Bikinian Mayor Alson Kelen and Former Councilman Korent Joel revive Ancient navigation skills
MAJURO – A MARSHALL Islands outrigger canoe has arrived in an outlying atoll after finishing the first long-distance voyage in the country using ancient navigation skills for 60 years. The 9.1-metre outrigger canoe ‘Jitdam Kapeel’ left 145 kilometres and arrived 21 hours later on Friday after an overnight journey. The voyage is the first since World War II in which a voyaging canoe has attempted to sail between atolls in the Marshall Islands without modern navigational aids. The canoe with a crew of eight was captained by Alson Kelen, who runs a canoe building and training programme for young people in the Marshall Islands. ‘Our main guide is the northeasterly waves,’ said Mr Kelen, who has studied under Korent Joel, one of the last master navigators still alive in an island group traditionally known for navigational and canoe building prowess. Mr Kelen said they also used the moon and stars to guide them on the journey, which aimed to demonstrate the skills that Marshall Islanders have used since they first settled the western Pacific islands 2,000 years ago. Master navigator Joel was on board a motorised vessel that followed the canoe, to help if necessary. ‘We want to learn from the master navigators and pass it down to younger generations to come,’ he said. Mr Kelen’s programme trains about 50 young Marshallese men and women each year in building and sailing outrigger canoes. ‘To become a master navigator you must spend a long period of time studying how currents work within your atoll by looking at how they react with the land,’ Mr Joel said. ‘Afterwards, you put yourself in the lagoon to feel and understand it.’ As a child, Mr Joel used to be hit on the head with a paddle by his teacher every time he made a mistake in judging the flow of the current, he said. Mr Kelen and a group of younger Marshall Islanders have been studying with Mr Joel for more than two years. — AFP
Note: Not mentioned in the article above was that Bikini Councilman Biten Leer was also onboard for the entire journey.
This event got world-wide press coverage.