Humanity’s Vessel: a new project that is as exciting as it is envy-inducing

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. (Exodus 20:17)

So that final phrase is fairly open-ended, but is thy neighbor’s Watson Fellowship covered? Because if it is, we’re screwed. We say this after receiving an email this week from a visitor named Will Meadows. Mr. Meadows has recently graduated from university here in the U.S. and succeeded in winning the prestigious fellowship, which grants $25,000 for “a year of independent, purposeful exploration and travel — in international settings new to them — to enhance their capacity for resourcefulness, imagination, openness, and leadership and to foster their humane and effective participation in the world community.” And what will Mr. Meadows do with this gift? Here is where the envy part comes in. Dugout canoes at Tiwai Island, Sierra Leone He writes: “Traveling for a year non-stop as a Watson Fellow I will build and study traditional canoes on every continent (besides Antarctica).” No one told us we could do that when we were 21! We want a do-over!

In all seriousness, this is an amazing project and we truly commend Mr. Meadows for winning the fellowship and choosing this incredible topic. To be clear, we’d support almost any permutation of this project, but the particular itinerary / boat selection is a great mix. Meadows is covering many major styles and building materials, so the results will allow a great study of strengths and weaknesses as well as unique factors in the evolution of different boat types. In his words:

The global journey begins on lake Titicaca on the border of Peru and Bolivia where at 12500 feet beautiful reed canoes are made throughout the lake. The native peoples of Titicaca live on floating islands of the same reed harvested in the lake ecosystem a. From there, I build in Zanzibar with the dugout builders of the island, traveling into mainland Tanzania and Uganda as well. After a brief stay in the United Arab Emirates with a palm frond boat builder, I work with Maori war canoe builders on the North Island of New Zealand. Canada calls next in the spring with the intricate birch bark canoes of the north woods. The year ends with a summer building traditional Kayaks in Norway and a stay on the Mekong in northern Laos.

We are, of course, eager to stay in touch with the project. You can too – Mr. Meadows is writing about his travels and sharing his knowledge at the Humanity’s Vessel blog. It’s on our RSS reader and should be on yours too. Please join me in wishing Godspeed to Mr. Meadows!

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