AdventuresVideo

Lost on the Atlantic, across the ocean… sailing a tiny reed boat

German biologist and experimental archaeologist Dominique Goerlitz has a dream – to prove that Stone Age man could have sailed a tiny reed boat across the Atlantic from Europe to the New World – and back again!

In July 2007 Dominique and 11 sailors from four countries set out from New York harbour to test his theory. Their 10-metre boat, the Abora III, a reed vessel constructed in Bolivia from Goerltitz’s interpretation of prehistoric rock carvings in Europe and North Africa.

Back in the 60s, legendary explorer Thor Heyerdahl crossed the Atlantic like this from West to East. But experts had said it was impossible to come back against the wind.

But Goerlitz’s rock carvings suggest Stone Age man had lee-boards to sail against the wind, navigated by the stars and could use the Gulf Stream to carry them westwards.

Prehistoric men from Europe could have colonised and traded with the Americas thousands of years before Columbus! That would explain why tobacco seeds – found only in the Americas, were detected in the mummies of Egyptian Pharaohs like Ramses II.

Abora III has been thoroughly tested in model form using the latest technology. It should be more than up to the task of crossing 1,500 nautical miles of sometimes wild ocean.

Under a warm sun and a steady breeze, the voyage starts well. But then things go wrong. One after another the leeboards snap, unable to resist the pressure of the Atlantic swell. Abora III was riding high when it left New York. Now she begins to sink into the ocean as the reeds absorb salt water.

Sudden and unexpected Atlantic storms weaken and then tear off the Abora’s stern. In spite of the crew’s efforts – ceaselessly tightening the reed bundles that form the Abora’s hull – they have to abandon ship 600 sea miles short off the Azores, near the African coast. Abora III had sailed for 59 days and covered more than 900 nautical miles.

The expedition failed. But one experiment did work. Abora trailed behind her, seeds from the New World that somehow found their way east thousands of years ago. Traditionally it is believed that they floated across the ocean. But Goerlitz’s saturated seeds refused to germinate in Europe. Dominique believes this is proof they could only have been brought by man.

This is a sweet, thrilling and spectacular film, in which 11 people risk everything to prove that our forefathers knew so much more than we ever believed. If Stone Age man had half the courage of Abora III’s crew, they certainly deserved to succeed!

And Dominique Goerlitz is not giving up. Abora IV is already on the drawing board…

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