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Celestial navigators arrive safely in Aotearoa

Media release: 13 September 2019

The double-hulled sailing canoe Fa’afaite has arrived safe and sound in Tauranga Harbour today, after leaving Tahiti on 20 August and crossing the Pacific using traditional navigation.
“The journey has been a tremendous effort by the entire crew,” says Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage Tumu Whakarae Chief Executive Bernadette Cavanagh.

“Not only have these voyagers just completed an almost month-long journey across Te Moananui a Kiwa, the Pacific Ocean, guided by the position of the stars, moon and sun as well as other signs in nature like swells and winds, but the crew spent months preparing for this.

“It’s an honour to have the Fa’afaite crew participate in the Tuia 250 Voyage around Aotearoa New Zealand from October to December this year. They bring the mana of their tupuna Tupaia who represents the skill and knowledge of Pacific voyagers and was pivotal in communicating with tangata whenua during the first onshore encounters with Pākehā in 1769.

“The Tuia 250 national commemoration highlights the stories of Tupaia which have often been overshadowed in our history by the feats of James Cook. Tuia 250 supports events that highlight Tupaia and our links with the Pacific, including the Auckland Museum exhibition Tupaia and the Endeavour and the feature-length documentary film Tupaia’s Endeavour.

“Next month we welcome a delegation of more than 300 people from Tahiti, many whom have undertaken significant fundraising to attend the Tuia 250 events happening around New Zealand.”

Tuia 250 Voyage Flotilla Kaitiaki Jack Thatcher says the journey of Fa’afaite proves the extraordinary capability and courage of Pacific voyagers who found and settled Aotearoa many generations ago. Jack was responsible for receiving daily reports from the crew as the vessel sailed 4,300 kilometres across open ocean.

"The crew have done an amazing job, holding their course accurately and expertly, whilst Tawhirimatea and Tangaroa challenged them unceasingly once they came into the Southern Pacific Ocean,” says Thatcher.

“The strong winds, cloudy, rainy days and nights constantly assailing them would have been daunting even under normal circumstances. Moeata and Titaua however were navigating traditionally without instruments much like how their tupuna, ancestors, would have done. They were constantly searching for the signs in their ocean environment that enabled them to pull their fish from the sea just like Maui did.”

The voyage was a first for Moeata Galenon and Titaua Teipoarii as trainee navigators, supported by Ngāti Kahungunu Pwo navigator Piripi Smith, after months of preparation. The voyage was also captained by 26 year-old India Tabellini, the first time she has had this senior role on such a substantial journey.

Updated on 28th January 2020