Hōkūle’a: The Crown Jewels of Our Oceans

In just a few weeks, the historic Hawaiian voyaging canoes, Hōkūle‘a and Hikianalia, will set sail from Hawai‘i on their 47,000-nautical-mile voyage around the world. The next time these canoes will return home will be in 2017!  During the next 37 months, communities from all over the world–many of whom may have never heard about the voyaging culture of the Pacific–will be able to see the canoes, walk upon the decks, and engage in meaningful cultural exchanges with the crew members.

An aerial photo of Hōkūle‘a sailing on the open ocean.  Photo by Arna Johnson
An aerial photo of Hōkūle‘a sailing on the open ocean. (Photo by Arna Johnson, Courtesy of Polynesian Voyaging Society)

One particular set of stories that will be shared throughout this voyage is about the conservation efforts being conducted for major bodies of water around the world. Specifically, the Polynesian Voyaging Society will be working closely with dedicated staff at the UNESCO Marine World Heritage Programme to highlight the pristine beauty of the Marine World Heritage Sites, otherwise known as the “crown jewels of our oceans.”

A visit to the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, one of the UNESCO Marine World Heritage Sites. The group takes a minute to “see what’s playing” on an old computer monitor that has washed up on shore. (Photo by Na’alehu Anthony, courtesy of ‘Oiwi TV)

The mission of UNESCO’s Marine World Heritage Programme is “to establish effective conservation of existing and potential marine areas of Outstanding Universal Value to make sure they will be maintained and thrive for generations to come.” This is directly in line with the values of the Worldwide Voyage so to honor the work that UNESCO is doing in this field, Hokule’a will be stopping at many of the Marine World Heritage Sites over the next three years (see map below).

Map of the Voyage Sail Plan and different UNESCO Marine World Heritage Sites
Map of the Voyage Sail Plan and different UNESCO Marine World Heritage Sites (indicated with yellow dots). The first site along the way will be the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) in Kiribati. (Map Courtesy of Polynesian Voyaging Society)

Over the course of the voyage, we will be producing stories, photos, and video footage of the conservation efforts going on in these large ocean sites as well as in communities around the world. These “Learning Journeys” will serve to showcase people and organizations doing their part to mālama honua, or “care for Island Earth.”

In the end, regardless of where you’re from, 3 out of your next 4 breaths come from the ocean. So we MUST make it our responsibility–our kuleana–to preserve that which sustains us.

(Courtesy of Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum and 1001 Stories)

Learn More

Polynesian Voyaging Society and the Worldwide Voyage

UNESCO Marine World Heritage Programme

Further Readings

Hōkūle’a: The Dangers of Sailing Around the World

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

Hōkūle‘a: The Art of Wayfinding

Renowned Voyaging Canoe Embarks on Its Greatest Journey Yet

Read All Worldwide Voyage Posts


Changing Planet


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