In the next week or so, five adventurers will attempt to paddle a primitive hand-hewn canoe across 200 kilometers of ocean in hopes of revealing how humans originally populated East China Sea islands.
The 40-hour trip, from Taiwan to Yonaguni, the westernmost of Japan’s Okinawa Islands, is the culmination of a 6-year effort to experimentally determine what kinds of craft Paleolithic peoples may have built and used, and how they navigated over long ocean voyages.
Kaifu’s team—all seasoned ocean kayakers—will be paddling a log boat or dugout canoe of a type found in China and Japan dating back 8000 years.
The team used simple stone axes, modeled on Paleolithic era archeological findings in Japan, to chop down a 1-meter-thick tree and then hew it into a 7-meter-long, 350-kilogram dugout.
To emulate the ancients in other ways, the crew will not use modern navigational tools. Instead, the team includes a Maori man from New Zealand who can navigate by following the stars and judging winds and ocean swells.