Waka to retrace Maori history

Stars guide journey across the Pacific

SIMON DAY
Last updated 15:09 17/08/2012
LYLE MCMAHON

A ceremony was held at Auckland's waterfront to farewell two waka retracing historical Maori migration routes.

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A favourable westerly wind propelled two dual hulled waka on their way from Auckland to Rapanui (Easter Island) today on a 10,000 nautical mile voyage retracing historical Polynesian migratory routes.

The waka, crewed by 18 men and five women, were escorted into the Waitemata Harbour by a flotilla of navy ships and waka taua (war canoes).

Head navigator Jack Thatcher said the conditions were perfect for sailing.

"We like to sail at six knots, which is up to 150 miles a day. And it looks like we are going to have those conditions so we should be off to a kicker."

Thatcher will navigate the entire journey using only the sun, moon and stars.

The trip to the eastern corner of Polynesia completes the exploration of the Polynesian triangle, made up of Hawaii, New Zealand and Rapanui.

Chris Tremain, the Associate Minister of Tourism, said the voyage was an opportunity to promote New Zealand's culture and the tourism industry.

"I am honoured to be able to help and promote a greater understanding of our culture and heritage thorough this unique event," he said.

"Maori tourism is integral to making tourism become New Zealand's second biggest export earner."

Rapanui is a special territory of Chile and the voyage has attracted the attention of the Chilean government which hopes to share education and language programmes of Maori with the indigenous people of South America.

"The voyage is about strengthening relationships throughout the pacific ocean," said Karl Johnston, director of New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute.

"It is a nation building exercise that can traverse cultures and will create pride in all New Zealanders."

The journey should take up to eight weeks. But Thatcher, one of only three master celestial navigators in New Zealand, admitted it can sometimes be hard to find your way.

"I got lost once, when we were sailing back from Hawaii. We are not professing to be as good as our ancestors."

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- Auckland Now

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