Stick Chart

Stick Chart

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Stick charts, used for the teaching of navigation skills, are unique to the Marshall Islands. They explain about wave and current patterns around the Marshalls atolls. According to researcher Carol Curtis: “They were not taken to sea, but memorized and were meaningless without the knowledge in the heads of their master navigator instructors.

“Traditionally, the charts were made by men from thin strips of coconut frond midribs or pandanus root. They were then bound together with coconut sennit in geometric patterns depicting sea currents around the low lying atolls. Small money cowrie shells or coral pebbles indicate special islands and the curved sticks show wave patterns.”

There are three kinds of stick charts: The rebbelib is a general wave navigational chart and can cover all of the Marshall Islands; the medo covers only a few islands and is useful for specific voyages; and the mattang or wappepe, a small, square shaped teaching chart that identifies wave patterns formed around a single island.

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