Sun, Jun 03, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Group prepares to re-enact 200km Aboriginal voyage

By Chang Tsun-wei and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

People carry a bamboo raft named Ira 2 along a beach in Taitung County on Friday.

Photo: Chang Tsun-wei, Taipei Times

A bamboo raft built for a collaborative research experiment involving the National Museum of Prehistory and Tokyo’s National Museum of Nature and Science is nearing completion, researchers said yesterday.

In an attempt to re-enact sea voyages undertaken by Aborigines living in Taiwan 30,000 years ago, researchers plan to travel by sea from Taitung’s Changbin Township (長濱) to Yonaguni Island in the Ryukyu Islands on the bamboo craft.

The researchers are to conduct training exercises tomorrow and on Tuesday, which will require night-time navigation and rowing uninterrupted for 24 hours, National Museum of Prehistory deputy director Lin Chih-hsing (林志興) said, adding that the group aims to set out on the 200km voyage next year.

Archeologists in Japan speculate that Taiwanese Aborigines 30,000 years ago made use of the warm north-flowing Kuroshio Current to travel to Yonaguni.

Japanese ocean researcher Yousuke Kaifu said that he hopes to test that theory by making the voyage himself.

Kaifu first contacted the prehistory museum about the project last year, and he and others made a test voyage from Taitung to Green Island in June on a raft built by renowned Amis raft-maker Lawai.

Lawai named the craft Ira, which he said means “here” in Amis.

The new raft is named Ira 2 and was designed to be lighter and faster.

Ira 2 took two months to build and uses seven stalks of bamboo — four fewer than Ira, Lawai said, adding that the smaller size and weight would facilitate quick turns at sea, while keeping the vessel sturdy enough to brave the waves.

The new vessel also has a flatter bottom and no keel, and is 8m long, down from Ira’s 11m, he said.

In the past few years, human remains dating back 20,000 years have been unearthed in Okinawa, Kaifu said, adding that archaeologists think they belonged to Taiwanese Aborigines.

As ocean travelers from that period had no electronic positioning systems to help them navigate, the team will use only the stars to determine their position during the exercises, he said.

Japanese-Taiwanese Sung Yuan-kai (宋元開), Toiora Hawira from New Zealand and Kouji Hara, Katsuaki Suzuki and Saki Uchida from Japan are to join the training exercises.

The team is to be led by Japanese Masahiro Uchida. Japanese Minoru Muramatsu and Taiwanese Chuang Tzu-i (莊子毅) are to join the team as backup rowers.

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