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I'm trying to find a video that shows how meddos/stick charts were constructed and used.  Or even a written explanation that a non-sailor can understand.  Any ideas?  I watched the video linked on the Wikipedia entry, but it doesn't explain how to read a stick chart in a way I can understand (yes, I understand the reflection/refraction of waves when they hit an island, but not how that is illustrated  by a chart that has no distance measure).  Also, since I'm here anyway, what's the best book you know of regarding 1) ship construction in the era of sail, and 2) seamanship on a sail-driven vessel, particularly those between the Viking era, and Spanish Armada.  Thank you, BrainTrust!

A stick chart or meddo is a type of nautical chart used in the Marshall Islands and other parts of Micronesia . The nautical chart was composed of thin bamboo sticks bound together with bark fibre. Long and short sticks represented swells, sea currents and waves, while islands were indicated by shells or the coconut fiber knots.
The art of navigation was indispensable on every sea voyage. The knowledge of this was a closely guarded secret passed on only within certain leadership families and was the result of a thorough observation of marine phenomena. What happens to sea swells when land is nearby? How do two sea currents react to each other in the vicinity of an island? Other elements that were taken into account were, for example, light refraction and reflection on the water surface, shadow formation and wave behaviour. The men who mastered the art of navigation therefore had a lot of prestige and a high status.
Sea charts from the Marshall Islands were not used as western charts, but rather served as mnemonics. Before embarking on a sea voyage, sailors memorized all the swells, ocean currents, and islands depicted on the charts. Since a meddo type map places the islands as they should be seen facing the ocean currents, the map does not take into account the actual distance between the islands. Maps were made when the need arose and could only be understood by the creator. Even experienced sailors could do nothing with the map without explanation from the maker.
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2 hours ago, railfancwb said:

This might lead to some relevance…


OMG, I forgot about that - Read Heyerdahl's book when I was in junior high?   high school?  I don't remember if he talks about historical navigation techniques or not.  I'll have to find it and re-read it.

3 hours ago, Historian said:

Adding to your list of post apocalyptic skills?

Not intentionally this time.  Well, except that learning to sail is on my list of cool things to learn to do (let's not talk about the number of times I flipped the Laser sailing at camp), and getting to spend a week sailing on a tall ship is on my bucket list... my excuse is if I ever write an adventure novel, I don't want to  make mistakes that will throw readers who sail out of the story the way firearms mistakes in books throw me right out  (and often make the book get thrown across the room).  I just came across the meddo in my Tall Ships group, and thought it fascinating, but couldn't find any more info anywhere besides the Wikipedia article and its links didn't answer my questions.

6 hours ago, railfancwb said:

You might want to check out some of C S Forester’s books. He is probably most famous for the Horatio Hornblower novels or maybe African Queen. He also wrote non-fiction such as “The Age of Fighting Sail”

My husband has all the Hornblower books - so I'm going to liberate those.  I didn't know Forester also wrote non-fiction - the Age of Fighting Sail sounds like just the thing.


Thanks everyone!

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