According to Mauri tradition, at the beginning of October 950 AD, Polynesian explorers first discovered the southern part of New Zealand. To travel so far south into the wide blue Pacific Ocean they had used the stars and other natural cues such as migrating birds, fish and other animals to find their way. One of the most prominent of the constellations they used was Mahutonga or the Southern Cross. In Mauri tradition the Southern Cross represents the anchor of an ancestral waka (a great canoe) making its way across the sky to new horizons. The rest of the canoe is formed from the Pleiades (the prow), the Hyades (the sail) and Orion's Belt (the stern). These days the Southern Cross takes pride of place on both the flag of New Zealand and the flag of Australia.

Southern Cross
The Southern Cross (Mahutonga) seen from a backpackers hostel in Queenstown, New Zealand. CREDIT: Stuart

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Saturday 18th Feb 2006 (08:29 UTC) | Permalink
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