The Great Canoes in the Sky - Starlore and Astronomy of the South Pacific

by Stephen Robert Chadwick
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Stephen Robert Chadwick The Great Canoes in the Sky - Starlore and Astronomy of the South Pacific
Stephen Robert Chadwick - The Great Canoes in the Sky - Starlore and Astronomy of the South Pacific

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Presenting spectacular photographs of astronomical objects of the southern sky, all taken by author Stephen Chadwick, this book explores what peoples of the South Pacific see when they look up at the heavens and what they have done with this knowledge. From wives killing brothers to emus rising out of the desert and great canoes in the sky, this book offers the perfect blend of science, tradition and mythology to bring to life the most famous sights in the heavens above the southern hemisphere. The authors place this starlore in the context of contemporary understandings of astronomy. The night sky of southern societies is as rich in culture as it is in stars. Stories, myths and legends based on constellations, heavenly bodies and other night sky phenomena have played a fundamental role in shaping the culture of pre-modern civilizations throughout the world.  Such starlore continues to influence societies throughout the Pacific to this day, with cultures throughout the region – from Australia and New Zealand in the south to New Guinea and Micronesia in the north - using traditional cosmology as a means of interpreting various aspects of everyday life.


Stephen Robert Chadwick
Martin Paviour-Smith

Further information

Illustrations Note:
80 schwarz-weiße und 60 farbige Abbildungen, Bibliographie

Relates the starlore of the various indigenous cultures of the South Pacific, which has not previously been examined in a science book

Combines an anthropological approach with observations drawn from modern science and philosophical discourse about astrophotography

Includes many new astrophotographs by renowned astrophotographer Stephen Chadwick specifically taken to complement the starlore and astronomy discussed

Media Type:
Springer International Publishing
Biography Artist:

Martin Paviour-Smith is a lecturer in linguistics at Massey University, New Zealand, with a speciality in language and culture in the South Pacific. He has worked and lived with indigenous peoples of the region describing the language and collecting stories and traditions from various cultures. He has a longstanding interest in the stars, particularly in what cultures do with their knowledge of the sky above them. He has published widely in the fields of socio- and applied linguisitics, and in cultural studies.

Stephen Chadwick lectures in astronomy and the philosophy of science at Massey University, New Zealand. He is also an astro-photographer and in 2013 co-authored the Springer-published book Imaging the Southern Sky, which contained over 150 of his astronomical images. His images have also appeared in scholarly scientific journals worldwide (including Keele University’s Magellanic Clouds Newsletter and the Journal of the RASNZ) as well as popular astronomy magazines such as Sky & Telescope, Astronomy, the BBC’s Sky at Night magazine, Astronomy Now, and The Observatory. They have also appeared on the BBC and NZ television, as well as in national and international newspapers.

"This book presents an unusual juxtaposition of modern science-based astronomy and the star lore passed on orally through multiple generations of South Pacific and Australian Indigenous peoples. ... the unusual and original combination of astronomy and anthropology makes for interesting, informative, and entertaining reading." (Richard Dodd, The Observatory, February, 2018)

"This book is a significant step in the recovery of a very important astronomical knowledge and tradition of a past civilization, that of the variety of the populations that colonized the Pacific Ocean. ... The book is packed with many beautiful illustrations, pictures, photos, and maps which help the understanding of the text and are also pleasing to the eye, and it fits the needs of the interested general readers, as well as those of the professionals in the field." (Alberto Vecchiato,, July 2017)

"The star lore and constellations of the Pacific are introduced in a very organized fashion. ... It is interesting to both read about the canoes as constellations, who and why is said to maybe be travelling by them, etc. ... It's a fascinating book where the different layers of what one can think, and know about the night sky are presented at about the same level, not making one side of it more prevalent than the other." (, January, 2017)

Number of Pages:

Master Data

Product Type:
Hardback book
Release date:
7 January 2016
Package Dimensions:
0.285 x 0.214 x 0.018 m; 0.894 kg
Manufacturer Part Number:
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