Bid To Sail Reed Boat Across Atlantic, East From New York

Readers of these pages over the last couple of weeks will be familiar with the idea that archaic humans may have put to sea hundreds of thousands of years earlier than was thought possible, and to this end I’ve concentrated on the replicative archaeology of Robert Bednarik, who in recent years has designed and built various watercraft, such as the Nale Tasih, in order to undertake similar quests…

We know that these sea journeys occurred, and we know approximately when. But we do not know how they were accomplished. This project examines that question in great detail, in Indonesia and in other parts of the world. For this purpose, a number of rafts, each designed differently, are constructed with Palaeolithic stone tool replicas, and it is attempted to sail them across stretches of sea known to have been crossed in the Ice Age, in Indonesia, the Mediterranean, in Japan and off California.”

We now have news of another adventurer, by the name of Dominique Goerlitz, who is attempting a rather unusual sea crossing of his own – he intends to sail a reed boat, the Abora III from New York across the Atlantic to Europe, by way of the Azores, Cadiz and the Canary Islands – but what makes his journey different from previous experiments which exploited favourable winds and currents, is that by trying to navigate from east to west, he will need to be able to tack into the prevailing wind…

“Goerlitz, 41, and a crew of eight plan to set sail Wednesday from New York in a prehistoric-style reed boat to show that people 6,000 to 14,000 years ago could have made the more complicated eastward journey from the New World to get back home again.

The reed boat – called the Abora III – is constructed along the lines of Heyerdahl’s Ra, out of 17 tonnes of reed papyrus that grows at the 3,800-metre-high Lake Titicaca on the border of Peru and Bolivia. Goerlitz in fact had some input from the late Norwegian explorer on some of his earlier boats launched in Europe.

Unlike the Ra, however, the Abora has 16 lee boards – or retractable foils – for steering, a refinement that will enable Abora to tack into the wind and carry it eastwards.

‘Why did I not see this?’ Goerlitz quoted Heyerdahl as saying after their first meeting in 1995 in Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Heyerdahl was referring to the keel-board evidence in ancient drawings that Goerlitz had found.”

Thor Heyerdahl is a name writ large in the log-books of experimental ocean crossings by means of boats and rafts that relied principally on Stone Age technology, or at least one that didn’t incorporate any man-made fabric or tools of the modern age, such as metals, plastics or other industrial products of the recent historical age. In 1947 Heyerdahl set off on his legendary expedition, which has since become the water-mark by which similar projects are designed and carried out. He successfully made it to Polynesia, and as the link to Wikipedia discusses, in so doing may have solved some of the mysteries which included cultural similarities, including the spread of gourds and sweet potato which could much be much more readily explained if contact had been established and maintained by groups of people living in lands and on islands distant from each other, yet accessible through long distance seafaring between the various locations.

Taking his inspiration in part from Heyerdahl, as well as from conclusions drawn in the course of his own research, Goerlitz explains his rationale with this quote from his website…

“There is growing evidence that before Columbus or the Vikings made their maiden voyages to the New World, people were regularly crossing the Atlantic to trade goods. Scientists have discovered traces of nicotine and cocaine in the mummy of Ramses II. Neither drug became popular until after Columbus returned to the Old World. Moreover, remains of tobacco beetles, which could not have flown from the Gulf of Mexico to the Mediterranean, were discovered in Egyptian graves. The discovery of the same cultivated plants on both sides of the Atlantic is further indication that Stone Age Man made these transatlantic business trips. How did they do it? Cave drawings from the Magdalene Old Stone Age cultures in France and Spain point to the advanced nautical knowledge of these pre-Ice Age seafarers.

The most remarkable example of this originates from the “Cueva del Castillo” in northern Spain, dating back to 12,000 BCE. It refers to the Canary Islands Gulf Stream System, a downwind course – much easier than sailing in the windy Mediterranean. Even the types of stylized boats used to cross the Atlantic from East to West with the North Equatorial Current, as well as from West to East on the Gulf Stream, are clearly depicted. The dotted circles on the left most likely refer to the Caribbean Current, from which the Gulf Stream rises.”

Arbora III was constructed along the lines of the reed boats made by the Aymara people who live at Lake Titicaca, which straddles Peru and Bolivia, and is the highest lake in the world. Boats of very similar construction and materials are known at Lake Chad in Ethiopia, and were also known to ply their trade along the Nile in Ancient Egypt.

If Goerlitz succeeds in his bid, it will at least prove that navigation may have been possible in both directions across the Atlantic, but that in itself wouldn’t be direct evidence for travel between Peru and the Mediterranean ports of Egypt. This is because New York, from where Goerlitz is sailing, is on the eastern coast of North America, whereas Peru is located several thousand miles away on continental South America, and is moreover, across the other side, on her western shores.

