Marshall Island Stick Charts

Kate Wiles explores a unique nautical chart, designed to be understood only by its creator.

Each map is unique and was used and understood only by its maker. On this map, islands and atolls are represented with seashells; the straight sticks (made of coconut fibre) show currents and waves around them; and the curved sticks represent ocean swells. Stick charts were first introduced to western audiences in the 19th century and satellite technology has recently validated the accuracy of the Marshall Islanders’ understanding of the sea. Efforts are currently being made to revive traditional navigation techniques in the Marshall Islands.