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Ancient boat traces old sea route

2009-06-30 08:55 BJT

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A traditional wooden-hulled boat has recently been recreated in the Philippines. And now it has set sail on a voyage around Southeast Asia aiming to trace the roots of the "Vikings of Asia".

The boat is a faithful recreation of the "Balangay" -- a traditional wood-hulled boat used some 1,700 years ago. It set sail from Manila on Saturday.

The Balangay was the first wooden watercraft ever excavated in Southeast Asia. It's also thought to be among the oldest seafaring vessels in human history.

A crowd of 300 gathered at Manila Bay harbor to witness the historic occasion. They counted down the seconds until the vessel was launched in the water and cheered as it sailed forward.

Art Valdez, expedition leader said, "Although we built this boat here in Manila, in the Philippines it is a Southeast Asian boat. It's a regional boat. We can not totally claim that it is a Filipino boat. But it's a way again of showing what the Malayo-Polynesians or the Indo-Malays have accomplished. They were known as great ship builders and seafarers. As a matter of fact, they were the equivalent of the Vikings of Asia."

Construction of the vessel in Manila was completed in 44 days. Master boat builders from the southernmost island of Tawi-Tawi crafted the vessel using only traditional methods. Among their techniques -- using planks of hardwood, held together by natural resin from mangrove trees as well as wooden pegs and ropes made from dried tree bark. Not a single nail was said to be used.

Balangays traditionally had wooden hulls reinforced with rib-like wooden frames and palm cords. They were used as dwellings, cargo boats and war ships.

Rey Santiago, archaeologist, said, "By using this kind of watercraft, they were able to reach other places, far places, especially in Southeast Asia and exchange technology, language, other cultures and beliefs spread out in Southeast Asia through these boats."

The crew is made up of the first Filipino team to conquer Mount Everest, as well as representatives from the coast guard and navy. Meanwhile, several Badjaos, popularly known as "men of the seas" will take charge of navigation. They hope to sail around 75 ports in the Philippine archipelago before heading around Southeast Asia. And then sail as far as Madagascar off the southeast coast of Africa during their five-year long voyage.

Editor: Zhao Yanchen | Source: CCTV.com