Stefan Helmreich is Professor of Anthropology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of
Wave Navigation, Sea of Islands
This short interstitial chapter examines the practice of Marshallese wave piloting, a tradition of ocean navigation that uses emplaced readings of sea wave diffraction patterns, mapped on “stick charts” and sensed from voyaging canoes, to travel around what Epeli Hau'ofa has called the “Sea of Islands” in the Western Pacific. The chapter also examines how European and American scientists have sought to place computational wave models in dialogue with Marshallese wave navigation. It reads these attempts through postcolonial and decolonial discussions of Indigenous wave piloting in Oceania, attending along the way to how these practices are staged against the legacies of US and French nuclear colonialism in the region.