We learn that Abora III is due to cast off this coming week, and it only remains for us to wish Goerlitz and his crew all success and good fortune in their travails, and if this trip is indeed successful, it would be interesting to to see if a project could be funded which made both the Atlantic sea crossing and the overland foot crossing, possibly via Mexico or Guatemala, followed by the coastal trip down to Peru, before turning around and heading for home once more. (TJ)

see also: BBC News: Viking Ship Sets Sail For Dublin and Sea Stallion From Glendalough 2007

4 thoughts on “Bid To Sail Reed Boat Across Atlantic, East From New York

  1. Bribeyer, huh? Are you asking, “Where did the 1st people who saild the boat to N. America from?” I’m sorry I can’t make sense of your question, it is missing some keywords.

  2. Since some years we are convinced, the first who discovered North America were the Solutrean Ice Age Hunters – coming from Southern France (Atlantic Coast) – went by boat along the pack ice border. 18.000 years ago they got a colder periode and the pack ice covered the Atlantic Ocean till southern France and New York – Boston at the Eastcoast. The French Ice Age hunters were sealhunters – they used 10 meter leather boats to reach the pack ice at the open sea – and hunted seals for the next 2-3 weeks and came back with a lot of seals and small whales. They used their boat as a shelter as well. By night or by storm they pulled their boat on the ice, turned it around and used it as shelter. Inuits told us, their grandparents had the same stile of sealhunting and the pack ice is a rich hunting ground – but full of hidden dangerous. However, they went by leather boat along the pack ice. Wind and the Ice Age Gulf Stream was helpful to reach the Eastcoast of North America, cause the Gulf Stream run different as today – these currents went to the Eastcoast. It is actually proofed that European ice age seal hunters were the first humans in North America almost 18.000 ya. They founded a new colony – cause to return back home to France, to their tribe, this was impossible, cause the currents westwards and wind too. The icebirdge was still open the next thousend years – hundrets of hunters stranded at the North American eastcoast. So it was not impossible for them to survive the next 6000 years as the first Siberican Hunters came to the eastcoast of N-America. Canadian biologists found out, a quarter of the N-American natives have also European DNA marks – this sounded so unbelieveable – these EU-DNA goes back to the Solutrean Ice Age Hunters – 17.000 ya. Spearpoints were found, which are also 17.000 years old – the oldest found in N-America. South America was populated by negroid people first – it was nearby 20.000 years old – but we are in doubt, which way they used. By sea of course. These S-American skulls were negroid – all skulls, which are older as 10.000 years – are negroid, these skulls are very similar to Aborigines skulls. Most of the scientists believe, they came from Southeast Asia or Melanesia – went a long the Chine coast to the north – during the ice age much more islands existed and the Aleuts were a coastline. They came to the N-American Westcoast – went to the south – from island to island. Some of them left their boat or boats in Chile – the oldest human evidences of South America were found in Chile – a group of them lived in Brazil – Serra da Capivara. Every human evidence in S-America, which is older as 10.000 years – was made by negroids-aborigines related people. In Brazil they found the biggest place with spearpoints, stonetools and a lot of rock paintings – dated between 12.000 to 18.000 ya.
    Crossing the Pacific 20.000 years ago seems a bit too unreal – much more possible is their seajourney along the coasts. They were acutally able to cross the open sea for some hundret miles. The sealevel was more than 100 meters deeper as today – and archaeologists actually found some stonestools in 50 meters off the Canadian Westcoast. Dr. Bruce Bradley and Dr. Adovasia sent to me their scintific publicantions and a lot of informations about all their investigations. Peter Vienna

  3. Bribeyer – probably the first who crossed the North Atlantic were the Solutrean Ice Age hunters around 17.000 years ago, they lived at the French Atlantic coast near the border to Spain. Dr. Bradley and Dr. Stanford found different clues and evidences for their theory at the US Eastcoast and in France and Spain. The Solutrean at the coast were sealhunters, we can find their cave paintings of seals in Spain. A cold period at the end of the last ice age covered the Northern Atlantic with pack ice – they went along the packice border to hunt seals – the Gulf Stream currents at the surface drifted westwards – therefore it was possible for them to arrive at the N-American eastcoast – but it was impossible to return. These European iceage hunters survived at the eastcoast for the next 5000 years – as the first ancestors of the American Natives met the Europeans – they intermingled – European DNA marks were found in many native tribes at the east- and the north of N-America.

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