Waka Tapu crews make first stop

SIMON DAY
Last updated 21:38 03/10/2012

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After five weeks and 2200 nautical miles the crews of two waka have set foot on land for the first time since leaving Auckland.

The Waka Tapu expedition arrived in Tubuai, one of the Austral Islands in French Polynesia after 43 days at sea, for their first stopover en route to Rapanui (Easter Island).

"We are being well looked after. Fed well, resting and gathering our thoughts," said Stanley Conrad, the Captain of one waka.

The waka have been navigating only by stars, moon, sun and ocean currents, catching much of their own food themselves.

"Everyone is in good health and has been enjoying the experience. The fishing has been excellent - lots of albacore tuna caught," said Karl Johnstone, director of New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute.

The two traditional double hulled waka are exploring the historic navigation routes of the Polynesian ancestors of the first Maori who travelled to New Zealand.

Conditions had not always been favourable. Long periods of light winds have given way to storms and extreme swells in recent weeks. One waka was hit by a freak wave that washed its equipment overboard.

Pods of humpback whales and grey nurse sharks have been spotted, and the two waka came within ten miles of the 189m container ship Acquilla. But the journey has otherwise been solitary.

The next stop is the Mangareva in French Polynesia.

"We'll take a few days to prepare our Waka and will also monitor weather for best departure time," Conrad said.

The crew is due to complete their 10,000 nautical mile journey to Rapanui in late October or November.

Progress can be tracked via the Waka Tapu website www.wakatapu.com.

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