The Polynesians are known as navigators who crossed the ocean in primitive canoes in search of new islands, and, most incredible of all, successfully found new places. The mysterious fires of “Te Lapa” helped them in this.
Te Lapa are mysterious fires, the appearance of which baffles science. Scientists have not been able to establish how this Polynesian “compass” appears. And although there are many theories, all of them are not able to explain this phenomenon. It is possible that it will never be able to be explained, according to Ancient Origins.
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It’s hard to explain the phenomenon
Polynesians have long been talking about a mysterious phenomenon that helped their ancestors find new islands – Te Lapa, from the translation “flickering light”. This term refers to the light reflected from the surface of the ocean and following which leads to new islands. Ancient Polynesian sailors used it as a convenient way to navigate, but modern scientists cannot explain its nature.
This phenomenon first became known in 1972, when David Lewis described it in the book We the Mariners. Before that, science had no problem explaining all the ways of ocean navigation, but the lights of Te Lapa turned out to be a real puzzle. Before the publication of the book, it was believed that the Polynesians had no way of navigating, but merely drifted across the ocean, accidentally bumping into islands.
Scientists at the time were unable to explain the causes of the Te Lapa lights and later, in 1993, Marianne George traveled with Lewis to investigate the phenomenon.
Ancient Polynesian sailors used it as a convenient way to navigate, but modern scientists cannot explain its nature.
From: Wikimedia Commons
On the islands, they met with Te Aliki Kavea, the leader of the island of Taumako and at the same time an experienced navigator. He helped the researcher to see this phenomenon more than once and told about it in more detail.
Canoeing across the ocean
Marianne George described the lights of Te Lapa as a natural phenomenon that causes a glow on the water. With it, it was indeed possible to navigate the ocean, albeit with some limitations: as Kaveya noted, the maximum distance from which Te Lapa can be seen is about 190 kilometers, although it is better to use the lights from a distance of 160 kilometers.
The researchers describe this phenomenon as a linear light appearing on the horizon and is best seen at night. Lewis, who also saw the lights, described them as “streaks”, “flickers”, “flashes”, “arrows”, or “flares”. He also noticed that the closer to the shore, the more flickering.
According to Kavea, the maximum distance from which Te Lapa can be seen is about 190 kilometers, although it is best to use the lights from a distance of 160 kilometers.
From: Wikimedia Commons
However, this does not explain the source of the light: George, who often sailed, ruled out a whole list of possible phenomena that could be the source of Te Lapa lights: St. Elmo’s lights, comets, celestial bodies, mirages, rainbows, auroras and ball lightning.
Science at a dead end
If it were, scientists don’t think the lights of Te Lapa are impossible to explain. In their opinion, the reason for the incomprehensibility is that this is a poorly studied and undocumented phenomenon, which makes it difficult to study. Be that as it may, the oral traditions of the Polynesians prove the existence of these lights. On different islands there are different terms for this phenomenon – on the island of Nikunau they are called “Te Mata” (“Glory of the Seas”), and on the island of Tonga “Te Tapa” (“Explosion of Light”).
Polynesian navigators were long before the first European travelers: they conquered the Pacific Ocean in their primitive canoes, overcoming great distances. The way they have succeeded leaves science baffled and proves that even with modern capabilities it is far from omnipotent.
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