The journey continues for National Geographic Fellow Elizabeth Lindsey currently aboard a Polynesian voyaging canoe “Hine Moana” bound for the Solomon Islands. The crew has left Vanuatu’s Port Vila and will stop briefly on Meskelyne before landing at Honiara where more than 3,000 cultural practitioners from more than 27 countries will gather. Over the next few weeks Elizabeth will share stories of master navigators from the Pacific who live by the wisdom of ancient wayfinding.
By Elizabeth Kapu’uwailani Lindsey, National Geographic Fellow
We depart Port Vila just after dark. Heading north we set sail to a little known island called Uliveo in the Meskelyne Island group.
I board the voyaging canoe “Hine Moana”, Woman of the Sea. Weather is moving in. We expect rain and strong winds. According to the forecasts, we should make landfall by early morning. As predicted, we arrive to Uliveo at 4 am dropping anchor just off the coast.
Kalo, our chef on Hine Moana, and several other members of our crew are from Uliveo. It’s been six months since they’ve been home or seen their families. With seven children and patient wife, Kalo boards a zodiac that dashes him to his beachside compound. His property is made up of several homes, including guest quarters for visitors.
The island, which is one and one third miles long by one mile wide, is comprised of three villages. The islanders are gracious as we arrive from our seven canoes. There are about a hundred thirty us. It’s perhaps one of the largest groups to descend on their tranquil island.
Though their resources are limited, we are hosted to two days of feasting and celebration.
Every event includes a kava ceremony. I am told that the kava here is as potent as the kava served in the celebration at Port Vila.
Wooden tables nearly buckle under platters weighed down by taro, tapioca, and pig roasted in the ‘umu, a method of underground cooking using hot stones.
There’s an indescribable innocence about the people here. They bear a pure, unadulterated presence. I’m mesmerized by the their unbroken gaze. It’s penetrating yet unthreatening and completely unforgettable.
As we load into the dinghies that will return us to our canoes the islanders remain unmoved along their rock-lined shores. It’s an hour before we set sail. Still they remain on their beaches until our vessels are nothing more than a faint memory on a wind-capped sea.
More from Elizabeth’s expedition: