24 Sep 2019

Tahitian va'a brings spirit of Tupaia to Tuia voyage

5:08 pm on 24 September 2019

Tahitian va'a Fa'afaite has arrived in New Zealand to join the Tuia 250 fleet on its three-month voyage around Aotearoa.

The va’a moana Fa’afaite i te Ao Mā’ohi.

The va’a moana Fa’afaite i te Ao Mā’ohi. Photo: Tahiti Voyaging Society

The voyage is a celebration of New Zealand's Pacific seafaring heritage and acknowledges the first onshore encounters between Māori and Pākehā.

These involved Captain Cook and his Tahitian advisor Tupaia.

Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage tumu whakarae chief executive Bernadette Cavanagh said it was an honour to have the Fa'afaite and its crew participating in the voyage.

"They bring the mana of their tupuna Tupaia who represents the skill and knowledge of Pacific voyagers and was pivotal in communicating with tangata whenua during the first onshore encounters with Pākehā in 1769," Ms Cavanagh said.

Mauri stone for Sir Hekenukumai Busby travelling on Fa'afaite.

Mauri stone for Sir Hekenukumai Busby travelling on Fa'afaite. Photo: Tahiti Voyaging Society

Fleet Kaitiaki Jack Thatcher said the Fa'afaite's crew, captained by India Tabellini, were "carrying the spirit of Tupaia with them".

"They've been around to all those places that were important in terms of the Tupaia story and they've brought down kohatu, or stones that will act as mauri, or lifestones," Mr Thatcher said.

"They're going to present these as part of their journey to every stop-over that they make in Aotearoa. And in that way, they bring a little piece of Tupaia to every rohe, or district of Aotearoa that he had an effect on."

The Fa'afaite was at sea for nearly a month on its 4300-kilometre journey to Aotearoa, guided by celestial navigators Moeata Galenon and Titaua Teipoarii, supported by Ngāti Kahungunu's Piripi Smith.

"They had three low pressure systems that swept through one after the other which gave them strong, strong winds and big seas. It was a great challenge for them," Mr Thatcher said.

"We call it celestial navigation, but it would be more accurate to call it Pacific navigation because it's a knowledge that's been gained over thousands of years of our tupuna sailing through the Pacific.

"It's not just about the stars, the moon and the sun, it's about the whole environment and how you are able to attune yourself to what the environment is providing in terms of signs."

Three heritage ships and three vaka make up the core of the Tuia fleet, which begins its voyage in Gisborne in October.

The six core vessels of the Tuia fleet.

The six core vessels of the Tuia fleet. Photo: Ministry for Culture and Heritage

The va'a moana Fa'afaite i te Ao Mā'ohi will be joined by the waka hourua Haunui from Tāmaki Makaurau and Ngahiraka Mai Tawhiti from Tauranga.

They'll assemble with the HMB Endeavour replica from Australia, the Spirit of New Zealand from Tamaki Makaurau and the R. Tucker Thompson from Pēwhairangi, or the Bay of Islands.

The fleet will circumnavigate Te Ika a Maui, or the North Island but visit Meretoto, or Ships Coves in the Marlborough Sounds and Rapaki, or Lyttleton in Te Wai Pounamu, or the South Island.

"It's three months travelling close to 2000 miles so quite a huge undertaking and hopefully it doesn't become too epic," Mr Thatcher said.

Learn more about the Tuia 250 Voyage here.

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