The Hōkūleʻa, a Polynesian double-hulled canoe built for international voyages, arrived at Magic Island on Saturday, June 17 at 9:00 a.m.
This arrival concluded a 3-year, worldwide voyage that took the vessel to various Polynesian islands, Australia, South Africa, the Caribbean, and North America before returning to Oahu.
The voyage, called ‘Malama Honua’ (“to care for the world”), is part of an ongoing effort by the Polynesian Voyaging Society to recognize and revitalize Polynesian culture.
The Hōkūleʻa began as a project to rebuild a double-hulled canoe similar to the design of the first Polynesian settlers in Hawaii.
The project brought together many different people in the Hawaiian community, soon expanding to a more ambitious goal to revitalize ancient Polynesian navigation techniques.
To meet this goal, the Hōkūleʻa’s first voyage to Tahiti in 1976 was completed exclusively with Polynesian navigation techniques—observing the stars, sun, wind, ocean, and other natural signs rather than analog or satellite-based instruments.
Her first voyage allowed the Hōkūleʻa to prove two things: that the initial voyage to Hawaii by ancient Polynesians was not done on accident or by drifting on ocean currents, and that ancient Hawaiian traditions are still relevant and useful in modern society.
However, at the time of the Hōkūleʻa’s construction, there were no living Hawaiians that knew the ancient techniques of navigation.
Instead, the Polynesian Voyaging Society turned to Mau Piailug, a master navigator from Yap that knew the traditional techniques.
Although Mau wasn’t the only Yapese navigator, he was the only one to accept the Hawaiians’ request. Though he barely spoke English, Mau recognized that teaching Hawaiians navigation would be a way to prevent the Yapese tradition from going extinct as well.
Mau served as the navigator on Hōkūleʻa’s maiden voyage to Tahiti and returned to train Nainoa Thompson to be navigator for successive voyages.
To Care for the World
The Hōkūleʻa has made a total of 10 voyages previous to Malama Honua, but none of them left Pacific waters.
The canoe had visited Japan, the West Coast of North America, Rapa Nui, and Aotearoa—all relying purely on indigenous navigation techniques—but the worldwide voyage beginning in 2014 was the first time the vessel had sailed outside the Pacific.
This ambitious voyage spanned over 40,000 nautical miles, stopping at over 150 ports in 23 different countries, beginning in May 2014, and ending this past Saturday, June 17, 2017.
The purpose of sailing so far for so long is to connect with the entire world, connecting people from different lands and oceans and recognizing the world we share. To quote the Hōkūleʻa website:
The Worldwide Voyage is a means by which we now engage all of Island Earth—bridging traditional and new technologies to live sustainably, while sharing, learning, creating global relationships, and discovering the wonders of this precious place we all call home.
The Hōkūleʻa and its many voyages are one way that Hawaiian culture continues to survive today in its people and those whom they come in contact with.
For more information on the Hokulea, be sure to visit the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s website.