Scientists to recreate ancient voyage

Scientists in a straw boat on an earlier tripImage copyright
National Museum of Nature and Science

Image caption

Researchers previously tried out a straw boat in the waters off Japan in 2014

A team of scientists is planning to recreate the perilous ocean journey that brought early human settlers to Japan.

The researchers, led by the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo, have launched a crowdfunding campaign to build either a primitive boat made of bundled grass or a bamboo raft of the kind believed to have been used by the first settlers, The Japan Times reports. They’re hoping the make the first voyage between Yonaguni and Iriomote – two outlying islands in Japan’s extreme southwest – in July this year. The Asahi Shimbun newspaper says that the team is planning to cover the 75km (46.6 mile) stretch of water in 25 hours using millennia-old technology.

The next stage of the project will take the scientists on a longer and more dangerous trip from neighbouring Taiwan to Yonaguni in July 2017. This will recreate one of the three routes believed to have been taken by early settlers some 30,000 years ago, says Yosuke Kaifu, who runs the project.

“We hope to solve riddles about the origin of Japanese people,” he tells a news conference. “We wonder whether they could see Yonaguni from Taiwan and whether they were affected by the Black Current. What they did was very challenging,” he adds. The Black Current, also known as Kuroshio Current or Japan Current, is similar to the Gulf Stream and is active in the western part of the northern Pacific Ocean.

The project will cost around 50m yen ($435,000; £300,000), of which 20m yen will be covered by donations from the public. If the team doesn’t reach its target by 12 April, the donations will be returned, The Japan Times says. It adds that this is the first venture into crowdfunding by a Japanese national museum.

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