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Kon-Tiki - short history

Kon-Tiki - short history

Kon-Tiki - short history

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Early Man and the Ocean 2010
- Social significant of Ocean Voyages


6. ” Grass Roots revival of sailing culture in remote island communities as a result of the Lapita Voyage”.

Hanneke Boon / BJames Wharram, FRGS. James Wharram Designs

From November 2008 to March 2009 we sailed the ‘Lapita Voyage’ on one of two 38ft Polynesian double canoes along a route from the Philippines, through Eastern Indonesia, along the North coast of New Guinea, through the Bismarck and Solomon Islands to the small Polynesian outliers Anuta and Tikopia, where the boats were donated to the islanders so they can make longer sailing ocean voyages. (See paper given at ‘Early Man and the Ocean 2008’, as well as supplied DVD.)

During this important experimental archaeology voyage, the boats were much admired by the people we met in remote communities. We were many times approached by one of the elders (often ex-schoolteachers or people that had some other responsible role), who on seeing the boats, were enthused with the idea of getting sailing canoes for their village, as they could see how this could be of enormous benefit for their 'economy' and 'social relations'. Sailing canoes don't use petrol, which they realize is getting more and more expensive. Sailing canoes can also be a lot safer for crossing longer stretches of sea than boats relying on an outboard motor. Hence the ‘Lapita Voyage’ was of social significance to the people encountered along the sailing route.

Most of these coastal/island communities are skilled in the building of small dug-out canoes, generally no bigger than 16-18ft (4.5 – 5.5m) in length, which are paddled, but they no longer have a sailing culture, or boats large enough for safely crossing 20-50Nm of open sea.

We have worked in the field of designing sailing canoe craft for many years, but this year we are already working on a 'Fishing Boat' design for a project in Classic Boat magazine, where they are looking for small No-motor fishing boat designs under 30ft (10m), so they fall outside EU regulations.

The design we are working on is a 27ft double canoe based on the Tiparua hull design of Samoa and is a larger version of a 21ft design we did some years ago. One of these 21foot double canoes is already being built in Va'vau (Tonga) for the local community, as are several 16foot outrigger canoes. In 2007 a 28ft catamaran design of ours was built in the Maskelyn Islands of Vanuatu, for local transport. All these designs are/were built in ply and epoxy with outside financial support.

However, outside financial support is often not available and cash for buying imported materials is mostly in short supply. Hence we will be turning our design skills to using technologies that are the closest to the ones employed already, using local materials, local building methods where possible, and using the minimum of imported materials.

We will use our design knowledge and extensive studies of original Pacific canoe designs to 'improve' on the local canoe designs to make them larger (around 8 - 10m), add decking for safety and design suitable sail rigs that can be locally made for minimum cost. We will also advise on the strength of the connecting beams etc. so the boats will be safe.

The wish in remote island communities to revive sailing culture is the direct result of seeing the boats of the ‘Lapita Voyage’. It will have great social significance as has already been observed in Anuta where the islanders are now able to independently voyage on their own double canoe to other islands to visit relatives, take sick people to hospital or collect materials for their school.

Using sailing canoes instead of the now ubiquitous fibreglass ‘banana boats’ and outboard motors, which are often too expensive to run with rising oil prices, will stimulate exchange and trading between the more remote villages and will revive a sailing culture, which in some places has only recently be