Mossel Bay’s world famous Point of Human Origins features in the June/July issue of Hana Hou! Magazine, Hawaiian Airlines’ in-flight magazine.
A stunning photo essay and accompanying article tell the remarkable story of the Hōkūleʻa’s African leg of her worldwide voyage – and put much emphasis on their visit to the archaeological cave sites at Pinnacle Point in Mossel Bay, where archaeologists have discovered the earliest evidence of modern human behaviour.
Hōkūleʻa is a Polynesian canoe that uses traditional celestial navigation techniques, circumnavigating the globe to raise awareness of the ancient ways of the Hawaiian people, and to inspire people to reconnect with each other and Mother Nature.
One of the most important stops
It took the Hōkūleʻa a year and a half and more than 10,000 nautical miles to reach Mossel Bay.
This milestone is perhaps best described by blogger Dan Lin*:
“Mossel Bay marked the farthest point away from Hawai’i that this voyaging canoe could possibly travel. But Mossel Bay carries much more significance than just being a longitudinal antipode. In fact, I believe that Mossel Bay is one of the most important stops in the Worldwide Voyage because it connects us to humanity in the most profound way… Every person in the world today is descended from the few people that lived in this region of South Africa who survived the last ice age and, over the last 160,000 years, expanded their reach to every corner of the Earth.
“The more we read about Mossel Bay, the more we knew that this was going to be a crucial part of our voyage. Fortunately for us, Dr Peter Nilssen (the man who discovered the archaeological significance of the caves and who heads the Point of Human Origins tours) felt the same way.
“Upon hearing that Hōkūle’a was stopping in Mossel Bay, Peter graciously offered to help us better understand the story of human origins that he has spent his career working on. To do this, Peter accompanied us to Pinnacle Point.”
We are all one family
“Prior to entering this sacred space (Cave 13B), the Hōkūle’a crew took a few minutes to conduct our own Hawaiian cultural protocol of chant and prayer. Only then did we enter into the cave to listen to Peter describe the significance of what he and his team had found there.
“In all honesty, there have been many times in these past few weeks where I’ve struggled to wrap my head around the fact that Hōkūle’a has now sailed farther than any Polynesian vessel in known history. However, standing there at Pinnacle Point and knowing that I have actual ancestors from that place was simply mind-blowing.
Spiritual turning point
“When we stood there in that cave—crew members of all different ethnicities, backgrounds, and experiences—we could all say that we had common ancestors who stood in that same spot over 160,000 years ago. But even more than that, this connectivity extends beyond those that are currently living; it weaves together the story of all of the past generations as well as the stories of all the future generations to come. These caves bore witness to the oldest and most important story in the history of humanity: that we are all one family and we should treat every person on Earth as such.”
The Hana Hou! article shares these feelings. Derek Ferrar, Special correspondent for Hana Hou! Magazine, writes about their Point of Human Origins experience: “Inside the shallow cave, the crew mills around quietly, absorbing the magnitude of the place and reflecting on Hawaiians’ part in this story as one of the most recent indigenous people to have discovered and settled their homeland, only fifteen hundred years ago or so.
“It’s an amazing moment,” says chief navigator Nainoa Thompson to no-one in particular, “when one of the youngest native cultures comes to see the place of the oldest.”
“In the parking lot above the Pinnacle Point caves, Nainoa says it’s just occurred to him that we are within a mile of the exact opposite longitude from Hōkūle’a’s home berth in Honolulu. “To me, spiritually, this is a critical turning point of our voyage. And then when Peter says ‘welcome home,’ it just blows my mind.”
It was the first time that the Hōkūle’a ever ventured this far. She became the only known Polynesian canoe to enter the Indian and Atlantic oceans.
A ‘chicken skin’ experience
Asked to elaborate on the Hōkūle’a crew’s visit to Mossel Bay, Derek says: “Mossel Bay and the Point of Human Origin caves are one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever visited, and getting to be there with Hōkūle’a made it all the more special.
“Everybody was so friendly and gracious toward the crew, and Dr Peter Nilssen’s passionate explanation of the history of the Pinnacle Point Caves was captivating. In Hawai’i, we use the term ‘chicken-skin’ to describe emotionally electrifying moments, and I know that’s what all the crew felt as we stood at the mouth of the cave, with one of our crew members calling out a spontaneous Hawaiian chant honouring the ancestors of all humanity who had lived there.
“Several of us were also able to visit the Dias Museum, and viewing the exquisite replica of the explorer’s hefty 15-century caravel renewed our appreciation for the incredible feat that Polynesian ancestors had accomplished centuries before in exploring and settling vast expanses of the Pacific in their small, open-air canoes using only indigenous methods of navigating by the stars and waves that had been passed down orally through generations.
“But most of all I was struck by the wonderful sense of welcome and camaraderie offered by everyone we met in Mossel Bay. It truly felt like we were being welcomed home, although we were literally at the farthest point on the globe from the Hōkūle’a’s – and our – home in Hawai’i.”
*Read Dan Lin’s full blog here: http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2015/11/17/sailing-halfway-around-the-world-to-find-our-oldest-ancestors/