Crew members were one step closer to their journey across the Pacific on Thursday (February 9) when the indigenously-crafted reed boat, Viarcocha III, was towed onto a Chilean beach.
Phil Buck, a 51-year-old explorer from the United States, is set to captain the vessel from Chile’s Chinchorro Beach in Arica to Australia.
“The intention is to sail from here at the end of May, to Sydney, Australia. That is the intention, a journey of six months,” he told Reuters.
The ship was constructed in the Bolivian capital, La Paz, by indigenous Aymara who live on Lake Titicaca high in the Andes and who have used similar craft for centuries.
Buck said that he chose Arica for his point of departure because of its weather and location. He added that the ship is 90 percent ready, explaining that he still has to install sails, masts and rudders.
In a bid to show that it was possible for Aymara or other native South Americans to have made the trip in pre-Columbian times, Buck said the international crew will use bamboo water containers and eat quinoa, potatoes and fish from the ocean.
“It is more about showing the distance this type of vessel can endure in the sea because the journey is six months and we are going to stop on four islands. Some islands have a connection with South America. We want to show the connection that some islands in the Pacific have with South America,” he said.
Buck also said that he intends to keep the space around Viracocha III open until departure so that local residents and tourists can learn about the ship up close.
Unlike the sailors of the past, though, they will send daily updates to social media. Maritime law stipulates that they will also have to carry modern GPS and navigation systems.
Their first stop-off is scheduled to be the remote Polynesian island of Mangareva, after around 60 days at sea.
After Mangareva, the 18-meter (59-ft) long ‘Viracocha III’ will head to Tahiti, Fiji, and then Sydney, a journey of some 10,000 nautical miles.
Buck has already led two similar expeditions. His adventures are inspired by the 1947 trip of Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl, who crossed the Pacific in the ‘Kon-Tiki’ balsa-reed raft.