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Epic Waka Journey Across Pacific Ocean Now Underway

Epic Waka Journey Across Pacific Ocean Now Underway

AUCKLAND, Saturday 18 August 2012: Twenty fearless sailors received a spectacular send off on Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour yesterday, surrounded by a flotilla of Navy vessels and traditional waka as they set off on an extreme ocean adventure.

The Waka Tapu crew members will spend the next six to eight weeks battling huge ocean swells aboard two traditional waka hourua (double-hulled sailing canoes) as they sail towards Rapanui (Easter Island).

The 10,000 nautical mile trip will be made using no GPS or modern navigational equipment. Instead the crews will use the stars, moon, sun, ocean currents, birds and marine life to guide them across the Pacific Ocean to their destination.

Hundreds of well-wishers, politicians and other dignitaries attended the departure ceremony at Auckland’s Viaduct Events Centre. An impressive flotilla including Royal New Zealand navy vessels, traditional waka and waka tete then guided the crews to the harbour’s entrance at 11:30am.

Patron of the Waka Tapu expedition, Sir Tumu Te Heuheu (paramount chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa), told those assembled the voyage will foster unity and be a source of immense pride for all New Zealanders.

“In the world today where relationships are so often fragile, this initiative brings people together to acknowledge our common past and to create a foundation for the generations to come.

“These waka are not only navigating the Pacific, they are taking us all on a journey – a journey which is yet to reveal itself. Kauapapa like Waka Tapu define who we are as individuals, as iwi and as a nation.”

This significant voyage has been 20 years in the making and is designed to retrace and revitalise the steps taken by Māori who first traveled across the Pacific to make their home in New Zealand. It also aims to close the final corner of the Polynesian Triangle defined by Hawaii in the North, New Zealand in the South and Rapanui in the East.
Rapanui is a special territory of Chile and the expedition has also captured the attention of Chilean government officials, academics and anthropologists. Chilean Ambassador to New Zealand, Isauro Torres, was among the dignitaries who attended the departure.
Waka Tapu organiser and New Zealand Māori Arts & Crafts Institute (NZMACI) director, Karl Johnstone, says the two crews range in age from 18 to 62 and descend from a number of iwi around New Zealand.

They have all undertaken a rigorous training schedule over the past five months, including advanced first aid, emergency drills and fire drills to ensure they are as prepared as possible to sail both waka up to 100 nautical miles each day.

“Each crew member has been chosen for their specific skill set, knowledge of navigation and level of waka experience. For some, this will be the culmination of a life’s work. For others, it’s the beginning of a lifetime passion for navigation and waka generally,” Johnstone says.

“It was incredibly moving to see the waka set sail, knowing how much time and effort has gone into reaching this point. We will all be with them in spirit as they undertake this amazing journey.”

Waka Tapu is being organised by the NZMACI in partnership with Te Taitokerau Tārai Waka. The expedition will be headed by renowned navigators Hekenukumai “Hector” Busby (MBE) and Jack Thatcher who specialise in using traditional navigation techniques. Hector also personally built both double-hulled sailing canoes.

The crew is due to reach Rapanui in October, and the public can track progress over the coming weeks by visiting the Waka Tapu website www.wakatapu.co.nz.

About New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute
The New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute was formally established in 1963. It is a self-funded charitable entity legislated under the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute Act (1963) with a mandate to protect, promote and perpetuate Māori cultural heritage.

NZMACI operates Te Wānanga Whakairo Rākau o Aotearoa (the National Wood Carving School), Te Rito (the National Weaving School), and Te Takapū o Rotowhio (the National Bone, Stone and Greenstone Carving School) and will be opening a fourth wānanga in Doubtless Bay, Northland – Te Wānanga-a-Kupe Mai Tawhiti – later this year. Te Wānanga a Kupe will teach all aspects of kaupapa waka including waka building and non-instrument navigation.

NZMACI also trades as Te Puia, New Zealand’s preeminent visitor experience and cultural centre in Rotorua. For more information go to www.tepuia.com.

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