Changing Planet

Hōkūle‘a – Getting Ready for the Voyage of a Lifetime

Last May, I wrote about the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s plan to sail around the world on the storied Hawaiian voyaging canoe, Hōkūle‘a.  What’s even more incredible than the sail plan is that this voyage – which spans 5 years – will be done almost entirely using traditional Polynesian navigation methods.

This knowledge, otherwise known as ‘wayfinding’, involves the use of only one’s natural surroundings (stars, clouds waves, wind, etc) to guide them.  Needless to say, a voyage like this has never been undertaken before.

Hōkūle'a on the Horizon
Hōkūle’a image Polynesian Voyaging Society ® (Photo by ʻOiwi TV)

However, despite the uniqueness of the Worldwide Voyage (WWV), this journey is not about merely navigating a 62ʻ’x20’ double-hulled canoe to circumnavigate the globe.   In fact, if the story of the WWV were simply about making it safely around the world, then the voyage would be considered largely unsuccessful.  Rather, at the core of this amazing endeavor is the idea of stewardship; an idea that is cultural at heart, but ultimately universal.

If we truly wish to leave a better world for our children, then we had better start taking care of it.  As sustainability becomes more and more of a global concern, the members of the Polynesian Voyaging Society recognize that this is an issue that islanders have dealt with for as long as they can remember.

Before and after each sail, crew members get together and say a Hawaiian Pule, or prayer.
Before and after each sail, crew members get together and say a Hawaiian Pule, or prayer.  (Photo by Daniel Lin)

Therefore, the voyage has been given the name Mālama Honua, or “caring for Island Earth”, with a specific emphasis on the idea that this planet is an island in its own way, and that there are lessons of sustainability we can learn from island communities.  It is this reason that makes it worth it for us to sail across 47,000 nautical miles over the next four years, using these canoes as vessels for delivering the message.

WWV Sail Plan
WWV Sail Plan (Courtesy of Polynesian Voyaging Society)

Thus far, Hōkūle‘a and her sister canoe, Hikianalia, have completed the first leg of the voyage – a 2,495 nautical mile sail around the Hawaiian Islands.  In total, the canoes visited 33 communities and interacted with over 20,000 people, including 175 schools.  All of this was done to ensure that “Hawai’i sails with us”, acknowledging that every journey begins at home and the support we get from our home communities will give us strength when we need it most.

Hōkūle‘a’s Worldwide Voyage: Island Wisdom, Ocean Connections, Global Lessons from Hōkūle‘a Crew on Vimeo.

I will be providing monthly updates on this voyage between now and the expected departure date in May, 2014.  To learn more about the Worldwide Voyage and ways you get involved, click here.

NEXTRenowned Voyaging Canoe Embarks on its Greatest Journey Yet

A photographer and National Geographic Young Explorer, Dan has spent his career trying to better understand the nexus between people in remote regions of the Asia/Pacific and their rapidly changing environment. Dan is a regular contributor to National Geographic, the Associated Press, and the Guardian. He believes firmly in the power of visual storytelling as a vessel for advocacy and awareness, which helps to better inform policy makers. In 2016, Dan started the Pacific Storytellers Cooperative seeking to empower the next generation of storytellers from the Pacific Islands. Additionally, Dan is a crewmember for the Polynesian Voyaging Society, a Fellow of The Explorers Club, and a member of the IUCN Specialist Group on Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas. He received his Masters Degree from Harvard University
  • Mary-Loue Ewards

    I am sad to see you are not visiting the west coast of Canada. Youtube Tribal Journeys, every year Nations up the BC coast and down to Washington state participate in paddling and feasting. I was so hoping see Hokule’a as I read the article, I was sad to see the map. The Coast Salish people have a strong connection to the ocean. My heart and prayers go with Hokule’a.

  • Carol Wong

    I had an amazing experience riding with the Hokule’a crew back in 1995 when Hokule’a sailed into Long Beach, CA.

  • Jose Miguel Ramirez

    So sad they are not sailing eastwards from central south Pacific, as the first Polynesian explorers did around 1000 AD, to meet our Mapuche people in southern Chile, and then going north to Galápagos.

  • Nawahine Haili-Kuraoka

    Mahalo for sharing the cultural tradition of the wa’a “Hokulea” on the their next journey. I continue to read of their travels and travelers on the wa’a. I look forward to more news of the Hokulea.

