A Polynesian sailing canoe that left Hawaii three years ago has returned to the islands on Saturday after an epic journey around the world. The community in Honolulu is throwing a party called SALT at Our Kakaako to officially dedicate the area as a community gathering place and to celebrate the homecoming of the Hokulea canoe. During their voyage, the Hokulea crewmembers used only traditional methods of navigation and stopped in 19 countries with a mission to spread “Malama Honua”: caring for the earth.
Hokulea Captain Bruce Blankenfeld, a member of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, explained the importance of the Hokulea canoe and the mission it took up in its journey around the world.
“These canoes were built to go over the horizon and explore what is out there. So, that’s what they did for thousands of years, and that’s what we are still doing, because the Malama Honua voyage — it’s a vision.”
Crewmembers on the Hokulea navigated the oceans without any modern tools or instruments in their 74,000 kilometer journey around the world. Instead, they used signs from nature and their intuition to guide them: the paths of the sun and stars, birds, wind, ocean swells, and their naau — a word for gut feeling.
Hokulea means “star of gladness” and was built in the 1970s. At that time, there were no Polynesian navigators left, so the Polynesian Voyaging Society found a man living in Micronesia who was among less than a half-dozen people in the world who practiced traditional Polynesian sailing. With his help, the Hokulea made it to Tahiti in 1976.
More importantly, the art of traditional Polynesian sailing was not lost. More people, including the current captain of Hokulea, learned the methods that were nearly lost forever. With the Hokulea’s successful voyage around the world, there is no doubt about the viability of the traditional methods. The Polynesian Voyaging Society hopes that this success will inspire other indigenous cultures to rediscover and revive their traditions.
The Hokulea’s three-year, round-the-world trip was filled with adventure, danger, discovery, and friendship. They faced dangerous waters in South Africa, the halfway point of the trip. They managed to find one of the most elusive of the Easter Islands, a major accomplishment for traditional sailors. Last year, the crew joined a diplomatic meeting in Cuba with the U.S. and discussed cultural connections between the nations. Last week, they spotted Maui Mountain and knew they were back in Hawaii.
After the party tonight to celebrate their homecoming, the Hokulea will embark on an eight-month-long journey through Hawaiian waters to share the story of their voyage with communities all around Hawaii.
[Featured Image by Richard Drew/AP Images]