An experimental voyage by outrigger canoe around the Pacific Rim is scheduled to leave from Indonesia in May in an attempt to revive the spirit of the Austronesian people who have plied the Pacific Ocean for several thousand years.
The Civilization Explorer Association of the Republic of China, in collaboration with Japanese adventurer Yoshiyuki Yamamoto, launched the "Navigation Plan to Rebuild Pacific Rim Communications" yesterday at a press conference in Taipei.
The idea is to complete the outrigger voyage over 18 months.
The voyage, considered to be a move toward a Pacific cultural renaissance, will be made by six sailors -- one each from Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Tahiti, said Chen Chin-kuo, head of the association.
The project hopes to verify whether early Austronesians sailed eastward from Easter Island to South America, Chen said.
Taiwan is part of the huge Austronesian language group that extends from Madagascar to Easter Island and from Taiwan to New Zealand and most of the Melanesian and Polynesian islands.
According to a genome analysis, genes of the Japanese people during the prehistoric Jomon Era, the ancient Taiwanese aboriginal people and the ancient Incan people from South Africa and Peru are genetically identical. But so far, no historical archive have been found to prove that the Austronesian people ever sailed east all the way from Easter Island to South America, according Yamamoto.
He said the project also aims to raise awareness of environmental protection, particularly in the wake of the Dec. 26 quake and tsunami.