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By Jan TenBruggencate

NAWILIWILI, Kauai, Hawaii (Nov. 17, 1999 – Honolulu Advertiser)---The Endeavour’s main topsail was just visible over Ninini Point as six of us bobbed in the ocean off Nawiliwili Bay, trying to get a sense of what a first look might have felt like to early Hawaii residents in outrigger canoes.

The Endeavour replica, a modern reconstruction of one of the old coal ships in which Captain James Cook voyaged the world, was an impressive sight as it slid into view, sails full, to pass the Ninini Point lighthouse and head for the harbor.

The bark’s sails appeared gray again the bright white sails of the modern yachts that tacked across the Endeavour’s stern. Kauai would be the ship’s last Hawaii landfall.

The crew of a four-seat outrigger canoe met Endeavour at Ninini Point. Paddler Meph Wyeth said she’d watched the ship from its first appearance on the horizon. Early Hawaii residents referred to the European ships Captain Cook brought to Hawaii as floating islands. Wyeth, a veteran Pacific traveler, said the Endeavour fulfilled the image.

"At first she looked like an island, like the island of Tikopia (in the eastern Solomons). Then, as she got closer, the sails and the hull resolved themselves. I got chicken skin," she said.

The crew in our six-seat canoe sat silently off Kuii Point, rising and falling on the swells, as the 143-foot ship approached, head on, seeming to inflate as it got closer.

"She’s getting bigger," someone said.

The difference between the big European hull and the slim Polynesian canoes could not have been more marked. The deck of the big ship was gently rolling. The crew and passengers on deck were dry. The Kaiola Canoe Club canoe, ‘Owaka, responded to every wavelet, seas drenching us.

Endeavour’s crew conducted business on a deck more than 10 feet above the ocean in a vessel that displaces 550 tons. The ‘Owaka weighs 400 pounds – its crew can lift it and carry it ashore.

It seemed unsurprising that Cook was so impressed by the voyages of Polynesian navigators. He could see they had not only been accomplished, but accomplished in vessels entirely alien to 18th century European seagoing concepts.

That Hawaiians’ failure to immediately recognize Cook’s ships as man-made watercraft now also made sense. These ships were as alien to the Hawaiians’ concept of how to navigate the seas as the canoes were to Cook.

The Endeavour, powered by its decidedly untraditional diesel engines, maneuvered the ship dockside at Nawiliwili Harbor, where several hundred Kauai residents waited at lunchtime yesterday. In our untraditional fiberglass outrigger canoe, we took a couple of inspection passes and moved on.

The Endeavour, after all, was of a different world.

The vessel will be docked and available for public inspection at Nawiliwili from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Sunday. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children. Large families can purchase a $25 family pass.

The ship will leave Monday, pausing for the sunset off Waimea, where Cook first set foot on Hawaiian soil, and then sailing for New Zealand.

For additional reports from The Honolulu Advertiser, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Honolulu Advertiser.

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