Waka to set sail to Rapanui today!
Sacred Waka to Undertake 10,000 Nautical Miles Using the Stars, Moon and Sun
A group of intrepid New Zealanders will soon undertake a perilous journey across the Pacific Ocean in traditional waka hourua (double-hulled sailing canoes), using only the stars, moon, sun, ocean currents, birds and marine life to guide them.
Two waka hourua carrying up to 24 crew will depart Auckland on the 17th August this year bound for Rapanui (Easter Island). The journey will see them sail a return trip of 10,000 nautical miles without GPS or modern navigational tools in a bid to retrace and revitalise the steps of their ancestors.
This epic journey has been 20 years in the making and is attracting global academic, scientific and media attention.
This historically-significant expedition, named Waka Tapu (sacred canoe), is being organised by the New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute in partnership with Te Taitokerau Tārai Waka. The official launch will take place at Te Puia in Rotorua this Thursday 17 May with dignitaries, key crew members and supporters of the project.
New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute Director, Karl Johnstone, says the voyage aims to close the final corner of the Polynesian Triangle, a triangle defined by Hawaii in the North, New Zealand in the South and Rapanui in the East. “While this voyage will close one chapter of our history, it also enables new chapters to be written and old knowledge to be re-learnt.”
“While some historians believe the ancestors of Maori discovered this country by accident, there’s no doubt their voyages to and from New Zealand were deliberate and planned; the Pacific Ocean was a highway, not a barrier as many of us see it today,” Johnstone says. “They compiled star maps, traded knowledge, studied the flight path of birds, the migration patterns of whales, and used tidal movements and other environmental indicators to reach their destination safely and accurately. And that’s what we will emulate.”
The expedition will be headed by renowned Northland navigator and canoe builder Hekenukumai “Hector” Busby (MBE) who will turn 80 this year. Hector, a revered exponent of waka traditions internationally, built both of the double-hulled sailing canoes. He built the principal waka, Te Aurere, in the early 1990s after being inspired by the arrival of the Hōkūle’a, a Hawaiian canoe which voyaged to Aotearoa in 1985. Johnstone says the journey will show the world the importance of retaining, teaching and passing on to future generations all aspects of open-ocean voyaging including non-instrument navigation and environmental knowledge.
Te Aurere has now sailed over 30,000 nautical miles, visiting Hawaii, French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, New Caledonia, and Norfolk Island.
Busby’s second waka, Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti, sailed her maiden voyage in 2011. She was built to support Te Aurere with a view to ‘closing the Polynesian Triangle’ by completing the journey eastward to Rapanui (Easter Island). The voyage will reinforce the knowledge he has built up over the past 25 years so it can be passed on to aspiring voyagers throughout the Pacific.
There are no cabins or mod-cons on board the waka and the quest of finding a small island within such an expansive ocean is nothing short of challenging. The voyage to Rapanui is likely to take up to 10 weeks each way, with stop overs planned on the way up, in Raivavae and Mangareva and on the return trip in Tahiti and Raratonga. The crew will travel 100 miles per day on average.
Before the waka hourua depart, Te Aurere will be consecrated to recognise the cultural and spiritual significance of the voyage. The waka will be made tapu (sacred) and a stringent set of cultural restrictions put in place for the journey to Rapanui. The paramount chief of Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Sir Tumu te Heuheu, will act as patron for the voyage. “This journey will be an immense source of pride for all New Zealanders and indeed all people who are connected by the Pacific Ocean,” he says.
Specific Waka Tapu teaching resources will be distributed to all primary and intermediate schools in New Zealand, linking ancient maritime navigational skills to every day modern life. Resources will be available from late July.
The New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute was formally established in 1963. It is a self-funded charitable entity legislated under the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute Act (1963) with a mandate to protect, promote and perpetuate Māori cultural heritage.
NZMACI operates Te Wānanga Whakairo Rākau o Aotearoa (the National Wood Carving School), Te Rito (the National Weaving School), and Te Takapū o Rotowhio (the National Bone, Stone and Greenstone Carving School) and will be opening a fourth wānanga in Doubtless Bay, Northland – Te Wānanga-a-Kupe Mai Tawhiti – later this year. Te Wānanga a Kupe will teach all aspects of kaupapa waka including waka building and non-instrument navigation.
NZMACI also trades as Te Puia, New Zealand’s preeminent visitor experience and cultural centre in Rotorua. For more information go to www.tepuia.com.
Important Waka Tapu dates:
- Waka Tapu official launch announcement: Thursday 17May 2012
- Departure from Auckland Wharf: 17 August 2012
- Arrival back in New Zealand: April 2013 (following layover to allow cyclone
- season to pass in either French Polynesia or Cook Islands)
Track the waka journey online, by following their journey here!
For further information or images:
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