Lapita voyage boats launched in Philippines

Last week two boats slipped quietly into the Pacific Ocean ahead of a 4000-mile voyage. Two Wharram catamarans, ‘Lapita Tikopia’ and ‘Lapita Anuta’, are now moored off Alona Beach in the Philippines.

The boats will set sail on 3rd November, winds permitting, and hope to establish the historic connection between the modern multihull and its Stone Age ancestors. The 4000-mile journey will be the first in modern times to follow a proposed migration route of the ancient Polynesians into the Pacific using modern interpretations of Polynesian boats. The boats will sail from Panglao in the Philippines, down through the Maluku Islands (also known as the Moluccas, Moluccan Islands, the Spice Islands or simply Maluku) and Papua in Indonesia, along the north coast and into the Bismarck Archipelago of New Guinea and then take a southerly route through the whole of the Solomon Islands to the islands of Anuta and Tikopia.

Blessed with a few words and a splash of coconut milk from expedition leaders Klaus Hympendahl and James Wharram the two craft were heaved down a beautiful white-sand beach and into the Pacific. It was the culmination of almost 3 years of dreaming, designing and planning.

Amongst the crews of the two vessels on their maiden voyages will be two renowned academics, Dr Dizon, an underwater archaeologist from the National Museum in Manila and Dr Gregor Larson, a DNA expert connected with Durham University.

Dr Dizon believes that the development of sailing craft by the ancient peoples of the Philippines fed into Polynesian migrations.

Dr Larson will take 100s of samples from dogs, cats, chickens and pigs to analyze with his colleague Dr Keith Dobney, who are looking into the origins of domesticated animals carried by ancient Polynesians, and thus tracking human migration into the South Pacific.

The boats were built on Panglao, in the Philippines. Five round wooden beams link the two hulls and are fixed in place with lashings in true Polynesian (and Wharram) style. This enabled the boats to be finished at the boat yard, transported to the beach and reassembled in an afternoon.

At the end of the voyage the two double canoes will be presented to the inhabitants of the small Polynesian islands of Tikopia and Anuta.

More info on the Lapita voyage