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Team to paddle from Taiwan to Japan in wooden dugout canoe

Researchers to paddle from Taiwan to Japan in dugout canoe to test ancient migration theory

Team to paddle from Taiwan to Japan in wooden dugout canoe

(CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- After failing to reach Japan on bamboo rafts last year, researchers behind a Taiwan-Japan project to explore a sea route between Taiwan and Okinawa that may have been traveled 30,000 years ago, will try a sturdier, dugout canoe, reported CNA.

This year, researchers will try to paddle a dugout canoe across the Kuroshio Current from Wushihbi in Taitung's Changbin Township to Japan's Yonaguni Island.

Since 2017, Taiwan’s National Museum of Prehistory and Japan’s National Museum of Science have been cooperating on an experimental project to navigate boats between Taiwan and the Ryukyu Islands, Japan based on technology and materials from 30,000 years ago.

Over that period, an Amis boat builder Laway has been making bamboo rafts using traditional techniques. In 2017, an attempt was made to row the Ira I from Taitung's Dawu Township to Green Island, but it failed to cross the powerful Kuroshio Current.

In 2018, an improved version, dubbed the Ira II featured a shorter hull and lighter weight. The sailors of the raft set out from Taitung's Changbin Township on a course for Okinawa, Japan, but the raft was unable to withstand big ocean waves and the bamboo was vulnerable to damage and seepage.

This time, the team decided to use a dugout canoe for the voyage instead. The construction of the boat is based on traditional Amis canoe building techniques, but due to difficulty harvesting wood along the coast of Taiwan, Japanese cedar was selected.

The boat was constructed in Japan with the use of reconstructions of Paleolithic tools.

Team to paddle from Taiwan to Japan in wooden dugout canoe
Men carrying the canoe. (CNA photo)

The hull is 7.6 meters long, 0.7 meters wide, and 0.6 meters high. The canoe can hold five passengers and weighs about 350 kilograms.

Sea trials of the boat so far held in Tokyo Bay have shown that although the canoe is not as stable as the bamboo rafts, it travels about 1.5 times as fast.

The canoe was shipped from Japan to Taiwan in early May, and on Saturday (May 25), the boat, along with replicas of Paleolithic tools, were on display for the public to see. The boat was then transported to Wushihbi in preparation for sea trials on Sunday (May 26).

Ten days of sea trials are planned to begin on Tuesday (May 28). The vessel is expected to officially set sail from Wushihbi for Yonaguni sometime between June 24 and July 13.

If the boat does not deviate greatly from its charted course, it is estimated that it will take 1.6 to 2.8 days to cover the 205 kilometers needed to reach Yonaguni. Modern technology such as compasses, clocks, and smartphones will not be used to aid the navigation of the canoe.

Sailors will use natural elements such as the stars and wind direction to navigate the canoe.