May 13, 1999
Spanish adventurer crosses Pacific in reed boat  

                  SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) -- A Spanish adventurer and his international
                  crew landed on Thursday in French Polynesia after a harrowing 5,000-mile
                  (8,000-km) crossing of the Pacific Ocean in a flimsy reed boat half-eaten by

                  Kitin Munoz, a 40-year-old former member of the Spanish army's elite
                  commando unit, received a hero's welcome from the inhabitants of Nuku
                  Hiva, part of the Marquesas Islands, when his boat, the Mata Rangi II,
                  arrived at the remote isles, a Chilean official said.

                  Some 2,000 islanders headed by Mayor Lucien Kimitete saw Munoz and
                  his seven-man crew limp into local waters 88 days after they set sail from
                  Chile's northern port of Arica on a voyage of study and exploration. Arica's
                  Mayor Luis Ivan Paredes also cheered Munoz ashore.

                  The Spanish adventurer was accompanied on the voyage by an international
                  crew comprised of a Peruvian, a Bolivian, two Japanese, a Tahitian and four
                  Chileans including three from the Easter Islands.

                  The Pacific crossing, described as a mission to further science and fraternity,
                  was not unlike the 1947 adventure of Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl,
                  who sailed on a balsa wood raft to the Polynesian island of Raroia from
                  Callao, Peru.

                  Just over 50 years ago, Heyerdahl captured the imagination of the globe in
                  the wake of the Second World War, proving that ancient peoples could
                  have traveled the same way.

                  "Munoz and his crew arrived safe and sound, but only 50 percent of the
                  boat survived the journey," Luis Mendoza, spokesman for the Arica
                  municipal government, said by telephone from the town on Thursday.

                  The crew had to abandon half the 95-foot (29-meter) boat -- made from
                  13,000 reeds from Lake Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake -- on
                  the high seas as mollusks ate away at its structure.

                  "Mollusks were eating away at the reed and ropes, attracting smaller fishes
                  and consequently sharks, adding to the danger," Mendoza said.

                  Munoz and his crew decided to cut loose half the boat on the high seas
                  because they were in danger of losing everything. Because the boat was a
                  solid piece constructed from bundles of reeds bound together, it floated even
                  after part was cut away.

                  "There will be a review of what is left of the boat to decide whether the
                  Mata Rangi II can continue with the aim of reaching Asia," Mendoza added
                  in a telephone interview.

                  Munoz originally planned to head for Micronesia, a tiny nation of islands
                  north of Papua New Guinea, some 8,470 miles (13,630 km) west of Chile,
                  and from there towards Taiwan or Japan.

                  Munoz first attempted to sail around the world in a similar boat, the Mata
                  Rangi I, or Eyes of Paradise, in 1997. It was made of reeds from the Easter
                  Islands, 2,370 miles (3,814 km) west of the Chilean capital, Santiago.

                  The Mata Rangi I broke apart in mid-ocean and the crew had to be
                  rescued. Refusing to give up, Munoz and a team constructed the Mata Rangi

                  Setting up a camp on the beach in Arica, they hauled the reeds there in
                  trucks and in October began building the 50-metric ton boat, with a bow
                  representing the head of a mythological bird from Easter Island.

                  Munoz's mission was backed by Spain, Swiss watch maker Breitling and the
                  United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
                  (UNESCO), which has named the Spaniard as an honorary ambassador.

                     Copyright 1999 Reuters.