te mana vaka

History of Voyaging


The origin of voyaging in our ocean dates back to the beginnings of knowledge. History and dreams fuse into the myths of a distant maritime culture. As people of the South Pacific our physical geography is over 99% ocean! Our imperative is to voyage and protect these oceans as we have done for thousands of years. Our history and philosophy captures the spirit of our ancestors by which we will chart our future.

The Cook Islands Voyaging Society Inc (the Society) is as a non-profit organisation established in 1992 after the 6th Pacific Arts Festival held on Rarotonga, Cook Islands. The Society was registered in September 1993 under the Incorporated Societies Act 1908 and the registered office is c/o The Secretary, Ministry of Cultural Development.  The Society has a constitution and the Executive Committee is elected at the Annual General Meeting. Eleven members make up the Executive Committee and meetings occur monthly.

The Society is actively engaged in raising awareness about Polynesian Voyaging.  Sir Thomas Davis, was the head of the Cook Islands Voyaging Society and catalyst in the revival of Cook Islands voyaging.  In 1994, he led the building and design of a 72’ replica of a Polynesian double hulled voyaging canoe ‘Te Au o Tonga’.  Te Au o Tonga has spearheaded many successful campaigns and participated in a joint voyage with other Polynesian canoes to Hawaii and was the first vessel to carry out the vision of the Society.  Her journey has included:

  • Te Au O Tonga made her inaugural return round voyage in 1995 to Raiatea, Tahiti, Nuku Hiva, Hawaii, Molokai and Oahu
  • In August 1995, Te Au O Tonga sailed as part of the protest fleet to Moruroa
  • In 1996, the voyage of ‘Te Au O Tonga’ to the VII Pacific Arts Festival in Samoa and then on to Tonga and New Zealand and return voyage to Cook Islands
  • Voyage to the 2000 Millennium celebrations in Gisborne, New Zealand in 1999
  • To the VIII Pacific Arts Festival in New Caledonia in 2000
  • Voyage in 2002, to Tahiti, Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, Borabora, Mitiaro and return
  • 2002, a short trip to Aitutaki for ‘Te Au O Tonga’ to participate in movie “The Legend of Johnny Lingo”
  • Te Au Tonga is now based in Aituaki

Te Au o Tonga inspired the building of new vakas and new voyages. The Okeanos Foundation sailed on Te Au O Tonga and asked the people of the Cook Islands if they could replicate seven ocean voyaging vaka (Vaka Moana) based on her design.  Okeanos commissioned Salthouse Boatbuilders to build seven vaka in Auckland with the help of Cook Islands traditional boat building experts.  In 2010, the builders completed the construction of the Vaka Moana (boat of the ocean).  The Cook Islands was integral in the construction, sail design and sea trialling of the new Vaka Moana.  The first vaka to be built was Marumaru Atua.

From 2010-2012, the historical voyage for all seven vaka ‘Te Mana O Te Moana’ (The Spirit of the Ocean) begun.  The voyage was the start to reconnect with the traditions, with Pacific communities and with the ocean and to spread the message of ocean protection.  The fleet of seven vaka sailed from Aotearoa to Hawai’i, then to the West Coast of the United States, San Diego, Cocos Islands, Galapagos, Tahiti, Cook Islands, Samoa, Fiji and Vanuatu and completed their journey in July 2012 at the Festival of Pacific Arts in the Solomon Islands.

Contract signing of Marumaru Atua with Cook Island Voyaging Society President Ian Karika

Since her return in November 2012, Okeanos gifted Marumaru Atua to the people of the Cook Islands under the custodianship of the Cook Islands Voyaging Society by the Okeanos Foundation.  Since then she has undertaken the following voyages:

  • 2013 Rarotonga to Suwarrow, the uninhabited island and bird sanctuary to collect a group of environmentalists including President of Cook Island Voyaging Society Ian Karika who had been on the island to conduct a rat eradication programme.
  • September 2014 MUA Voyage to IUCN World Parks Congress12th-19th November, Rarotonga, Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu, Gold Coast, Sydney, Auckland
  • Feb 2015 Auckland-Waitangi-Auckland 75th Anniversary Celebrations
  • May 2015 Auckland-Rarotonga Te Manava Festival 50th Anniversary
  • May 2015 Rarotonga-Aitutaki-Atiu-Mauke-Mitiaro-Rarotonga Te Manava Festival Pa Enua.
  • May 2015-September 2016 weekly sails around Rarotonga

Marumaru Atua is recognized as a Cook Island national treasure
and has been commemorated on a national $5 coin

We continue to share the voyaging experience with visitors and students taking people out on weekly sails and educating them about traditional Polynesian voyaging. As of 2017, Marumaru Atua is on dry dock for major repairs following a fire. Our aim is to return her to the ocean, continue to offer voyaging experiences for Cook Islanders and visitors, and to become a formidable voice for our oceans. We continue to strengthen our global partnerships and share the legacy of Polynesian voyaging.

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