The other day TT Publisher James O’Reilly received an email from TT friend and contributor George Wright, regarding Laurie McAndish King’s Editors’ Choice story in which she wrote: “They say the Polynesians navigated by squatting low between the two hulls of their ocean-faring canoes, testicles dangling into the water. The combination of ultra-sensitive skin, keen attention to the subtleties of ocean swells, and nautical lore handed down from father to son enabled these ancient tribes to explore the uncharted waters of the South Pacific, and eventually to locate and populate the thousands of tiny islands there.”
Dear James, I tried testing my testes for sensitivity—I have a hose in the bathtub, squirted a stream of cold water on them, didn’t feel the cold so strongly, but when the same water hit my lower leg, I almost jumped in reaction. Maybe because the testes are covered they become less sensitive. I remember reading about Europeans in Africa, people there in amazement that an ant could walk up a European leg and the European could barely feel it. I am assuming it was you who had the piece about the Polynesian seafarers dragging their testes in the water to get information about wind weather and fish. George
Laurie McAndish King replies:
My understanding of the methodology for ancient Polynesian navigation was that the sensitivity of the navigators’ testicles allowed them to detect minute changes in temperature and pressure caused by variations in currents. This, in combination with an intimate understanding of oceanogeography (the relationships of ocean currents and land masses), informed the navigation.
I would suggest that the theoretical fundamentals might best be tested not with a hose of cold water in a bathtub, but rather in an environment that more closely resembles the actual conditions, in situ. Therefore, I recommend that future experiments be conducted by a nude researcher in a large body of water—preferably a lake, but at the very least an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
However, since I don’t personally possess the proper equipment to test the testes theory, I must rely on your intrepid readers for the further research necessary to clear up any confusion.
Perhaps George will get to the bottom of this yet.