Team launches canoe to test migration hypothesis

STAYING AUTHENTIC::The team of researchers built a cedar canoe using stone tools and are to navigate using the stars to replicate ancient technologies

By Wang Hsiu-ting and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Mon, Jul 08, 2019 - Page 1

A team of Taiwanese and Japanese researchers yesterday launched a dugout canoe from Taitung County to test the hypothesis that the early inhabitants of Japan traveled from Taiwan to the Ryukyu Islands via the Kuroshio Current using similar wooden vessels about 30,000 years ago.

The team constructed the cedar canoe using stone tools to replicate canoe-building methods that were likely used by prehistoric seafarers, National Museum of Prehistory assistant researcher Agilasay Pakawyan said, adding that the five crew members would navigate using the stars to stay true to ancient navigation techniques.

The distance between Cape Wushibi (烏石鼻) in Taitung to the coast of Yonaguni, one of the Yaeyama Islands, is 205km when traveled in a straight line, he said.

The voyage is estimated to take 1.6 to 2.8 days, assuming favorable winds and the canoe staying on course, Agilasay said.

Theoretically, a canoe could complete the journey in anything from 30 hours to 30 days, he added.

The research being conducted by the museum and Yousuke Kaifu of Japan’s National Museum of Nature and Science began in 2017 and four of the crew members are Japanese, he said.

An experiment conducted two years ago showed that bamboo rafts are not sturdy enough to survive the voyage, Agilasay said.

The launch was originally scheduled for Sunday last week, but it was postponed due to bad weather.

Foamy sea conditions early yesterday raised concerns over another delay, but the canoe set out without incident at 1:40pm.

Coast guard patrol boats and drones are accompanying the canoe on its voyage.