South Pacific Documentary to Show for Maritime Museum


MORRO BAY — Thanks to good friends of the Morro Bay Maritime Museum, Lance and Lyndia Leonard, the community has a rare chance to view an hour-long film entitled “We, The Voyagers” on Sunday, April 7. The event is being held at the Inn at Morro Bay, and starts with a social hour from 5 to 6 p.m. The main program starts at 6 p.m.

This one-hour film (part one of a three-part series) created by anthropologist Marianne “Mimi” George, PhD and H.M. Wyeth explores the almost lost boat building and navigation skills of the Taumako Polynesian people. George will be present for a live question and answer after the film.

The cost to attend is $10 or $15 with one raffle ticket or $20 with two raffle tickets with all proceeds to benefit three community service organizations. Tickets at the door or at the Morro Bay Maritime Museum on the Embarcadero or the Inn at Morro Bay.

In the far western Pacific Ocean, in a remote part of the Solomon Islands, the Polynesian communities of Taumako and Vaeakau know something that most of the rest of the world has forgotten. They build voyaging canoes, or vaka, using only local, sustainable, natural materials. They sail hundreds of miles with no modern equipment. They find their way precisely using comprehensive knowledge of wind, waves, currents, stars, and observations of phenomena that are unknown to modern mariners and other Polynesian revival programs.

The Vaka Taumako Project (www.vaka.org) is a team of volunteer sailors, navigators, canoe-builders, students, teachers, scholars, doctors, documentarians, cooks and gardeners; men, women, children and elders from the Solomon Islands and the United States, working to perpetuate the practice of ancient Polynesian voyaging knowledge. Officially, the Vaka Taumako Project operates under the aegis of the Pacific Traditions Society, a non-profit organization since 1988.

The team learns how to build and sail voyaging canoes from the last Polynesian people who are experienced in doing that, using fully ancient methods, materials and tools.  They document the technology and meanings of voyaging for the crews and communities involved. They create cultural and educational collaborations and international awareness of ancient arts as they are being practiced and learned and shared by Taumako artisans and way finders.

Since the Vaka Taumako Project officially started in1996, the group has worked in Temotu Province, Solomon Islands. Until now the international administrative office of the VTP has been located in Hawaii but will eventually be handed over to Taumako leadership. A new charitable organization called the Vaka Taumako Project of the Solomon Islands (VTPSI) is being established.

The Vaka Taumako Project aims to perpetuate ancient Polynesian seafaring knowledge and practice by training a new generation of Taumako youth to build, sail, and navigate using the ancient methods, materials, and tools used by their ancestors, and by research, documentation, and dissemination of this knowledge.

George is an anthropologist, sailor, and writer specialized in voyaging cultures. Before the Vaka Taumako Project, she documented voyaging traditions of islanders in New Ireland, Papua New Guinea, Siberian Yupik Eskimos on the Alaskan and USSR sides of the Bering Straits. Her research voyages have included using ancient polar technology, and the early 19th-century European technique of wintering-over in a sailboat frozen in the sea-ice of Antarctica. In the Vaka Taumako Project, she studies Polynesians building vessels and making voyages using ancient technology, materials, tools, and navigation methods. Geroge made 25 inter-island voyages in the Santa Cruz Islands, and one voyage from Duffs through Vanuatu.

The Leonards, who are friends of George, are also co-founders of the Meredith Project (www.meredithproject.org) that assists young people to find a life of purpose through the art and science of traditional wooden boat building and sailing.

Morro Bay Maritime Museum Looking for a Few Good Women . . Or Men

Do you like history? Does your heart yearn for the bygone days of sailing vessels? Then you might be interested in volunteering with the Morro Bay Maritime Museum.

A docent program is in process as the summer season approaches and the museum plans to be open five days a week beginning April 15. Days of operation will be Thursday through Monday and closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Docents will work in shifts with two people and two shifts a day.

A professional well-planned Volunteer Training Manual is required for volunteers and is offered at $20. The manual covers everything a volunteer would need to know from how to open the museum, handling money, safety, interpretation basics, visitor interaction, rules and regulations, care and cleaning, maintenance and how to close up.

Training on each element of the museum collection is also included in the manual. Volunteers will learn about the Tule Boat Exhibit and the Salinan Tribe, the painting of the Half Clipper South American and some artifacts, the California Commercial Abalone Industry and Diving, The Montebello Incident, the El Toro Dinghy, and Sir Francis Drake and the Golden Hind.

For further education, the manual contains a bibliography and reading list as well as a glossary.

Training is already starting so interested parties should contact Larry Newland at 805-550-4929 or call the museum line at 805-225-5044.

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