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.

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Meet the Author
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