Changing Planet

Q&A—Hōkūleʻa Crew Members Answer Questions from NG Staff

Daniel Lin is a well-traveled photographer and writer whose love of the Pacific and its many islands and cultures has inspired him to explore their every niche. Follow him as he partakes in the long-awaited and historic Hōkūle‘a canoe voyage from Hawai’i across the world—which uses only wayfinding, or traditional navigation, to guide it over perilous seas.


With the Worldwide Voyage well under way, crew members of the Polynesian Voyaging Society took a minute to reflect and answer some of the questions that National Geographic staff had for them. If you have a question that you’d like to ask the crew, please write it in the comments section!

NG: Is it scary to be out in the middle of the ocean with no modern navigation instruments?

Haunani Kane: It is kind of scary but we are with such knowledgeable crew that have spent so much time studying navigation that in a sense it is almost more reassuring because if any of the instruments break, then traditional navigation is almost more accurate. It is nice to not have an instrument to depend upon to reach your destination.

Watch captain Kealoha on top of the hale getting a better view. (Photo by Maui Tauotaha)

NG: Is sunburn a big problem? Are there any traditional methods to protect crew members from the sun?

Keahi Omai: Sunburn can be an issue. We use kukui nut oil which has a natural photo-inhibitor. I put the oil on at night, which also protects your skin from the wind.

Jenna Ishii: We are really lucky that some companies have donated quality professional sunscreen for the crew which we have been applying every day in the hot, hot sun.

Hōkūle‘a crew for the first leg of the Worldwide Voyage.  Photo by Scott Kanda
Hōkūle‘a crew for the first leg of the Worldwide Voyage. Photo by Scott Kanda

NG: How do you communicate from the canoes to the rest of the world?

Scott Kanda: We send pictures, video and blogs via intranet to Hikianalia which has wifi capabilities and it sends the content back to O’ahu. We have used the following technologies while on our voyage: Google Hangouts, satellite phone, VSee, iMessage, Facetime, email.

NG: How excited are the other Polynesian islands and cultures about this voyage? What kind of welcome do you get?

Noelani Kamalu: When we arrived in Rangiroa, we were greeted with food, singing, dancing, more food, fresh showers and beautiful homes to sleep in. The people of Rangiroa are really proud and grateful that Hōkūle‘a and Hikianalia came to Rangiroa on our way to Tahiti. They see Hōkūle‘a as a symbol of cultural revival.

NG: What do you eat on these long trips?

Ana Yarawamai: On our long voyages, we try as best as possible to eat sustainably-caught fish with hand lines as much as we can. The community has been really great in supporting our voyage by donating fresh local produce like kalo (taro), sweet potato, limes, lemons, cabbage, onions, herbs and dehydrated teas and veggies. Our school gardens in Hawai’i have grown voyaging foods for us and dehydrated them so they will stay fresh for the whole voyage. We hope for the best and we also plan for the worst. We do bring canned food which helps us once we run out of fresh produce to maintain a balanced diet.

Hikianalia crew for the first leg of the Worldwide Voyage.  Photo by Maui Tauotaha
Hikianalia crew for the first leg of the Worldwide Voyage. Photo by Maui Tauotaha

NG: Do you wash your clothes in the seawater?

Lehua Kamalu: Yes, we wash our clothes in seawater, and they never really dry. We pray to the rain gods to bring us fresh water so we can rinse our clothes every once in a while.

NG: Did you ever encounter trash out in the Pacific?

Ka’iulani Murphy: We have seen marine debris in the ocean on our past voyages, but we haven’t encountered the great garbage patch yet.

One of the most important responsibilities of crew members is to connect with schools around the world, both on land (school visits) and at sea (via Google Hangouts).  Photo by Scott Kanda
One of the most important responsibilities of crew members is to connect with schools around the world, both on land (school visits) and at sea (via Google Hangouts). (Photo by Scott Kanda)

NG: In one sentence or less, what is the most exciting part about your voyage so far?

Nainoa Thompson: Young courage
Kālepa Baybayan: I predicted 16 days to make landfall…I am a genius!
Scott Kanda: The crew
Keahi Omai: Marara (the flying fish)
Jenna Ishii: Finding Arutua
Noelani Kamalu: Malie (calm)
Haunani Kane: Kids in Rangiroa
Austin Kino: Getting east
Lehua Kamalu: Kids in Rangiroa
Ka’iulani Murphy: Being on Kanaloa (ocean) when visiting the piko o wåkea (equator)
Jason Patterson: Growth
Ana Yarawamai: Equator crossing
Linda Furuto: The journey
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
  • Linda Labbe

    Amazing and courageous undertaking……linking all sectors of our Earth. Blessed journey to you all!!

  • micah mahiai

    On the voage how do you stear when there is really bad weather.

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