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Updated: Oct 28, 2021


Elaborations on previously conveyed and demonstrated data was given by Kaveia several other people who took voyages. A summary list of distinct characteristics of Te Lapa and a complex diagram that has comparative value for Marshallese diagrams is given here.

General Characteristics of Te Lapa:

  1. Light coming across the surface of the sea –

  2. Visible coming straight from land (including reefs) directly to the vessel

  3. Visible from 1 n.m to 200 n.m distance from the land.

  4. Sometimes reported as seen 1 – 2M deep in the water (sic Lewis, 1972), but according to Te Aliki Kaveia this is not the main lapa – just possibly a reflection or related phenomena. Also speculated that Lewis misunderstood or had bad translation.

  5. Like the instantaneous light-line of a “flashlight” shot across space – like a bolt of light or a flash of lightening

  6. Shorter bolts from closer and longer blots from farther away

  7. Te Lapa of each island has unique appearance – some brighter, some wider, some more energetic, etc.

  8. Color is white or magnesium-like or sometimes can be slightly yellowish (nothing like the luminescence one sees in a wake)

  9. Easiest to see on dark nights and when clouds block the moon, and when vessel if moving slowly. But not always seen.

  10. Visibility or non-visibilty of Te Lapa is somehow related to swell and wave patterns.

  11. Generally a calmer sea surface allows one to see Te Lapa better, but this may refer to swell patterns – refractions and reflections – more than wave patterns, or some combination of all of them. Currents may be a factor at times.

  12. To see it stare at where you expect it to come from – or stare at various positions around the horizon methodically to see if any Te Lapa is visible coming from any position around the horizon.

  13. A spiritual element is involved in that it is sometimes explained people may only see it when they are in serious need and/or when they are balanced in themselves or connected with some spiritual element the world. But the phenomena exists regardless if any particular person sees it at any particular time.

  14. The viewer should note and consider the angle from which it comes and the known or unkown reefs or islands it may be coming from

  15. The Viewer should note and identify the unique appearance of the Te Lapa as one that one may or may not be already familiar with or that one has heard of from others.

  16. Te Lapa is visible in all oceans = not just in Polynesia

The Te Puke in this diagram below is located in that part of the ocean where accomplished navigators sail to with students so that they may see Te Lapa coming from every island in the santa Cruz Group (see white dotted lines) simultaneously. Five swells commonly observed in this area and in the Pacific in general are depicted as the long, gently curving lines from NW (north hemisphere storm swell), SW (south hemisphere storm swell), E and/or SE (south hemisphere trade swell) and NE (north hemisphere trade swell). Te Aliki Kaveia confirmed the accuracy of this sketch by M. George. 

Swell Patterns Drawing 5

Swell Patterns Drawing 5

A sea trial to this site under good viewing conditions is a high priority for future research.

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