Waka crews set for emotional return after Pacific voyage

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(NZ Herald) A group of waka sailors are due to arrive in Doubtless Bay in Northland today after completing a ten month historic voyage across the Pacific Ocean in two traditional double hulled waka.

Hundreds of people are expected to greet them.

The group successfully sailed from Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour last August to Rapanui (Easter Island), and are now returning, using only the stars, moon, sun, ocean currents, birds and marine life to guide their way on the 10,000 nautical mile adventure.

Waka Tapu organiser and New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute (NZMACI) director, Karl Johnstone says this weekend’s arrival completes a monumental milestone in New Zealand’s modern day navigation history.

“The crew has closed the final corner of the Polynesian Triangle defined by Hawaii in the North, New Zealand in the South and Rapanui in the East,” he said.

“This project also recognises a life’s work by our esteemed tohunga trai waka (waka building expert), Hekenukumai Busby. Without Hekenukumai and the support given to him from some of our elder statesmen who have now passed on, the likes of the late John Rangihau, Simon Snowden and James Henare, none of this would have been possible.”

The return trip from Rapanui saw the crew sail back via Tahiti, Moorea (for a stop over during cyclone season), Rarotonga and to its final destination, New Zealand.

Overall there have been 60 crew members sailing on various stages of the journey ranging in age from 18 to 67, descending from a number of iwi around New Zealand.

“It will be a very emotional welcoming, as families will reconnect again after almost a year of being apart,” said Johnstone.

“During this time our crew overcame the challenges of the open ocean voyage by weathering storms, cold weather, extreme swells and much more. They now have fresh stories to pass down the generations of this incredible journey.”

The trip has inspired many of the communities around the Pacific, with huge welcoming groups turning out at each of the islands to celebrate and share the vision of the trip, said Johnstone.

“The full significance of this voyage will continue to be realised in the years to come,” said Johnstone.

The public can track the last week of the journey by visiting the Waka Tapu website www.wakatapu.com.

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