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Solomon Islands Taumako Voyaging Canoes

What a day it was! On 4 June, for the first time in over 30 years, a tepuke voyaging canoe from Taumako Island arrived in Temotu Province’s capital on Santa Cruz.

Local residents turned out in droves to welcome the voyagers and help haul the massive vaka onto shore.

A workman carefully caulks a seam with a traditional mixture of breadfruit sap and bark shavings

Children clambered eagerly over the hull, and older folks fondly recalled the days when dozens of these canoes plied Temotu’s waters and called at Santa Cruz.

Crew members and supporters lash together the massive foe vaka (steering paddle) with coconut fiber cordage. Taumako voyaging canoes are built entirely of local plant materials. No fiberglass, dacron, or other modern substances are used

“My grandmother arrived here on a tepuke,” said Wendy Laia. “I would like to sail in one myself to honor her memory.” She may soon have an opportunity to do this. Captain Ambrose Miki and his crew brought the canoe to Santa Cruz to demonstrate the Taumako people’s skills of building and sailing these traditional vaka, and to teach people of other islands how to revive their own canoe construction and sailing customs.

Friends and family members escort the vaka to the edge of Taumako’s lagoon as it begins its voyage

Having successfully finished their Holau Ndeni (voyage to Ndeni—Santa Cruza), Captain Miki and his fellow seafarers plan to sail to the Banks Islands in northern Vanuatu later this year, probably in early November. Anyone interested in following their progress or learning more about Taumako voyaging canoes can do so at www.vaka.org and “vakataumako” on facebook.

Story and photos by H. Wyeth and Dr. Mimi George

The tepuke sails under a rainbow during its voyage to Santa Cruz

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