Back to the future

WHEN the traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe, Hokule’a, completed the first round-the-world trip by such a vessel, ocean explorers and advocates across the Pacific celebrated more than just its homecoming to Hawaii on June 17.

The Hokule’a took three years to journey around the globe, its crew navigating without modern instruments, using only the stars, wind and ocean swells as guides. They used the same techniques that brought the first Polynesian settlers to Hawaii hundreds of years ago.

Thousands celebrated the Hokule’a’s homecoming on Honolulu’s Magic Island peninsula with pomp and fanfare as it arrived on its last leg from Tahiti accompanied by a flotilla of vessels, including its support canoe, Hikianalia and a new cargo canoe built for the Marshall Islands, Okeanos Marshall. Built in the 1970s and having first sailed in 1976 from Hawaii to Tahiti to prove Polynesians were great explorers and navigators, not drifters as some historians suggest. it travelled around 74,000km reaching 85 ports and 23 nations on this latest trip, known as the Malama Honua By Ilaitia Turagabeci

Back to the future voyage, meaning “to care for our Island Earth”

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Back to the future

How traditional Pacific navigators proved Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon Tiki theory wrong

UNDER the gaze of the night stars, Tua Pittman comes alive with the spirit of his ancestors and navigates across the vast space of ocean that he calls home. It is a journey that is as ancient as it is from the future.

With the bright clear four stars called Hanaiakamalama – shaped as a cross and sometimes kite above him as his guide – the Cook Islander steers the vaka moana using his points of reference in the heavens. His bearing is New Caledonia. Guadalcanal fell far behind him as the Marumaru Atua, one of seven modern ocean-going canoes built in New Zealand in 2009, climbs, creaks, and dips in the ocean swell on this 2012 voyage.

Like his forebears who used celestial navigation to guide their ocean canoes from Tahiti westwards to the Cooks and Tonga and eventually south to New Zealand, he pays attention to the direction of the wind and the wave patterns to determine the direction the bow should point.

Tua believes Pacific Islanders used their traditional knowledge to travel from island to island and may have inhibited the Americas and not otherwise as preached by 19th century theorists. Chief among them was Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl who rejected the West-to-East migration, which Maori scholar Te Rangi Hiroa, known better as Sir Peter Buck, proved by tracing oral traditions of voyaging in the Pacific.

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