Sailing Halfway Around the World to Find Our Oldest Ancestors

The view of the coastline around Mossel Bay in South Africa from the deck of Hōkūle'a. This is where some of the oldest remnants of humanity can be found. (Photo by Daniel Lin)
The view of the coastline around Mossel Bay in South Africa from the deck of Hōkūle’a. This is where some of the oldest remnants of humanity can be found. (Photo by Daniel Lin)

Last week, Hōkūle’a arrived in Mossel Bay, South Africa, which marks the farthest point away from Hawai’i that this voyaging canoe can possibly travel. From here on, every mile we sail will no longer be heading away from home but rather, closer to it. But Mossel Bay carries much more significance than just being a longitudinal antipode. In fact, I believe that Mossel Bay is one of the most important stops in the Worldwide Voyage because it connects us to humanity in the most profound way.

Crewmembers with Dr. Peter Nillsen stand in front of the famous Cave 13B at Pinnacle Point. (Photo by Daniel Lin)
Crewmembers with Dr. Peter Nillsen stand in front of the famous Cave 13B at Pinnacle Point. (Photo by Daniel Lin)

Mossel Bay rests on the southern coast of South Africa, widely known for its beautiful coastal landscapes and treacherous seas (both of which we have experienced first hand on this leg of the voyage). This region boasts one of the most temperate climates on the planet, thus allowing a great diversity of flora and fauna to grow and flourish. This became extremely important during the last ice age where Homo sapiens were driven towards the southern coast of Africa to escape the cold environment everywhere else. According to an article in Scientific American, every person in the world today is descended from the few people that lived in this region of South Africa who survived the last ice age and, over the last 160,000 years, expanded their reach to every corner of the Earth.

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