Many times over the years I have asked myself the following question and I’ll bet you have too:
“How in the heck did the ancient Polynesians manage to leave their idyllic villages and navigate their rafts thousands of miles over the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii without the benefit of modern conveniences such as Waze, Google Maps and so forth?”
You don’t have to answer, but I can assure you that you’re not alone in your puzzlement. Thousands of scholars have devoted their entire careers to researching that exact same question! And thousands of other scholars have devoted their entire careers to researching what exactly the ancient Polynesians did when they got to Hawaii. (Well maybe not thousands of scholars in each case, but quite a few, for sure.)
One popular theory maintains that they had to leave their idyllic villages and sail thousands of miles to Hawaii in order to get flu shots.
This seems highly unlikely.
But we do have a much better grip on how these people got around their neighborhood, large as it was. To navigate, they used all their senses, observing the wind, the birds, the driftwood, smelling and tasting the ocean, touching it to gauge its temperature, watching the stars and clouds, noting the interference patterns on the ocean surface. And finally, employing their senses of proprioception AND touch, they also used their testicles.
I swear on the PhD thesis of prominent testicle researcher Timothy Ratliff that I am not making this up.
I also happen to think that The Testicle Navigators would make a pretty righteous name for a band. Maybe even more righteous than The Gravity Waves which is my other idea for a righteous band name.
Anywaze, don’t take my word for it. A chap by the name of David Barrie wrote a book on navigation entitled Sextant and on page 264 in Sextant he says:
“The traditional navigators of Oceania made up for their inability to measure longitude by taking advantage of the distinctive patterns of waves and swells, which revealed to them the presence and the direction of land long before it was visible. When the horizon was obscured and its changing slant could not tell them how their boat was responding to the waves, they apparently stood with their legs apart, using the inertia of their testicles as a guide.”
I know that your minds are literally whirring at this point, but I want to stop you and point out that as far as I know, David Barrie is NOT related to humorist Dave Barry. But he (David Barrie) IS the great great nephew of Sir James Matthew Barrie, the author of Peter Pan.
If you don’t believe David Barrie, you can turn to his source David Lewis, who wrote a book called “Those Twins Were Made For Swingin’ .”
Actually, I’m lying. The title of his book is actually “We, the Navigators The Ancient Art of Landfinding in the Pacific.”
If you don’t believe Barrie or Lewis you can also turn to Harriet Witt, writing for The Whole Earth Review Fall 1991 in an article entitled “The Soft, Warm, Wet Technology of Native Oceania.”
Witt says this:
“To get a feeling for what the wayfinder is doing all this time with his testicles (ed. note: besides scratching them), it helps to understand ocean swells. These enormous formations are powered by distant storms and steady trade winds and shouldn’t be confused with surface waves which change direction as the local wind shifts. Swells march in consistent ranks across thousands of miles. The swell entertaining surfers in Honolulu is generated by winds south of New Zealand. If you can read the shape of a swell you can tell the direction and strength of the current beneath it, and this is critical because if you don’t know what the current is doing you can steer a perfect course and still get lost. The wayfinder reads the swell by sitting cross-legged and nearly naked on the bottom of his all-vegetable-matter canoe and feeling it in his testicles.”
No matter what, one thing is clear. Whether their owners sat or stood, the testicles have been playing a key role in ocean navigation for a long time-at least until the invention of Saxx.
But what about sharks? Did these well-hung navigators have any means of protecting their most personal private areas from shark attacks in the event of misreading a swell, losing their balance and tumbling overboard?
Yes they did!
Once again, Hammacher Schlemmer comes to the rescue. (Motto: Protecting Testicle Navigators From Shark Attacks For Quite A Long Time)
“Only available from Hammacher Schlemmer, this is the sharkproof stainless steel chainmail suit that has protected testicle navigators head-to-toe since approximately 100 AD. The suit’s sleeves are worn beneath the tunic to provide two layers of armor from the elbow to the upper torso while the crotch incorporates a “trap door” design that allows freedom of movement for any or all navigational aids. The tunic’s extended length and front-split bottom is worn under the pants to provide double coverage from the knees to the waist. The pants’ built-in stainless steel belt sleeve extends the entire circumference of the waist for evenly distributed weight support, allowing one to wear the suit with or without the included military-grade jockstrap. Worn under the pants, the booties secure the feet with hook-and-loop fasteners that enable quick removal for secure footing even in the thickest bed of vegetable matter including coconut husks. The hood provides protection from frigate bird droppings for the head and neck.”
I had no idea.
Well, this column is winding to a close and and so is winter (hopefully). I could finish with a string of really great testicle puns here but a guy by the name of Jesse Bering already did that in a Scientific American blog: Why do human testicles hang like that?
But listen. it’s still not too late to get your flu shot. I hear flights to Hawaii are on sale this week but even if they all sell out you could always take the raft.