Brave explorers depart for Easter Island

Intrepid voyagers farewell friends and family before departure in Auckland's Viaduct Basin.
Intrepid voyagers farewell friends and family before departure in Auckland's Viaduct Basin.

If you thought that the advent of modern navigation systems has meant the end of the age of real explorers, you are wrong. Two waka hourua (catamaran sailing canoes), carrying 24 brave souls, departed Auckland's Viaduct Basin today, bound for Easter Island. On their 10,000 nautical mile (18,520km) return trip they will use only the sun, moon, stars, ocean currents, birds and marine life to guide them.

The two wakas, named Te Aurere and Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti, were both built over the last 20 years by expedition leader and renowned navigator, 80 year old Hekenukumai "Hector" Busby (MBE). They have no cabins or homely comforts onboard, although to comply with New Zealand marine safety requirements they have been fitted with certain emergency equipment such as life-rafts and EPIRBs (emergency position indicating radio beacons).

The waka hourua were lead out by a war canoe after a full Maori send off, complete with performances by a local Kapa haka group, and were farewelled on the Waitemata Harbour by three NZ Navy RIBs, a Coastal Patrol vessel and two Chico 40's.

It is expected that the trip to take 10 weeks each direction, with stopovers planned at Raivavae and Mangareva in French Polynesia on the outward journey and at Tahiti and Rarotonga on their return.

New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute Director, Karl Johnstone says the voyage, named Waka Tapu (sacred canoe), aims to close the final corner of the Polynesian Triangle, a triange between Hawaii in the north, New Zealand in the south and Easter Island to the east.

Chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa, Sir Tumu to Heuheu, will act as patron for the voyage and said "This journey will be an immense source of pride for all New Zealanders and indeed all people who are connected by the Pacific Ocean."

Boating NZ