  • Manuwai Peters

    Thanks Nat Geo for bringing this voyage and its mission to Mālama Honua to a world wide audience.

  • Auikekailoa

    May The Great Akua Bless Hokule’a and crew all the way around the world and back safely! The Ocean people are all connected, my prayers and thoughts following you, malama pono Hokule’a….

  • Dwayne LaGrou

    From the Great White North in Michigan, I wish you Luck and Happy Voyages with Good Winds to bring you safely back. I hope you have fun along the way, And keep safe at all costs.

  • Ikaika Pestana

    The crew really appreciates your support from around the world. We wish we could visit everywhere on our voyage but safety trumps all. If a place is outside of the tropics or the schedule would require us to visit a place during their hurricane or monsoon seasons, we just can’t do it. Hokulea is made for voyaging only within the Pacific Ocean tropics and only outside of hurricane season. Just to take her out of the Pacific and into unknown waters is a very dangerous undertaking for crew and canoe alike. We will visit our first people brothers and sisters in the America’s again soon I’m sure.

  • Kitty

    Kudos to you all. Thank you for bringing forth such positive and inspiring message.

  • babito joby

    thanks to nat geo for bring this story of voyage. And i wish you good luck to all.

  • Jenny


  • Sergey

    Good voyage to you!

    I would like to join you!

  • theo kurrus

    I would like to sign up for this Nat. Info I`m recieving now, at my home E-mail Thanks, Theo

  • Asadul Hakim

    I wish I am one of them.

  • Peter G Cullen

    Great Thanks to National Geographic for letting me know about this voyage…. What a fantastic adventure and what a wonderful Vision and Purpose…. Good luck and blessings for your journey, there will be Billions of people watching your progress and sending you good wishes wherever you go…

  • gerard Kluck

    What kind of prove do you have that such a journey has never been taken before?

  • calvin kinghorn

    Thanks National Geographic thanks for the information of this great voyage, while visiting Papeete Tahiti the capital of French Polynesia say hello to my good friend Benjamin Sinjoux and his family. Benjamin is the mission president of French Polynesia for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Ben and I served missions for our church for 24 months we were assigned to work in Quebec Canada, French speaking. Calvin Kinghorn

  • Luiz Carlos

    GOD bless all of you. Good luck!


    Yes, the great navigators, like you, is a beautiful homenage to Portuguese navigators in the year 1500.
    Best regards.

  • Anne-Marie Cassidy

    Thank you so much for making me aware of this journey, I will watch your updates and look forward to them. This is such a wonderful journey to be a part of. I will be praying for a safe adventure for all, filled with wonder and awe. God Bless them on this trip.

  • Dee Boenish

    Herb Kawainui Kane will be watching over you. Safe voyage.

  • Wally Yachts

    Wish I was cruising along side in my $20mill Wally yacht…. Best of luck.

  • Braylet Hasner

    How do they go to the bathroom?

  • Jason Becker

    Go to the edge. Let go.

  • Chris Sunflower

    Wow. Simplicity, strength and sustainability in one sailing trip. Sounds like a fantastic adventure! I look forward to reading about their journeys. Thank you National Geographic for sharing their story.

  • Troy

    J’aime votre expérience, si je peux vous rejoindre, il me fera plaisir

  • Raul Cortes

    God bless you all. How I wish I would be in that trip.
    Good luck!!! =)

  • Leandro Lopes

    No mar! que diversão. Vos desejo muita experiencia por esta magnifica oportunidade. Unidos serão sempre mais fortes.

  • Ben

    This sounds like a current day reality version of the Thor Heyerdahl Kon-Tiki adventure will be interesting to see the result

  • Maggie Davey

    May the gods bless you and keep you safe!

  • Nandaka

    Sail for peace. Good Luck!!

  • paul watkins

    Thanks Nat Geo. All the best to you. Have a safe and rewarding trip. I will be praying and watching for you all.

  • JuliaAustralian

    I wish I was a part of this voyage. God bless you and good luck!

  • Jill Nuenay

    Bon Voyage! Safe trip to you all on May. May you be blessed and guided all the way. ^_^

  • Brenda Kanipe

    What an amazing and exciting adventure this is! Will be checking in periodically on your progress.


