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Sunday, February 21, 1999 Published at 22:44 GMT

World: Americas

Across the Pacific by reed boat

A Spanish sailor has set out on his second attempt to cross the Pacific Ocean in a 27m-long reed boat.

BBC's James Reynolds: 'Mood of optimism surrounds the trip"
Kitin Munoz set out from Chile with his crew of nine, intending to prove that centuries ago sailors crossed the Pacific from the Americas to Asia in similar boats.

His expedition recalls the epic raft vogage by Norwegian scientist Thor Heyerdahl more than 50 years ago to prove that ancient people from the Americas could have colonized Polynesia.

The 14,000km voyage is expected to take between five and six months, if wind and sea conditions are favourable.

Sailors before Columbus

[ image: Thousands cheered the crew as they sailed from Chile]
Thousands cheered the crew as they sailed from Chile
Mr Munoz says he wants to demonstrate that people from the Americas, the Polynesian Islands and Asia, used seafaring vessels for trade before Christopher Columbus arrived. His crew are from Easter Island, Peru, Bolivia, Japan, and Tahiti.

He is intending to use the Humboldt current, which flows along the South American coastline.

The boat is built from reeds from Lake Titicaca in the Andes, on the border of Bolivia and Peru. Its figurehead represents a mythological bird from Easter Island.

But unlike the ancient boats which it seeks to imitate, it has solar panels for on-board power, and hi-tech navigational aids including a global positioning system and a satellite link.

The venture is backed by Spain and by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

Mr Munoz - a former member of the Spanish Army's elite commando unit - failed in his first attempt in 1997 when the first Mata Rangi split in two shortly after leaving Easter Island. All on board were rescued.

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