Above the Pacific Ocean

Updated: Sep 10, 2019

In the blog Uranus and Neptune, I will disclose some prototype designs for demo and play testing, but first I am elaborating on more detailed information on the content concerning some quests involving Oceania and even Antarctica. The board game will have some hidden quests when visiting new continents and fulfilling a series of basic quests that could grand you new instruments with abilities. One of them is related to Antarctica and Oceania leading to unlocking the octant, an instrument of Sphen Easydive. Let us see if some smart readers can figure out what kind of animal he is. Nevertheless, some constellations and back ground stories will add some depth in the cultural settings. An example might be to get the equatorial Jian Yi from the Asian quest together with the European telescope quest to unlock a 1880 observatory with a giant brass telescope on an equatorial mount to be able to observe Uranus and Neptune while playing the Orrery module of Astronavigators. Also, some details on the Polynesian triangle will be added including Rapa Nui and Tahiti with boat vehicle links on the world map of the game. It will get more clear when I touch upon it in the blog Neptune and Uranus later this week.


Jarrah Walker by Diego Sanchez

But first I will touch upon a request on how stars could be used in the Pacific Ocean like I mentioned in the blog Stars, Orientation and Culture. I mentioned Jarrah Walker's background and the following information will be concentrated on some Hokule'a legacy, but also the story involving one of the in game quests involving Venus transit observation for the Orrery module.


The Star Map

In addition to the knowledge about waves, sea currents, birds and clouds, the Polynesian navigators learned that the knowledge about the Sun during the day and the other stars at night time was very important. The knowledge of astronavigation and recognizing weather patterns was transferred to the Polynesians from a very young age. Family members taking long boat voyages changed shifts guarding the stars, because their course needed to be watched closely in order to change direction when needed before wandering off course. A one-man journey ment sleepless nights, and was not recommended.

Because of the location of the Polynesian Triangle, especially in a region around the equator between the tropics, much use is made of stars and constellations that are on the celestial equator. As soon as one of those stars reached zenith, the navigator could know that the boat was sailing or crossing the equator. A usual voyage happened from north to south or vice versa, because the wind usually came from the East, but also because of the nature of the celestial mechanics. All the stars rise in the East, especially those on the celestial equator. The Sun has a small deviation due to the ecliptic according to the seasons. In March and September, the morning and evening Sun are more accurately indicating the East and the West. The equatorial zone was also ideal for pointing north or south using the North Pole Star and the Southern Cross. When one became clearly visible, the other would disappear as a result of the North-South movement.


Mental star map with 32 star houses 11.25° each (Hokulea.com)

Through the centuries, a detailed mental compass was deviced with which the positions of stars above the horizon were devided into 32 star houses, each 11.25° away from the following, in the 360° circle of the compass. If you knew them all by heart and you could easily recognize them in the night sky, you were ready to become an Astronavigator of the Pacific Ocean.


The rising of Betelgeuse and Rigel with the Orion's Belt stars touching the celestial equator (Stellarium)

The equatorial region with the celestial equator as a reference shows the extensive use of the constellation Orion, or its stars (with other names). With its red (super giant) star Betelgeuse (α Ori) and blue (super giant) star Rigel (β Ori), the small deviations of the compass to North or South (about +7° and -8°) can be compared with the belt stars Alnitak (ζ Ori), Alnilam (ε Ori) and Mintaka (δ Ori) on the celestial equator. As you can see on the mental compass drawing the following stars are also included: Arcturus (α Boo), Sirius (α CMa), Altair (α Aql) and Procyon (α CMi), a.o. In addition, constellations like the Big Dipper (UMa), Cassiopeia (Cas) and the Southern Cross (Cru) as a whole, were also very useful.


Captain Cook, a parallax for navigation and one for the Solar System

During his expeditions, British Captain James Cook often came into contact with the Polynesians and was also witness of the existence of their efficient canoes with their variations.

The use of the sextant illustrated. The use of a sextant is similar to that of an octant. Although a sextant can measure greater angles, octants are more elegant in huge formats. Later lunar almanacs requiring greating angles would cause the sextant to be further developed and caused the demise of the octant.(Wikipedia)

Captain James Cook and his two missions for England on a New Zealand stamp (Derek Clarke)

Cook himself made use of the octant and the sextant, and mapped the Pacific Ocean to a large extend. Like the sextant (1/6e circle), the octant (1/8th circle) is an instrument that makes use of the angle of the observer with the horizon and a star. During the day, the Sun and during the night Polaris Borealis or Australis (via Crux and Centaurus) were used in that regard. This angle or parallax is an apparent position of two places an object seems to be and varies depending on different positions. Because at the same time frame and on a different latitude, a different angle will be measured of the same objects or positions, changes made by the travelling observer occur, thus directions or positions can be tracked.

Venus transit and parallax with painting of HMS Endeavor in Tahiti-Nui (Wikipedia, artsandstars.ens-lyon.fr)


England planned a scientific expedition to the Pacific Ocean in 1766 and 1767. An astronomical experiment with the Venus transition, by comparing several observations from different distant locations on Earth, can determine the distance between Earth and Sun (the Astronomical Unit or AU) by using the parallax methode. As a result, the size of the entire Solar System could be calculated. The other mission was a secret quest to find Terra Australis, a continent which was thought to be situated in the Southern Pacific Ocean.

During the first of three voyage Captain Cook undertook, he sailed with the HMS Endeavor to observe the famous Venus transit on the 3rd of June 1769 in the north of Tahiti. The place is now known as Point Venus.


Tahiti-Nui with Point Venus (Wikipedia)

During Cooks three trips, he had a good relationship with the Polynesians, but during his third voyage an unfortunate incident happened in Hawaii. After his departure from Hawaii, leaving the native population on good terms, he had to return to the island after a northern trip to the Bering Strait, when an unfortunate misunderstanding stemmed from boat theft by the islanders, to the taking of hostages in response, ended up in rebellion and the accidental shooting on a Islander. The escalation finished in a scuffle during which James Cook and four of his men were killed. Clerke, and later during the continuing voyage Gore, has taken over the command of the expedition.


James Cook's three voyages (Encyclopaedia Britannica)

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