Monday, November 24, 2014

The Hokule’a and the Polynesian Voyaging Society

24 November 2014

This was one of the more interesting events which we were pleased to have been able to watch and follow.

The controversial book  “1452 – the year the Chinese discovered the  world”,  described celestial navigation techniques used by Chinese, long before the discovery of the  chronometer enabled western mariners to determine longitude. Ancient Polynesian voyagers also used only the stars, currents and birds,  to navigate. They also used the deck layout on their twin hulled craft (waka)to  represent their compass. They divided the horizon into segments and knew the times that various stars rose and set in each segment. This was the key to their ability to navigate sans instruments. They are using special master mariners for each hemisphere.

Thor Heyerdahl, with his Kontiki Expedition, claimed that the Polynesian islands had been settled by people on rafts, who drifted westward from South America on the currents. This concept stuck in the craw of the Polynesian people who had their own ancient legends of how their people navigated long voyages.

Hikianalia-the support vessel with engine, solar panels and satcoms

Hokule'a under tow to Waitangi for their traditional welcome

40 years ago, the Hokule’a was built in Hawaii, recreated from ancient paintings. Manned by a crew of 16 including a Polynesian master mariner,they set sail for New Zealand to disprove the Heyerdahl assertion that Polynesians could not navigate!   
This successful voyage has now been repeated by the same Hokule’a which has just arrived, and been welcomed at Waitangi by the Maori . This time she is accompanied by another bigger waka mother ship (the Hikianalia) – one that is fully equipped with an engine, satellite communication and a team of National Geographic photographers! This time New Zealand is not the destination, but just the first leg of their” Around the world” venture.

The ceremonial Maori waka from Waitangi
Bringing the Hokule'a crew ashore

What can we say.........

The haka and welcoming challenge at the Marai

They are scheduled to visit Australia and Cape Town.  Of course, the big issue., as far as I’m concerned, is whether their ancient mariners’ return to Hawaii was via Cape Horn, or through the Panama Canal, which of course ,never existed at that point in time!

As can be seen from these photographs of their route plans….. the Panama Canal is their chosen route! Given that no vessel is permitted to transit the canal if they cannot maintain a speed of 6 knots, then a motor less  Polynesian Waka is on a hiding to nothing……… Unless the sponsors stump up big bucks to arrange a special towing exemption……., which is obviously what is going to happen!

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