Mon, Jun 19, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Canoe returns to Hawaii after epic journey


The sailing canoe Hokulea arrives at Magic Island in Honolulu on Saturday.

Photo: AP

No modern navigation instrumentation guided a Polynesian voyaging canoe as it followed the horizon during a three-year journey around the globe.

About a dozen crewmembers for each leg of the voyage relied only on their understanding of nature’s cues — ocean swells, stars, wind, birds — and their own naau, or gut, to sail across about 40,000 nautical miles (74,000km) to 19 countries, spreading a message of malama honua: caring for the Earth.

Thousands on Saturday welcomed the double-hulled canoe Hokulea to Hawaii when it entered a channel off the island Oahu and tied up to a floating dock with iconic Diamond Head in the distance.

Apprentice navigator on the canoe Ka’iulani Murphy said that the successful journey taught her the value of ancient Polynesian maritime techniques.

“We really are sailing in their [the ancestors’] wake,” Murphy, 38, said. “We had to relearn what our ancestors had mastered.”

The toughest part of the journey was dealing with cloud cover and trying to maintain the proper speed so the boat escorting the canoe could keep pace, she said, adding that she enjoyed eating the fish the crew caught during the journey.

Bert Wong came to Ala Moana Beach Park to celebrate Hokulea’s homecoming — and to celebrate his son, Kaleo, a Hokulea navigator, Hawaii News Now reported.

“Just being here and feeling the mana [power] that’s here, it’s something to enjoy which brings tears to my eyes,” Wong said. “This is so powerful.”

The crew held a formal homecoming ceremony on Magic Island, which is in Honolulu, that included welcoming remarks from Hawaii Governor David Ige and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, as well as a speech by Nainoa Thompson, a well-known master navigator, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, was visibly moved as he addressed the crowd, saying that he was “standing here on behalf of the many,” Hawaii News Now reported.

“Thank you, Hawaii. Thank you for the moment,” he said. “I am very humbled to tell you right now that Hokulea is home.”

The voyage perpetuated the traditional wayfinding that brought the first Polynesians thousands of kilometers to Hawaii hundreds of years ago. The trip also helped train a new generation of young navigators.

Hokulea means star of gladness. The canoe was built and launched in the 1970s, when there were no Polynesian navigators left, so the voyaging society looked beyond Polynesia to find one.

Mau Piailug, from a small island called Satawal in Micronesia, was among the last half-dozen people in the world to practice the art of traditional navigation and agreed to guide Hokulea to Tahiti in 1976.

“Without him, our voyaging would never have taken place,” the society said on Hokulea’s Web site. “Mau was the only traditional navigator who was willing and able to reach beyond his culture to ours.”

The epic round-the-world voyage that started in 2014 shows how far Hokulea has gone since its first voyage from Hawaii to Tahiti in 1976.

Disaster befell another voyage in 1978 when the canoe capsized off the Hawaiian island of Molokai in a blinding storm. Revered Hawaiian surfer and lifeguard on the crew Eddie Aikau grabbed his surfboard and paddled for help, but was never seen again. The rest of the crew members were rescued.

Crew members hope the success of the journey will inspire other indigenous cultures to rediscover and revive traditions.

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