LUOVA, TEMOTU PROVINCE: For the first time in over thirty years, a Taumako voyaging canoe arrived at Santa Cruz Island’s northwestern tip on Sunday, June 4. Captain Ambrose Miki and his gallant crew, James Mapua, Jonathan Mengo, Willie Lohia, and Harry Vanosi, sailed the tepuke from their home in the Duff Islands to demonstrate their Vaka Valo organization’s achievements and to celebrate Temotu Province’s Second Appointed Day on June 8.
Tepuke under sail near Tinakula Island
Accompanying them were escort boat driver and videographer Dixon Wia, as well as Dr. Mimi George and Meph Wyeth of the Hawai`i-based Vaka Taumako Project, an affiliate of Vaka Valo.
People of Luova gave the voyagers a hearty Solomon style welcome, with dozens of residents turning out to help pull the massive canoe up from the beach to shelter. Children eagerly clambered over the hull to explore, and some older people fondly recalled earlier visits by tepuke during the decades when these canoes regularly plied Temotu’s waters.
People of Luova climb aboard the vaka to learn about its construction and operation.
“My grandmother arrived on Santa Cruz in a tepuke,” said Wendy Laia. “If I were invited, I would like to sail to honor her memory.” Other people also hoped to learn how to sail these vessels, not only to help revive their ancestral culture, but also because canoes like the tepuke may offer them sustainable alternatives to infrequent and unreliable ship transport.
Soon they may be able to do just that. Captain Miki and his crew plan to hold sailing demonstrations during their stay in Lata, and invite local people to join them. They hope to encourage residents of other islands to build and sail their own voyaging canoes.
Vaka Valo members help lash the massive Foe Ama (steering paddle). Tepuke are built entirely from locally harvested sustainable plant materials including coconut fiber, pandanus, kulu (breadfruit) sap, and a variety of local woods.
They also hope to sail to Vanuatu later this year to help rebuild traditional cultural ties between the people of Temotu and the Banks and Torres islands. Stay tuned!