    What a daring voyage . I am scared but wish them the best of luck.

  • willemina broodryk

    This is amazing hope we will be able to see it on National Geographic…..wish i was with….

  • Michael

    Dios los proteja! Que pena no puedan pasar x Sudamerica (it`s a pitty they are not coming to Southamerica, probably next time!!)

  • Graham

    Great idea but doubt this is the first time sorry. In 1947 the great Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl proved conclusively these trips could easily have been undertaken by Polynesian peoples and probably were. The fact the sweet potato grown and eaten throughout Polynesia is of South American origin supports this. Heyerdahl also inspired several successful trans pacific rafting expeditions. Good luck to the crew of Hokule’a. Happy and safe sailing.

  • Westcarth

    Wish I was aboard

  • abdullah haider ali

    i want to ask a question that how can i also be a part of such type of journey?

  • Ernesto Sante

    Wayfinding may well be defining man’s obligation to take good care of this earth. Man will,, by misuse, subtract, but the earth, without time duress, will continue to exist. Every member of the planetary system is an essentially contracted pilot that maintains balance of the unknown.

  • Rose

    GOD speed and good luck, my prayers are with you all.

  • David Reed

    This is such an adventurous voyage and I loook forward to the report in the National Geographic.

    May the good Lord of creation watch over you and protect you all.
    +David Reed

  • Cheyenne Morrison

    You should definitely visit the Louisiade Islands on the east coast of Papua New Guinea, one of the last traditional voyaging cultures left in the world. The boats are used for everyday voyaging and travel hundreds of miles. We are in process of building a traditional “Sailau” outrigger canoe.

    You should follow the Lapita voyage route, see here …

    In 2008, an expedition starting on the Philippines sailed two modern Wharram-designed catamarans loosely based on a Polynesian catamaran found in Auckland Museum New Zealand from the Philippines to the Polynesian island of Tikopia.

    Here are their contact details

    James Wharram
    Inventor of the Wharram Catamaran

    James Wharram Designs
    Greenbank Road, Devoran
    Truro, Cornwall, TR3 6PJ, UK
    Tel: +44 1872 864792

    Andy Smith
    Junction Boat Works Inc.
    Tipolo, Bolod, Panglao Island, 6340, Bohol, Philippines

    Klaus Hympendahl
    Wildenbruch Stasse
    Dusseldorf, 40545, Germany

  • Roreti Eritai

    It is great to know the Phoenix Islands in the Republic of Kiribati will be part of this worldwide voyage of a life time! There was a version of such voyage in Kiribati years back – “The Voyages of The Taratai I” which was continued by “Taratai II”! Wish all the crew bon voyage!! God bless!

  • Kalawa’ia Lon

    May the sea and stars be your guide, the moon be your light and the wind be your sail. For all that have chosen to travel, usr that courage and wisdom from our ancestry. You all have endearing skills that together will make your voyage very successful. And may your god have his angels protect you from all harm. Make Hawaii proud. Hokulea Hana hou.

  • Bailey

    Be well and enjoy! We send our aloha and will follow your journey.

  • Margaret and William Stout

    This is a great adventure and we pray for it to be successful.

  • Margaret and William Stout

    What a great trip to make.We pray for a successful voyage,and the gathering of knowledge.

  • MANA Gérard

    Iaorana e au mau hoa here,
    Te oaoa nei maua o Rosidine e te fetii tamarii ite faatae atu ite faaito ito raa ia outou paato’a na roto i teie moana hohonu, e farerei tatou i TAUTIRA. Maururu e Mahalo

  • walter rabacal

    mahalo nui loa…you prove to the world that you are truly the navigators of the future…by not using modern navigation to sail the world…be safe and may the Lord guide. protect, and bless everyone on your journey around the world….you will always be in my thoughts and prayers….aloha

  • Kim A. Guerin

    God Speed PVS Crew & Ohana!
    Hokulea & Hawaii’loa both travelled to the westcoast in spring of 1995. then Hawaii’loa voyaged north following the coast & stopping at First Nation Communities, all the way to Juneau.
    Hokulea voyaged south to San Francisco! Travelling as a crew member from Prince Rupert on was experience of a lifetime! <3 forever in my heart PVS Ohana!

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