Hōkūleʻa: The Journey Begins

A fleet of paddling canoes escorts Hōkūleʻa out of Honolulu. (Photo by Janet L. Clark)

After months of anticipation and years of preparation, the Polynesian Voyaging Society and its two canoes, Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia, finally set off from their home on O’ahu this past weekend on their voyage around the world! As the crew made final preparations for the departure, people from communities in Hawai’i and around the world came to see the sister canoes one more time.

Hōkūleʻa holds a particularly special place in the hearts of so many because of her role in the rejuvenation of Hawaiian culture and voyaging tradition. As is stated by the Polynesian Voyaging Society: “[Hōkūleʻa] is more than a voyaging canoe—she represents the common desire shared by the people of Hawai’i, the Pacific, and the World to protect our most cherished values and places from disappearing.”

Photo by Daniel Lin
This is what we’re sailing for. (Photo by Daniel Lin)

Ever since her maiden voyage to Tahiti (completely unaided by navigational instruments) in 1976, Hōkūleʻa has served as a symbol for Hawaiians and indigenous cultures everywhere, proving that traditional knowledge and values can and should exist in the modern era. What Hōkūleʻa did, and continues to do, for the Hawaiian community—instilling pride, bringing joy, teaching gratefulness—cannot be described in words. It can only be felt in the smiles, tears, songs, dances, and chants that arise every time people interact with the canoe. It can be felt in the stories of the kupuna, or elders, and in the eyes of the keiki, or children, as they see Hōkūleʻa in all her glory.

Photo by Daniel Lin
A view of the crowd gathered to send Hōkūleʻa off on her journey. (Photo by Daniel Lin)
The Ocean Elders:  Jackson Browne, Nainoa Thompson, Jean-Michel Cousteau, Don Walsh, Sylvia Earl.  (Photo by Daniel Lin)
The Ocean Elders: Jackson Browne, Nainoa Thompson (PVS President), Jean-Michel Cousteau, Don Walsh, Sylvia Earl. (Photo by Daniel Lin)
A delegation from Aotearoa (New Zealand) came to visit the canoes. From Left: Tania Loughlin, Te Hurirangi Waikerepuru, Te Urutani Waikerepuru, Kā Daniels, Mere Broughton, Te Ngaruru Wineera. (Photo by Daniel Lin)
A delegation from Aotearoa (New Zealand) came to visit the canoes. From Left: Tania Loughlin, Te Hurirangi Waikerepuru, Te Urutani Waikerepuru, Kā Daniels, Mere Broughton, Te Ngaruru Wineera. (Photo by Daniel Lin)

As the two canoes set sail for Tahiti this time, almost 40 years later, there is a similar sense of purpose and conviction. Since this will be the first international leg of the Worldwide Voyage, there is an emphasis on reconnecting with the journeys and voyaging traditions of the past. As such, the themes of “navigating to Tahiti” and “strengthening Polynesian cultural heritage” are very much ingrained in this voyage. Thus, the crew of the the Hawai’i-Tahiti leg all understand how important their roles are, as global ambassadors for Hawai’i and for the renowned Polynesian Voyaging Society.

Photo by Daniel Lin
Watch captain, Kealoha, and navigator, Tua Pittman, get ready for the Pohaku Ceremony, an important part of the departure. (Photo by Daniel Lin)
Photo by Daniel Lin
Crewmember Kaleo Wong does a few final checks before the launch. (Photo by Daniel Lin)

As Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia make their grand re-emergence onto the international stage, it will be this particular segment that will set the bar for all the ones that follow. For those of us who have been connected to this voyage in some way—both on and off the canoes—there is a collective sense that this will be one of the truly impactful and defining experiences in our lifetimes.

So the lines are cast, the crew is ready, and the two voyaging canoes are off to do what they were made to do: connect, teach, inspire, and of course, sail.

A hui hou!  (Photo by Daniel Lin)
A hui hou! (Photo by Daniel Lin)

Click here to watch a video of the departure from Oahu.

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Polynesian Voyaging Society and the Worldwide Voyage
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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