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Six-man outrigger set to sail around Pacific Rim

Arduous sixteen-month journey intended to show respect for Austronesian sailing legacy

Six-man outrigger set to sail around Pacific Rim

Six sailors - including at least one Taiwanese - hope to revive the sailing legacy of the Austronesian people by making making a grueling 16-month journey around the Pacific rim in an outrigger canoe.This bold project, planned by Japanese Captain Yoshiyuki Yamamoto and organized by a Taiwanese adventure society - the Civilization Explorer Association - will depend on the skills of crewmen from Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Tahiti. The journey is scheduled to begin this May and conclude in August 2006.
"We're calling this adventure a journey of Pacific Renaissance, as Austronesian people already had a great sailing culture several thousands of years ago," said the association's founder Chen Chin-kuo.
"Our sailing around the Pacific rim is to authenticate the distinguished sailing legacy of the Austronesian people."
Taiwan is part of the huge Austronesian-language group, which is dispersed from the island of Madagascar off the east coast of Africa all the way to the tiny, isolated Easter Island and extending to Taiwan, Vietnam, Northern Australia, New Zealand and most of the Melanesian and Polynesian islands.
Nearly 300 million people are currently living in these areas.
Captain Yamamoto, who also considers himself to be part of the Austronesian community, said the world often praised early European achievements in sailing navigation but ignored the far longer sailing history of the Austronesian people.
"This upcoming journey is also to promote an Asian perspective on the history of sea navigation," he said.
Austronesians, Yamamoto said, were capable of traveling as far as Madagascar and Easter Island, although he acknowledged that no historical archive proves they sailed on to South America.
Yamamoto claims to have Austronesian blood based on archaeological artifacts found in Kyushu, Japan and genetic analysis of prehistoric Japanese people, which have links to Austronesian culture.
The captain said the upcoming journey would also provide a good opportunity for them to review and to compare Austronesia's shipbuilding culture with those countries they are planning to visit.
Austronesian societies across Southeast Asia and Oceania had all modified the design of the outrigger canoe over time to meet the differing environments of various regions.
"The ancestors of Austronesian peoples might have first taken a canoe from Taiwan or Japan, then sailed south to Southeast Asia. They improved the boat's design by adding the floater extended from the hull, which allowed them to sail longer distances," Yamamoto said.
The crew will follow a complicated route around the Pacific rim, setting off from Indonesia, then going to the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tahiti, Easter Island and then on to Lima, Peru - the most dangerous leg of the journey.
They will then navigate north up the South American and North American coasts to Los Angeles, before heading to Hawaii on the way to Tuvalu and back to Indonesia.
From there, the crew is to sail an Asian circuit that will take them to Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan before concluding the journey in Japan.
Planners had originally wanted to launch the trip from Taiwan, as some anthropologists believe the island is the birthplace of Austronesia.
Sulawesi Island in Indonesia was only later slated as the starting point in part due to diplomatic difficulties, but primarily because the outrigger canoe was built there.
The wooden outrigger canoe, with a 17-meter long and 1.8-meter wide hull, will be carved with a pattern traditionally seen on the boats used by Taiwan's Tao aborigines of Orchid Island, who also have a long sailing tradition.


Updated : 2021-10-28 05:38 GMT+08:00