crew of star navigators from the Na Kalai Wa'a Moku O Hawai'i organization. The journey which began in Hawaii on Feb 11 included the Marshall Islands, Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuuk and his childhood home of Satawal, which is part of Yap. After Guam, the crew sailed to Rota and then to Saipan where Mau Piailug has familial ties. Most notable in his entourage are: Chad Paishon [vessel captain], Shorty Bertelmann [senior student navigator].

The final leg included his arrival on Guam Thursday with a full day of Ancient welcoming ceremonies. Before his landfall, men from the Carolinian island cultural group took turns blowing into a conch shell, producing the low reverberating moan. "In the islands, you cannot blow the conch unless asked by the chief," said Satawal native Samuel Salle Ilesugan who is attending the Univ of Guam. "That means the chief wants to see everybody." " The conch is also used to chase away storms. That's why they have one on the canoe", he said.

Piailug was a traditional Grandmaster 'pwo' or fully initiated Traditional Satawalese navigator who has spent the last two decades teaching sailors in Hawaii about Techniques of Micronesian Navigation. This ancient navigation or non-instrument wayfinding is based on the organization and memorization of a vast quantity of information about the rising and setting positions of the stars with respect to each island, seasonal variations in ocean currents, the properties of ocean swells, clouds, the interpretation of flights of birds for signs of land, and clustering of migratory sea creatures within fixed geographic ocean locations.

In 1970, in violent weather, he led his crew on the nine-hundred-mile round-trip voyage from Satawal to Saipan in his twenty-seven-foot outrigger sailing canoe. Without charts or instruments, he reopen one of his ancestors' trading routes, abandoned for generations. In 1976 he became a hero in Hawaii when he guided the Hokule'a, a replica of an ancient Polynesian voyaging canoe, from Maui to Tahiti without charts or instruments. He had appeared in numerous magazine articles and National Geographic documentary films. In May 2000, he was honored by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. which called Mau "one of the most important influences in the resurgence of cultural pride in the Pacific." Jesse H. Marehalau, Federated States of Micronesia Ambassador to the U.S. called Mau "a national hero."

In honor of his contribution, a crew of more than 50 people helped him sail a traditionally designed, Hawaiian 54-foot, double-hulled canoe named Makali'i from Hawaii to the final destination of Guam-Rota-Saipan. For example, on the 3-day leg from Pohnpei to Chuuk his son Sisario Sisaru navigated using star clusters and ocean swells.

The voyage was named "E MAU" to mean "to continue, to preserve; never ending". Open-ocean voyaging without navigational instruments crossing thousands of miles have been guided by the wind, stars, clouds, waves, fish, birds and horizon. GrandMaster navigator Mau Piailug has led the past epic Voyages of Hokule'a [from Hawaii to Tahiti in 1976], Hawai'i Loa, and Makali'i between Hawaii, Tahiti, Marquesas and other islands of the Pacific. Compiled by Rudolph Villaverde.

A tribute honoring the late Mau Piailug - Hokule'a Epic Voyage Hawaii to Tahiti as recorded by the late scholar David Lewis.
Source National Geographic Oct 1976.


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