Changing Planet

Hōkūle‘a: Return to Aotearoa

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.

A Maori woman holding a flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand waves to the two canoes in Waitangi. (Photo by Daniel Lin)
A Maori woman holding a flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand waves to the two canoes in Waitangi. (Photo by Daniel Lin)

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 welcoming party from Hawai'i, consisting of voyaging elders, crewmembers, and students from Kamehameha Schools. (Photo by Daniel Lin)
The welcoming party from Hawai’i, consisting of voyaging elders, crewmembers, and students from Kamehameha Schools. (Photo by Daniel Lin)
(Photo by Daniel Lin)
Men of Waitangi and Ngā Toki Matawhaorua, an 80-person paddling canoe that escorted crew members from Hōkūle’a to shore. (Photo by Daniel Lin)
(Photo by Daniel Lin)
A Maori waka rests on the beach. (Photo by Daniel Lin)

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.

Voyaging elders of Hōkūle'a, all of whom were in Waitangi in 1985.  (Photo by Daniel Lin)
From right: Harry, Gordon, and Billy, voyaging elders of Hōkūle’a, all of whom were in Waitangi in 1985. (Photo by Daniel Lin)

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Dan is on a life-long journey to discover what it truly means to be a citizen of the world. Along the way, he is seeking the advice of elders, the wisdom of children, and the stories of anyone willing to share. With a focus on photojournalism and travel, it is Dan’s firm belief that telling stories through photos is one of the most powerful ways to get people to care about the world and all of its inhabitants.Dan first started taking photos while living in the outer islands of American Samoa as a way to share experiences. Over time, the more he traveled and listened to stories of place, the more he came to understand what his role as a photographer needed to be. Today, Dan travels extensively throughout the Pacific Islands and Asia working on issues pertaining to climate change, culture, and youth. He hopes to bring about awareness on these critical issues and, with any luck, help to raise the collective social consciousness of the general public.Dan is a regular contributor to National Geographic and the Associated Press as well as 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 is also a brand ambassador for Maui Jim and Waiola Coconut Water.Contact: danlinphotography@gmail.com

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