By Lisa Hayden, The Nature Conservancy
A dream taking shape over the past two years in the mind of Manuai Matawai, a 43-year-old resident of Pere Village in Papua New Guinea, was realized last month when a 48-foot outrigger canoe set sail from the shores of Manus Island.
Manuai and nine other crew members have embarked on the first legs of a two-month journey with an important mission. The vision of Manuai, the captain and lead builder of the Climate Challenger vessel, is to honor the traditional sailing knowledge and culture of his ancestors by launching a voyage to raise awareness of how his island, world, and life are changing with the climate.
Many Pacific Island communities are coping with rising sea levels and other impacts of climate change. In addition to sharing climate change adaptation practices and exploring the link between culture, faith and nature, Manui says he wants to “document the suffering and pain faced by the vulnerable Pacific island communities and reach out and advocate on what can be done about it.”
Following months of preparations, a test sail in late August and village celebrations, the crew departed from Pere on September 6, sailed 40 kilometers to check in at Baluan Island, and then set off on southwest winds for Kavieng, New Ireland, a distance of 360 kilometers. After having to repair a rudder early in the journey, the crew is preparing to enter international waters.
Manuai will be documenting the journey with a video camera. When internet access allows, the crew will periodically update their location and share stories from their journey on The Climate Challenger Voyage blog site. You can follow the progress of the Climate Challenger’s crew at their voyage map.
Their goal is to sail more than 10,000 kilometers over two months from Melanesia to Micronesia, stopping at many Pacific islands along the way – among them Bougainville, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Ponape, Yap, Palau, the Hermit Islands – and then return to Manus.
Image Credit: Seiorse Carthy (The 48-foot traditional outrigger canoe Climate Challenger underway.)