Current position of the SSV Robert C. Seamans. Click on the vessel to view position history. Use the tools, top right, to change the map style or view data layers. Dates and times use GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).
SEA Currents: SSV Robert C. Seamans
October 22, 2016
18° 08.1’ S x 178° 25.4’ E
Ship’s Heading & Speed
Alongside, Suva, Fiji
Little bit of rain midday but otherwise pleasant!
Day Three in Fiji started with a bit of excitement as a cruise ship pulled up next to us on the dock in Suva. So far on the trip, every time someone asked how we could possibly fit 38 people on our boat, I always said “it feels much bigger than you think,” but today was the first time it felt tiny. Once we were sure that we weren’t going to get squashed by the cruise ship and had a new perspective of our vessel, we left to see a traditional Fijian sailing vessel being constructed in a town east of Suva.
After an hour and half of weaving between the coast and low lying hills in a bus that only played music with a booming bass, we pulled up next to a cluster of houses. When I stepped off the bus it became clear we were following a young boy who led us through a gate and into a yard, before disappearing behind a door. We diligently followed him through the door and it opened up into an roofless workshop where the drua dominated the space. A drua is a traditional double hulled canoe. They could be used for transportation, trade, war, and for carrying the chief, which is the type of drua this one is modeled after. In the past, large ones could be large enough to fit over 100 people; this one was about 12m long, 5m wide, and 5m tall. A platform connected the two hulls, and had a lean-to structure on it. The builders Allie, Pete, and Sam are from New Zealand and were inspired to build the drua while sailing around the Pacific and discovering that there were many communities that had become isolated from other islands because they had no means of travel. Some islands are lucky enough to have a ferry visit once a month, while others have to wait longer. They also learned that the knowledge of how to build the traditional ships that had traveled across Polynesia for centuries was almost lost in Fiji. With grants from the University of the South Pacific, Pete and Sam were able to travel around the Fijian islands to find any information they could on the drua.
Slowly they pieced together information. An elderly man on one island remembered his grandfather building a drua, and a woman on another island was taught by her grandmother to weave the sails. In addition to their field work, they frequently visited the Fiji museum to copy the designs of their drua, which is the last one built in Fiji, over a hundred years ago. After two years of construction, Allie, Pete, and Sam’s drua is finally sea worthy and will set sail this Friday. I wish we were staying long enough to see it on the water. A drua is a fascinating ship because it can sail both up and down wind. This is possible because the mast can be unhitched from the deck, led through the water on the side, and then be notched on the other end of the boat. The builders’ goal is to use the boat for ecotourism, and to encourage other villages in Fiji to see the drua as a way to make a livelihood again.
Our day did not end there and we were lucky enough to visit the village of Na Korova in the afternoon. The village is tucked along the coast on the outskirts of Suva, and is home to about 50 displaced Lau Islanders from Eastern Fiji. After a sharing a bowl of kava, the elders gave us insight into their life in the village. Bara, one of the elders, talked about many things, but one point that resonated with me was the idea that family is always connected. Whether they are an island or an ocean away, they are always close in other ways. I thought it was an interesting perspective considering that our morning was spent learning about a project that was inspired from the islands not being connected as they used to be. The construction of the drua is important because it is helping preserve an integral part of Fijian history, but at the same time they have learned to adapt and stay connected in other ways.