Encompassing about one-third of the earth’s surface and constituting half of the global hydrosphere (all the waters of the earth's surface), the Pacific is an important factor in climate control. Many species of animals and plants occur only there, either in the Pacific itself or on its islands. Moreover, approximately one billion people live in close proximity to the ocean and make their living from it whos habitat, the Pacific, is under special threats from climate change, exploitation, and diverse forms of pollution.
For a long time Dieter Paulmann has been looking for the right way to raise awareness about these problems, which will affect all of us, landing on our collective doorsteps, whether we like it or not. Finding this way has been a journey in itself until he finally met the wise and spiritual people of the Pacific who are following in the wake of their ancestors, reviving their ancestors' wisdom and their respect for the sea.
By helping these people to spread their knowledge about traditional navigation, used by their ancestors to populate the Pacific thousands of years ago, we also found a way to help the ocean. This traditional knowledge includes awareness about the healing, spiritual forces of the sea, about the ocean's generosity in feeding us, and about the close connection every living being on earth has to the sea. Contained within this knowledge is therefore the respect and the love for the sea, which is necessary to treat the sea in the right way. We are still learning from these people every day, for which we are grateful and humbled.
This was also the key and spark to our project "Pacific Voyagers". Our aim was and still is to bring this wisdom, and the attendant respect and love for the ocean to the world.
Across the Pacific, the traditional voyaging canoe, called 'Vaka Moana', is said to represent genealogy. Pacific Islanders trace their origins to certain canoes, for each is a sacred and living treasure that connects people to their ancestry. The canoe embodies balance, harmony, teamwork, and respect for the sea, nature and all beings, and it is a microcosm of the Pacific Islands, but also of our larger island that is planet Earth.
For us the vaka is now a metaphor for a sustainable way of life. Bridging ancestral wisdom and renewable energy, the vaka tells a universal story of hope. The voyaging canoe is a powerful model of intergenerational learning and cross-cultural legacy, with tremendous potential to inspire pride in our common heritage, and motivate change as we navigate towards a world of ecological sustainability.
We commissioned to build seven 'Vaka Moana' at Salthouse Boatbuilders in Aotearoa/New Zealand (video). They are powered by the wind and sun only and are navigated the traditional Polynesian way (celestial navigation). The construction of these Vaka Moana is based on the knowledge and experience of our anchestors combined with modern technological knowledge and use of renewable energy (solar panels).
Our vaka are crewed by people from all over the Pacific--people who have seen changes in their home islands with their own eyes, people who are living every day according to the wisdom of their ancestors, people who are already taking care of the ocean by working for an NGO, people who are educating children, and people who love the sea. Ranging in age and experience, these men and women are fishermen and artists, teachers and farmers. While some are life-long seamen, others are getting their first taste of the open ocean. But as diverse as their individual lives may be, they share one voice and vision, and their mission is simple: Use the wisdom of our ancestors, combined with modern science, to propel us into a more sustainable future, help heal our injured ocean, raise awareness, and revive the cultural traditions of voyaging.
In April 2011 the vaka and their crews started their voyage Te Mana O Te Moana ("The Spirit of the Sea") from Aotearoa to Hawai'i and, beyond that, to the West Coast of the States. They passed various countries and islands until their journey finally ended in the Solomon Islands in July 2012 in Honiara/Solomon Islands where the crews also participated in the 11th Festival of Pacific Arts. After the festival, our vaka family dispersed as each vaka returned back to her Pacific Island home, with some of the canoes stopping in New Caledonia, Tonga, and Tuvalu along the way.
However, though the joint voyage has now ended the vaka will all continue to voyage through their various Voyaging Societies - for cultural, educational, logistical and commercial purposes (the latter in favor of each Voyaging Society's NGO). Thus, our journey is not ending, but has only begun as we continue our mission towards a sustainable and fossil fuel free Pacific.
The epic voyage Te Mana O Te Moana is also the topic of our film "Our Blue Canoe" that will be shown in cinemas from spring 2014.
In a vision to unite ancestral wisdom with the best of modern technology, Pacific Voyagers has created a family of traditional sailing canoes powered by renewable energy and designed to provide a system of inter-island transport that is both culturally meaningful and environmentally sustainable and satisfies all (sea) transportation needs. Our three types of vaka (canoe) include the Vaka Moana (open ocean canoe), Vaka Motu (inter-island transport canoe), and Vaka Hapua (lagoon canoe).
These vaka provide an alternative vision for the future. They not only decrease reliance on fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy, but also foster cultural revival, educational opportunities, economic independence, community empowerment and environmental health.
In addition to physically transporting children to schools on neighboring islands, the Vaka Motu serves as an intergenerational classroom itself, traveling on a larger classroom that is the ocean. As communities relearn ancient knowledge, it enters the consciousness of the youth, where it may be carried into the future. While connecting children in the Pacific region to their ancestral heritage, the Vaka Motu also provides a means of traveling the ocean silently without impact. This proximity to nature and marine life engenders a love for the ocean and a desire to protect this precious resource.
As with all journeys, our Vaka Motu holds evolving possibilities that extend well beyond what we might foresee since the launching of our first Vaka Motu prototype Okeanos on November 3rd, 2011. Our design incorporates information shared from many different island groups, resulting in a design specific to Pacific inter-island transport. Unique features include a boom that doubles as a crane to hoist goods onto the vaka with ample storage space, capable of carrying up to 2 tons in weight. The vessel is powered by the wind and sun, with eight solar panels to run the engine for quick maneuvers in harbors. Although the vaka’s ecological footprint is small, its potential to transform is tremendous.
Vaka Moana, Vaka Motu, and Vaka Hapua honor the insight of our ancestors and contribute to ensuring a safe and productive future for our children. Uniting Pacific islands in a sustainable way, the canoe becomes a powerful symbol that bridges the past, present and future. This symbol is assembled and crewed by the community, positioning Pacific Islanders as exemplars of positive change. The vaka not only perpetuates cultural legacy and promotes environmental sustainability, but also embodies a value system with a global and timely significance. In addition the vaka displays a genuine model of hope, a model guided by community.
Take a tour of our Vaka Motu "Okeanos"