Editor’s Note: Back in September, Manuai Matawai of Pere Village, Papua New Guinea, realized his dream of sailing the Pacific in a traditional outrigger canoe to spread the word about climate change threats facing island nations. Today, we check back to see how the crew fared on their voyage, and what the future may hold for their awareness campaign.
It was a journey full of music and celebration with new and old friends, of stories from the past and of shared lessons for the future. And it is a journey likely to continue.
After a sailing voyage of more than two months and 1,500-miles (2,400-kilometers), the crew of the 48-foot Climate Challenger canoe returned to their home port on Manus Island in December. Their expedition from Papua New Guinea to the Solomon Islands and back was supported by AustraliaAID, The Nature Conservancy and other partners.
Led by Captain Manuai Matawai, a Nature Conservancy conservation officer in Pere, the crew of 10 men put to use the traditional sailing knowledge of their Titan ancestors. He says the epic voyage made him learn to adapt to any weather condition.
“I think I have a spiritual connection to nature which thus made me more resilient. I hope to complete my voyage soon,” Manuai says.
When not sailing by the light of the moon or the stars, the crew was often fishing, playing cards or searching for an island to appear on the horizon. As Manuai notes in a video about the trip, “This is a multi-purpose canoe. You sleep. You eat. You can do anything on a canoe.
Once ashore, the crew was greeted as honored guests in the island communities they visited. They often performed traditional dances or contemporary music, shot video about their experiences, presented their climate adaptation program, and even pitched in to clean up beaches.
They were also open to learning from the islanders, so new lessons could be further shared. On Simeruka Island, for example, the Marau villagers told the crew about seaweed harvesting, an alternative livelihood pursued since 2009 that may reduce fishing pressure on local coral reefs. Used as a pharmaceutical and preservative, the seaweed reaches maturity after six weeks, and is harvested to dry in the sun.