Sat, Sep 02, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Austronesian experts hail launch of raft

By Chang Tsun-wei and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Four men on Thursday sail a bamboo raft in Taitung County built by the Taitung County Austronesian Community College, the Council For Farangaw Autonomy and a team from the Solomon Islands.

Photo: Chang Tsun-wei, Taipei Times

The launching on Thursday of a raft built by the Taitung County Austronesian Community College, the Council for Farangaw Autonomy and a team from the Solomon Islands has taken yet another step in reproducing the mass migration of the Austronesian people, Taitung County Austronesian Community College director-general Liu Chiung-hsi said.

The college began promoting the navigation of the eastern coast of Taiwan on bamboo rafts in 2003, which led to the discovery that several east coast villages have records of seafaring vessels with sails, Liu said.

The records, coupled with the similarity of Taiwanese vessels a century ago compared with those in the Philippines and Vietnam 50 to 60 years ago, indicated a connection between the vessels with sails and the migration of the Austronesian people.

The boats Liu referred to were made of bamboo and had square sails.

Liu cited research by Academia Sinica’s Liu I-chang (劉益昌) which showed that people in Dulan Bay and Luzon Island in the Philippines both produced jade artifacts with the same shape and technique as those in Taiwan, and that Austronesians from Taiwan might have spread to other areas on vessels with sails during the monsoon season.

Council for Farangaw Autonomy chairman Raranges Hoki Na Tungaw said his interviews of elders confirmed that Farangaw village had a fishing fleet of vessels with sails, which faded into obscurity due to the ban on ocean travel during Japanese colonial rule.

Raranges Hoki Na Tungaw said the community college two years ago attempted to rebuild the boats of the Amis people, Taiwan’s biggest Aboriginal tribe, but the screw pine leaves chosen were too thin and the deer hide used too hard.

After issuing an invitation to Simon Scalopuka of the Solomon Islands, who is dedicated to restoring the seafaring culture of the Taumako people, the project has progressed much more smoothly, the college said.

“We cut down the weight of the bamboo rafts and lashed them together with yellow rattan, while the sail utilized thicker screw pine leaves the Solomon Islands team brought from their nation,” a project participant who declined to be named said.

The raft was launched successfully on Thursday afternoon.

Liu Chiung-hsi said that sailors would continue to practice on the vessel, while some minor adjustments to the frame could be carried out, adding that the team would have to learn how to gauge the sea currents and read the stars to chart their direction.

“We hope that our vessel will eventually set sail for the open ocean,” he said.

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