The voyage of the Sarimanok – TTG

In 1985, a seacraft named the ‘Sarimanok’, a 20-meter long double outrigger canoe adzed from a single tree in the Southern Philippines, was constructed to re-enact the migration from Indonesia of human settlers on Madagascar (based on archaeological evidence) some 2,500 years ago. The canoe sailed from Bali in June, with eight crew and arrived safely on Madagascar seven weeks later. No modern materials were used in the canoe’s construction or sailing rig and the crew survived on what food was available at the time. It was this voyage which inspired the founding of The First Mariners.

Comment: I’m a sucker for a good sea yarn and this is a good one, no matter how old it is. I came upon it through the WaterTribe Facebook page. No surprise there.

If you liked the adventures of Kon-Tiki and Hokule’a, you’ll enjoy this film of the voyage of Sarimanok. It is well told and well filmed. It’s also very human… avery special type of human. I have great respect for the one young woman in the crew who signed on as a nutritionist to ensure the crew remained healthy while consuming a diet from two millenniums ago. She ended up preparing all meals under primitive conditions for the two month voyage. Woe betide any crew member who spoke ill of a meal. If I was the captain, I’d slap their mouth dry right then and there.


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8 Responses to The voyage of the Sarimanok – TTG

  1. Peter Williams says:

    Disrespecting a cook on a boat/ship is a sin, unless they deserve to be lost at sea. I’ve been on boats where we’ve had to put cooks ashore due to chronic seasickness, it takes a special person to cook on small boats. Once the cook was put ashore, the crew would divide tasks amongst themselves. The galley is not the most pleasant place to be and a lot of food preparation can be done in the mess.

  2. Leith says:

    Amazing that Austronesian culture and language spans from Madagascar to Easter Island, about 15,000 miles.

    And IMHO those first mariners probably even went to the coast of South America, making it 17,000 miles or over 27,000 km. I always believed that Thor Heyerdahl and his Kon Tiki should have sailed east to Peru from Polynesia – instead he got it backwards.

    And there are some traces of Austronesian genotypes on mainland Africa in Somalia.

    Damned good sailors. Quite a reach.

  3. A. Pols says:

    It has long fascinated me, the consideration of how people migrated across thousands of miles of ocean, say from Polynesia to the Americas. It seems reasonable to me that those voyages were never planned and those who settled in new lands were probably just shipwrecked after losing their way and being taken by prevailing winds and currents. They wouldn’t have had the means for reverse voyages and the people where they came from would never have known of other lands or of what became of the lost voyagers. Those voyagers were just gone…
    Yes, Thor Heyerdahl went in the opposite direction, but he had knowledge of where he was going.
    In more modern times, so many seafarers from Spain and Portugal were wrecked on the Irish coast that one finds Irishmen with latinate names. The flotsam of the Spanish Armada brought diversity to Irish shores…LOL

  4. Mark Logan says:

    If you like good yarns there are few that can compare with the one, most likely true, yarn of Paddy Gilroy and the CHANCE, as recorded in “Cruise of the Cachalot”. I’ll cut and paste the first part, the description of the man as a teaser. The author spent the rest of that chapter describing other things and picked up the tale in the next, so this link spans those two chapters. The memorable tale nearly all the walers jettisoning their catch to escape a deadly lee-shore condition…except for Paddy…is picked up at the start of the second chapter.

    The link:

    “Therefore, it is the more pleasant to me to be able to chronicle
    some of the doings of Captain Gilroy, familiarly known as
    “Paddy,” the master of the CHANCE, who was unsurpassed as a
    whale-fisher or a seaman by any Yankee that ever sailed from
    Martha’s Vineyard.

    He was a queer little figure of a man–short, tubby, with scanty
    red hair, and a brogue thick as pea-soup. Eccentric in most
    things, he was especially so in his dress, which he seemed to
    select on the principle of finding the most unfitting things to
    wear. Rumour credited him with a numerous half-breed progeny–
    certainly be was greatly mixed up with the Maories, half his crew
    being made up of his dusky friends and relations by MARRIAGE.
    Overflowing with kindliness and good temper, his ship was a
    veritable ark of refuge for any unfortunate who needed help,
    which accounted for the numerous deserters from Yankee whalers
    who were to be found among his crew. Such whaling skippers as
    our late commander hated him with ferocious intensity; and but
    for his Maori and half-breed bodyguard, I have little doubt he
    would have long before been killed. Living as he had for many
    years on that storm-beaten coast, he had become, like his
    Maories, familiar with every rock and tree in fog or clear, by
    night or day; he knew them, one might almost say, as the seal
    knows them, and feared them as little. His men adored him. They
    believed him capable of anything in the way of whaling, and would
    as soon have thought of questioning the reality of daylight as
    the wisdom of his decisions.”

  5. Frederick Herschel says:

    Have you read The Riddle Of The Sands by Erskine Childers?
    I have read it well over 10 times and listened to the audiobook narrated by Simon Vance at least 4 times. It is my favorite book. Written pre-WWI, it is considered to be the first spy novel. Childers went on to die in front of a firing squad in Ireland for gun running. If you haven’t read it, you are in for an incredible experience. It’s a sailor’s dream.

    • TTG says:

      Frederick Herschel,

      Yes, I’ve read that one, but just once. I picked it up after someone here, perhaps you, recommended it some time ago. Gun running, indeed. Childers’ Asgard brought in all those Model 1871 Mausers for the IRA. “Me Old Howth Gun”

  6. Rob Waddell says:

    Thanks for that link TTG..

    A well produced documentary with good narration, film and audio. I fully recommend it to all here. Pity about the poor dubbing (3rd gen VHS) but I’m sure the original is available somewhere however the real quality is in captain Corridan’s monologue’s.

    There is a huge worldwide following for ancient and traditional navigation these days including Melanesian and Polynesian voyage reenactments, Viking ancient voyages and many others often involving very long journeys. The Polynesian Voyaging Societies ‘Hokulea’ completed a circumnavigation in 2017.

    What make the ‘Sarimanok’ voyage different is that it was traditionally build using local materials i.e. no synthetic ropes or even metal parts.

    May such adventurous people always exist!


    • TTG says:


      I thought about you when I posted this. I knew you would like it. I saw the Hokule’a in Honolulu back in 1978 or 1979. She was sitting in a lagoon off Waikiki alone and without crew. Odd for Waikiki, I remember being pretty much alone with her. I know it was after her 1978 capsizing and the loss of Eddie Aikau. I didn’t know about the capsizing at the time, but there was a definite sense of quiet and stillness in my encounter with Hokule’a.

      I missed her when she stopped in Washington DC in 2016. She actually berthed in Old Town Alexandria only a block or two from where I once had an office. Being retired by that time, I didn’t have a clue she was so close until two years later. I did get to visit the Draken Harald Hårfagre in 2018 when she berthed in DC proper. Learned how her immense square sail was much more a balanced lug in use.

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