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Two Vaka o Lata, and the Rush to Complete a Te Puke

Cyclone Pam hit the island of Nifiloli hard. Community members retreated into the interior or fled to the somewhat higher island of Fenualoa. We are still learning more about what the damages were and what needs to be done now.

The Peter Taea and Dixon Wia families, who were caring for the Taumako-built voyaging canoe (vaka) named “Holau Kaveia,” told Dr Simon Salopuka that the waves and surge of Cyclone Pam drove the vaka from where it was secured at the bush end of the beach up into trees. This broke up the outrigger structure. We do not yet know if the main hull or any other pieces are good enough to be re-used. Eventually Chief Jonas Hollani of Taumako will go to Nifiloli to examine what is left and decide what is useful.

The “Holau Kaveia” was a Te Alo Lili type of Vaka o Lata. It was used as a training vessel during the 2012 – 2013 voyaging programs. The plan for 2015 was to replace the ama and mast, rerig her, and sail her to Santa Cruz and either onward to Vanuatu or back to Taumako. However it will take many months of recovery before any of the effected communities will be ready to take on any voyages. It looks like 2017 is the best time to re-schedule the voyage to Vanuatu (Holau Vanuatu).

Right now the Vaka Taumako Project of Solomon Islands (VTPSI) and Vaka Valo Group are planning to resume construction of the new Te Puke voyaging canoe in Duff Islands. The damage to the forest was extensive on Haeava Island, and makes access difficult to the roughcut main hull of the Te Puke. But the main hull is intact.

It is urgent that work resume on the Te Puke before the woods that were being worked on begin to rot. The gardens at Taumako were destroyed by Cyclone Pam. VTP Hawaii has wired $2000. to VTPSI for purchase and transport of foods for the workers so that construction of the Te Puke can resume. A ship is scheduled to go to Taumako in 2 weeks.   Captain Vaikawi (of Taumako) will load the goods onto the ship in Honiara, and Dr Salopuka will board the ship in Lata to go back to Taumako and join the work to complete rough cutting all the pieces needed for the Te Puke.

Te Alolili voyaging canoe

the larger Te Puke canoe

Immediate Needs:

1) The VTPSI GPS that Dr Salopuka, Ambrose Miki, and other VTPSI leaders use when they travel on emergency motorcanoe crossings from Taumako to Reefs, need a new handheld EPIRB (emergency beacon). This will cost about $500. to get to them.

2) Dr Salopuka is having a hard time communicating and writing reports because his computer is breaking down. He needs a small laptop. Since he has been using an old Apple laptop he is familiar with how they work A warranteed 11 or 12 inch MacAir would be perfect. He can fit that into his waterproof case for the rough canoe trips he takes. VTP Hawaii can load the software he needs onto it and get it to him asap.

3) VTP is raising funds now for the next shipment of foods to feed the workers who are building the Te Puke. To keep the work going, and not lose what has been done to rot, a constant supply of food is needed. If the work can continue the Te Puke can be completed by the end of this year.   Then it will be possible for this vaka and a crew to participate in the 2016 Pacific Arts Festival in Guam. There the vaka will be rigged and the crew will take people out for sails. When the festival is over a crew will sail the Te Puke home to Duffs…either from Guam (weather permitting) or from Hawaii after participating in the IUCN meetings there in September, 2016.

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Mimi George of VTP Hawaii and Simon Salopuka of VTPSI

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