Crew Blog | Kālepa Baybayan: Simon’s Town, 34˚ 11’ S, 18˚ 26’ E
In this Mediterranean-like climate sits the coastal port of Simon’s Town, nestled along a rocky mountainous landscape. To the east and west, steep ridges plunge pecariously into deep water. Simon’s Town is located in False Bay; not a very large harbor, but home for the South African Navy. We arrived on Tuesday evening after an overnight sail from Mossel Bay, and intend on spending another evening in this idyllic port before pushing off to Cape Town. That final 60-nautical mile jaunt will bring this portion of the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage to a close.
So far on our South African journey we have visited the ocean-side ports of Richards Bay, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Mossel Bay, and Simon’s Town. They say you can go through four seasons of weather in one day here in South Africa, something which the crew of Hōkūle’a have experienced. Sunny mornings, hail in the afternoon, brilliant sunsets, and 30˚ nights, all in one day. The weather systems here, like the African continent, loom large and ominous, clouds quickly forming on the horizon and enveloping the canoe in a misty fog.
One of the most beautiful things that the voyagers have experienced is the nightly luminescence that radiates across the sea and emerges in the wake of the canoe, it is stunning to behold.
Undoubtedly, the most historic stop to this point has been our visit to the Pinnacle Point caves in Mossel Bay. In coastal bushlands and shoreline caves, the earliest Homo sapien population, speculated to be from a pool of only 400 humans, held residence. It is from this tiny pool of homo sapiens that all humans are reported to descend. Some 200,000 years ago homo sapiens emerged in east Africa, residing there for a short while until a cataclysmic climate event occurred – the earth re-entered into it’s cyclical ice age – that expanded the Sahara desert exponentially, turning once fertile wetlands arid. This event sealed off Africa from northward human migration, forcing Homo sapiens to search southward for a warmer climate, which they eventually found in the more temperate environment on the edge of the southern shores of Africa. Here they spent the next 70,000 years living in the South African bushlands and shoreline caves, developing the human traits that make the Pinnacle Point Caves in Mossel Bay the Cradle of Human Culture.
Fed by a nutrient-rich diet of omega-3s from the abundant supply of shellfish found in the rich shoreline resources of the South African coast, this brain “fertilizer” assisted in language development, art in the form of personal adornment and rock wall paintings, and heat-treated stone tool shaping of fine spear points used in hunting expeditions. Here in this environmental “Shangri-la”, the beginnings of human culture took shape. Eventually, when the world warmed, these Homo sapiens worked their way northwards, settling Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Some 60,000 years ago, these Homo sapien explorers eventually emerged on the edge of the great ocean that spread eastward from Southeast Asia, thus beginning the last chapter of the great human odyssey, the exploration of Oceania.
They quickly learned how to construct robust and durable craft capable of deep sea exploration. Equipped with sails of plaited leaves and lashed together with cordage of plant fiber, they become highly skilled mariners. They were attuned to their environment, fast observers and learners, and from practice and experimentation they created a system of orientation and direction-finding. They bravely sailed away from the safety of shorelines to explore new horizons and discover the stars. They were the worlds best navigators…. and I am descended from them.
Along the longitudinal antipode of the Pinnacle Point caves in South Africa is the Marine Education & Training Center (METC) in Honolulu’s Keehi Lagoon, home of Hōkūleʻa. In this story of the great human odyssey that begins with the first human migration northward out of the Pinnacle Point caves in South Africa 120,000 years ago and closes with the final chapter of the great human exploration of the world in Hawaiʻi 1,200 years ago, it is appropriate that we Hawaiians – children of the first human explorers to venture forward out of South Africa – come full circle, and embrace our South African ancestors.
We are in essence, all brothers and sisters, coming from the same source of life, and from the same curious species.
As we prepare for the final leg of our journey it has been a rare privilege and honor to have shared my time with this group of excellent humans and Homo sapiens, I am honored to call you all my friends:
- Nainoa Thompson
- Billy Richards
- Archie Kalepa, Southern Ocean Bald Eagles Club*
- Keahi Omai, Southern Ocean Bald Eagles Club
- Timi Gilliom, Southern Ocean Bald Eagles Club
- Lehua Kamalu
- Nikki Kamalu
- Tamiko Fernelius
- Carolyn Annerud
- Sam Kapoi, Southern Ocean Bald Eagles Club
- Kaimana Barcarse
- Daniel Lin
- Derek Ferrar
- and my friend Max Yarawamai, Southern Ocean Bald Eagles Club
Signing off from South Africa,
**The Southern Ocean Bald Eagles Club is made up of hairless crew mates Sam Kapoi, Keahi Omai, Timi Gilliom, Archie Kālepa, and recent addition, Max Yarawamai. Max made a appointment for me to get my head shaved in Durban, but I politely refused the invitation. My partial bald spot at the back of my head should be considered as a qualifying condition.