Home > Jims Column > 2008 > Lapita Voyage at Oslo Conference

Lapita Voyage at Oslo Conference

By James Wharram

It is a beautiful bright Monday morning, I should be out walking along our creek, or better still, sailing down the creek into Carrick Roads, but alas with all our travels non of our small boats are yet ready for sailing.

Hanneke, the ‘Ringmeister’ here at JWD has just dropped a bombshell (as I was enjoying my porridge) "do you know that in 8 days you are flying to America to be honoured as a multihull pioneer at the Mystic Wooden Boat Show (organised by Wooden Boat magazine) and they want you to prepare a talk for them". Then she carried on, "and on your last newsletter you promised that you would write about your trip and lecture given in Norway, you have let your friend Klaus down in not writing up the progress of the Lapita Voyage / Tikopia Project." (The charity project that has now turned into a major scientific study of early Pacific voyaging). Then Ruth Wharram added her concern; our dear friend of 40 years, George Payne, the man I originally designed the Raka for all those years ago, has died at the age of 95, "he deserves an obituary from you". See George’s book ‘Nine Boats Nine Lives’ in our webshop.

James in a museum
James in discussion in the KonTiki museum, by Thor Heyerdahl's reed boat, the Ra II.
James and Anne in an office
Lunch with Anne at Flyt headquarters.

My own concern this bright Monday morning was that on 29th of June the 100ft (30m) replica Vikingship ‘Seastallion’, built in Denmark, will sail from Dublin to complete its round (Britain) voyage from Denmark to Dublin and back. The return voyage will take the route along the South coast of Britain. Not only is our 22 year old son one of the 60 crew of the boat, one of the best rest places after crossing the Irish Sea would be here up Carrick Roads in Devoran creek. What do we need to do to prepare a welcome if they decide to stop here? http://www.havhingsten.dk

My mind was also preoccupied with politics. Yes politics, not many people know that in my far distant youth I was marked out by a certain British political party as a possible future Member of Parliament. For them I had studied economics.

This week the people of Ireland, God bless them, rejected by referendum, the new EU Constitution (Lisbon Treaty), like the French and Dutch did a few years ago with the previous attempt at an EU constitution. The British Saturday Independent Newspaper (14th June) editorial carried this headline: "Brussels often resembles a self-interested conspiracy of arrogant elites".

Since 1998 there has been an arrogant, self-interested elite running the Recreational Craft Directive that was clamped onto British/European yachting. For some time, behind the scenes, I have been trying to reform their attitudes, with little result. As I have written, "God bless the Irish".

Lapita Voyage

In May I was 80 years old. Some people describe me as a ‘grand old man’, some even as a ‘living legend’, others as a ‘silly old bugger’; whichever way you see the age, we all agree that it is a milestone. I will be celebrating this milestone year by making the Lapita Voyage, 3800 miles in a small Polynesian double canoe. Perhaps I am a silly old bugger.

To find out more about what this is all about, I advise you to read the Paper I gave in Oslo, Norway on April 4th. This Paper introduces and explains the background of the Lapita Voyage, which without the superb German organisation from Klaus Hympendahl could not be happening.

Since giving the paper, the project has moved on at an increasing speed. The building of the two boats was started at the beginning of April by Andy Smith Boatworks in the Philippines, and the built is advancing rapidly, with four hulls built up to deck level.

Tama Moana under construction
Tama Moana under construction
Lapita voyage boats under construction.
Tama Mana hull upside down
The sleek strip-plank hulls of one of the 'Lapita Voyage' Tama Moana’s are taking shape.

The voyage part of the project has taken on a stronger scientific angle and we now have a number of scientists, with expertise in Lapita pottery, Polynesian migration theories, DNA studies, ethnology, navigation etc., joining us on different legs of the voyage. Discussions about producing a film/ documentary are taking place with the biggest German broadcasting company ZDF, as well as the BBC. Various companies are sponsoring the project with materials and equipment. Klaus is working full time to keep the momentum up.

So keep checking the website for updates: www.lapita-voyage.org

We will also start a photo gallery of building photos on this website.

Back To Vikings....

My Norway paper also explains my long connection with Vikingships. Even so, I was a little concerned when speaking in Norway, for one group of speakers were the Norwegian ‘Vikings’ which included the Heyerdahl family; Olav Heyerdahl, the grandson of Thor Heyerdahl recently replicated his grandfather’s Kontiki raft voyage in a new raft called ‘Tangaroa’ and spoke about this successful voyage.

On the other side of the hall were the Danish ‘Vikings’ with their excellent papers about the 30m Vikingship replica ‘Seastallion’ I mentioned above. From the approving comments after I gave my Paper I think I made the grade with some possibly extremely tough critics.

Pete, Anne, Hanneke, James
Pete Capelotti, Anne, Hanneke, James after the talk.

Finally, in Oslo I was also able to meet my new Norwegian publisher, Anne Nygren of ‘Flyt’. She runs a delightful small publishing company that has published many of the sailing ‘Classics’ in Norwegian translation. My book ‘Two Girls Two Catamarans’ is now available in Norwegian under the title ‘Med en kvinne I hvert skrog’. www.flyt.no

Anne also organised a well attended meeting of sailing enthusiasts for talks by me and a fellow writer, Pete Capellotti, author of ‘Sea Drift – rafting adventures in the wake of Kon-Tiki’.

With this blog I hope I have informed my wider world of sailing friends of what is going on, and now Hanneke will perhaps let me ‘walk down the creek’.

- James Wharram