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Following moved for Wednesday PMs and is now available for AMs TODAY’S TOPIC: Voyagers Hope

July 17, 1985

Following moved for Wednesday PMs and is now available for AMs TODAY’S TOPIC: Voyagers Hope To Retrace Path of Polynesian Migration

HONOLULU (AP) _ Navigating the Pacific aided only by the stars and the motion of the sea, a group of voyagers hopes to bolster claims Polynesians were sophisticated seafarers centuries before the arrival of Westerners.

Aboard a 60-foot, double-hulled Polynesian sailing canoe named ″Hokule’a,″ the group plans to retrace major migration routes believed to have been used to populate the Pacific from Southeast Asia.

″The big picture really is to awaken Polynesians’ pride in their ancestors and themselves,″ said Myron Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society. ″This will give us an insight into how it may have been done way back when.″

The Hokule’a, using star navigation, has sailed to Tahiti and back, a distance of about 12,000 miles, twice before - in 1976 and 1980.

Now the group plans to sail the vessel to Tahiti, the Cook Islands, New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, Raiatea and the Marquesas before returning to Hawaii. Relying on rotating 12-member crews, organizers hope the vessel can cover nearly 16,000 miles of open ocean over a 27-month period.

″It was a canoe that took us to the far reaches of the Polynesian triangle,″ said Gordon Piianaia, who will serve as captain for part of the trip. ″Hopefully the Hokule’a can now help bring the Polynesians and other Pacific islanders closer together culturally.″

After weeks of delay caused by equipment problems aboard its escort ship Dorcas, the Hokule’a set sail from the tiny Hawaii Island village of Milolii on July 10. The Dorcas is to travel behind the Hokule’a during the journey in order to avoid giving it navigational cues.

The most widely accepted migration theory is that the Pacific was populated through an eastward movement of people from Southeast Asia to Western Polynesia at about 1000 B.C., or about 500 years before the Golden Age of Greece. Western Polynesia is composed of Fiji, Tonga and Samoa.

Archaeological evidence indicates the migration then proceeded to Tahiti, the Tuamotus, the Cook Islands and the Marquesas, or Eastern Polynesia, at about the time of Christ.

The heyday of Polynesian voyaging is believed to have occurred after that, with Hawaii to the north, New Zealand to the south and Easter Island to the east settled by 1000 A.D. A less accepted theory holds the islands were populated by peoples of South America.

Capt. James Cook was among the first Westerners to sail extensively throughout the Pacific. When he arrived in Hawaii in 1778, he noted the language was similar to the language he had heard in other areas of the Pacific.

″How shall we account for this nation having spread itself to so many detached islands so widely disjoined from each other in every quarter of the Pacific?″ Cook wrote. ″It is by far the most extensive nation on Earth.″

The veteran navigator aboard the Hokule’a is Mau Piailug, 54, a Micronesian who helped navigate the canoe to Tahiti and back on its two previous journeys. During the current voyage, he will train others in navigation.

The waves beneath the vessel, he said, are as important as the stars in determining the vessel’s direction. ″The stars can’t be seen all the time,″ he said. ″But the waves are always there. The waves never change.″

Piailug said he learned navigation from his father and grandfather. He now lives on the island of Satawal in the Federated States of Micronesia.

Earlier this year, Thompson, Piianaia and others travelled to Tahiti, the Cook Islands and New Zealand to discuss with government officials and representatives of native groups details of the canoe’s visit.

″They are tremendously excited about the canoe’s coming,″ Thompson said. ″There is great respect among southern Polynesians for Hawaiians trying to find out more about their ancient seafaring heritage.″

″We discussed such things as where the canoe will land, in order to conform with oral histories of individual islands,″ Thompson said. ″That’s important for them, and we need to be able to respond to traditional greeting ceremonies at different islands.″

Groups in Tahiti, New Zealand, Fiji and the Gilbert Islands have also shown interest in building and sailing traditional vessels to learn more about their own past. A group in Tahiti has constructed a 60-foot sailing canoe, while other such projects are reportedly under way in New Zealand and Fiji.

″What we hope to see in the next five or six years is five or six voyaging canoes all meeting in one place,″ said Leon Sterling, the first mate aboard the Hokule’a.

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