After almost six months since departing from Hawai‘i on the Worldwide Voyage, Hōkūle‘a and Hikianalia arrived in Aotearoa (New Zealand) to a Maori welcoming ceremony that was not only stunning to see, but historical as well.
When the crews of the voyaging canoes first sighted the northern coast of Aotearoa, they were elated that they were able to make it to their destinations safely using only traditional methods of non-instrument navigation. They were also excited to reach the southern point in the Polynesian Triangle (with Hawai’i to the north and Easter Island to the east), a feat that has only been accomplished a handful of times on traditional voyaging canoes since the times when ancient Polynesians sailed extensively throughout the region.
The first time Hōkūle‘a sailed to Aotearoa was in 1985. At that time, the country’s waka (canoe) traditions and voyaging existed largely in stories and books. Seeing Hōkūle‘a arrive in the town of Waitangi stirred the souls and imaginations of many watching from shore. One of the individuals that was moved by the sight of Hōkūle‘a was Hekenukumai Busby, a bridge builder who decided to turn to canoe carving and has since carved over 30 wakas.
29 years later, Hōkūle‘a has returned to the shores of Waitangi with her sister canoe, Hikianalia, to strengthen these existing bonds between two great voyaging cultures and forge new ones. This time, several of the original Hōkūle‘a crewmembers that made the maiden trip to Aotearoa were also on shore to greet the canoes. Standing next to these voyaging elders, who sailed here years before I was even born, I could not help but feel an incredible sense of gratitude for all that they had done to make the voyaging community what it is today.
As I get ready to sail on the next leg of the Worldwide Voyage, I am honored to be doing it with the people who paved the way for bringing voyaging back to glory. Having just returned from sailing on the Samoa leg of the Voyage not too long ago, I am grateful for another opportunity to learn from my crew members and the communities of Aotearoa.