TWO double-hulled waka (Maori canoes) are to sail nearly 19,000 kilometres without modern navigational aids from New Zealand to Easter Island later this year, recreating Maori ancestral journeys across the Pacific.
The two waka, with no cabins or mod-cons and carrying up to 24 crew, will use only the stars, moon, sun, ocean currents, birds and marine life to guide them to Rapanui, in a bid to retrace and revitalise the steps of their ancestors.
The expedition, named Waka Tapu or sacred canoe, is being organised by the New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute and Te Taitokerau Tarai Waka and will be officially launched in Rotorua on Thursday.
The waka will leave Auckland on August 17 and the voyage is likely to take up to 10 weeks each way, with outward stops in Raivavae and Mangareva, and Tahiti and Raratonga on the return trip.
After waiting out the cyclone season, they are expected to return by April.
The expedition will be headed by Northland navigator and canoe builder Hector Busby, who turns 80 this year.
He built both waka; Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti last year, and Te Aurere, which has now sailed over 55,000km around the Pacific.
Institute director Karl Johnstone says the voyage 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.
“While some historians believe the ancestors of Maori discovered this country by accident, there’s no doubt their voyages to and from New Zealand were deliberate and planned.
“They compiled star maps, traded knowledge, studied the flight path of birds, the migration patterns of whales, and used tidal movements and other environmental indicators to reach their destination safely and accurately. And that’s what we will emulate.”