Asia Minute: Steering by the Stars in Asia

Jul 10, 2019

Credit apasciuto / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr

It’s been nearly three months since the Hōkūleʻa returned from its latest ocean voyage. But elsewhere in the Pacific, another group has just completed a much shorter voyage – navigating by nature and paddling as a team.

It took a couple of days, but a team of paddlers from Taiwan and Japan steered a canoe from Taiwan to Okinawa this week – landing on Tuesday. Kyodo News reports the team of four men and one woman used the sun and the wind for navigation — along with the stars at night.

They traveled more than 125 miles in a dugout canoe (not a sailing canoe) and they followed a route that may have been used for migration some 30,000 years ago.

Some scientists believe the Taiwan to Okinawa route may have brought some early settlers to Japan as they made use of the ocean current known as the “Black Stream” — that’s still powering vessels today — including the dugout canoe.

Kyodo quoted lead paddler Koji Hara as saying “the Black Stream carried the canoe, and all we did was steer it a little.”

The canoe was about 25 feet long and was created with materials that would have been available tens of thousands of years ago.

The trip is one of a number of ongoing research projects between Japan’s National Museum of Nature and Science and Taiwan’s National Museum of Prehistory.

Previous attempts over the past two years using smaller boats made of bamboo and straw both failed, but several hundred local residents gathered by the shore to greet this voyage’s success.