02 November 2012

Navigating with Sea and Stars

The Hine Moana
Last week, the Hine Moana majestically sailed up to the pier, the one just near the fish market, painted sails full to the waiting crowd. The vaka, or ship, is one of seven open-ocean voyaging canoes that have seen ports from Auckland, NZ to San Francisco, USA, and is manned by a crew that has been learning for the past year how to navigate the broad Pacific Ocean using the complex calculations based on stars, currents, sea creatures, and other methods that remain a mystery to most.

When the vaka came in, it was greeted with a conch shell trumpet call and answer
... and a big sign under the Digicel cell phone company awning
This technical system is what people from all around the Pacific used hundreds of years ago to make casual trips to raid Fiji, trade with Vanuatu, or forge alliances with New Caledonia, not necessarily in those combinations. Over the years, the science had slowly been lost, and not that many years ago, there were only three people who still knew the full system. Fortunately, one agreed to pass on the knowledge, and now, several years later thanks to Pacific Voyagers, a fleet of seven vaka have successfully voyaged nearly around the entire Pacific.

The dance team of the evening, ready to perform wearing tapa and fibre belts

The performances included a friend doing the tau'olunga dance, with singers in the background. Those are real green and yellow leaves making up the green costumes.
Almost every one of the vessels in the fleet is a certain island group's vaka - Samoa, Tahiti, New Zealand, Cook Islands, Fiji, Hawaii - but the Hine Moana is simply a pan-pacific vaka because when asked if interested, no one in Tonga originally stepped up to "claim" the ship. A tragedy, but fortunately quite a few Tongans got a place on the ship, one of them who is a friend of ours. When the vaka docked, everyone pulled together a welcome ceremony, and other friends performed for the crew.
The crew lined up as it started to get dark, each with a flower garland

The vaka left this afternoon, on its way next to New Zealand, where it will be stripped, cleaned, and shipped to Central America, where it will go back in the water to sail through the Panama Canal to Germany with the rest of the fleet.

Farewell, Hine Moana

After seeing the ship off, Mark was accosted by our cat, who was in a loving mood. All he wanted to do was climb on Mark's bag (he's on there by himself) and gnaw on the straps. 

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