Protecting the Sea, Strengthening People, and Nursing Sea Turtles Back to Health

For the past couple of months, the crew aboard Hōkūle‘a have been sailing up the coast of Australia as part of the voyage around the world using non-instrument navigation. It is the first time that the renowned double-hull sailing canoe has ever been to this part of the world, as is the case with most of the crew. This makes it all the more important for us to forge new relationships with people and communities that have the know-how to help guide us on our journey.

This Worldwide Voyage is meant to simultaneously honor the knowledge of ancient Polynesians and celebrate the efforts of modern-day communities that are committed to a better future for the Earth. Whether it’s an individual effort or a group effort, these navigators of change play a critical role in the collective movement to protect the environment in this period of unprecedented changes.

Crewmembers, Kaniela and Tamiko, awaiting orders for raising the spar aboard Hōkūke'a. (Photo by Daniel Lin)
Crewmembers, Kaniela and Tamiko, work together to raise the spar aboard Hōkūke’a. (Photo by Daniel Lin)

One such community that we learned a great deal from was the Indigenous Rangers of Yuku Baja Muliku (Archer Point), in the North Queensland region. These rangers are Aboriginal Australians or traditional landowners of Archer Point, and are thus committed to the stewardship of their land and sea, focusing largely on the Great Barrier Reef.

During our visit to their headquarters, the Hōkūle’a crew got to see some of the work that goes on at this place. Among the many services and projects that the Ranger Program engages in is a rescue and rehabilitation center for sick turtles. (8 Pictures From Texas’ Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehab.)

When full grown, this turtle will be far heavier than the human carrying it today. (Photo by Daniel Lin)
Two young rangers feeding sick turtles. (Photo by Daniel Lin)
Two young rangers feed sick turtles. (Photo by Daniel Lin)

Just by listening to the rangers (men and women of all ages) speak about their land, I was touched and inspired by the passion they exuded towards their work. Larissa Hale, the program’s managing director, explained that by working to preserve the natural environment of their land that has been passed down for thousands of years, they become stewards in more ways than one.

“It’s not just about protecting our land and sea. What we do also strengthens our people to stand up and stand together. That’s the biggest thing for us.”

Crewmember, Pam, and a young Indigenous Ranger working to scratch algae off of a sick turtle's back. (Photo by Daniel Lin)
Hōkūle’a crewmember, Pam, and a young ranger work to scratch algae off of a sick turtle’s back. (Photo by Daniel Lin)

Efforts such as these may not be heard or widely read about. Yet, being here and seeing what goes on, I got the feeling that this work—the kind that is deeply rooted to a sense of place—is certainly felt in spirit by the generations of the past as well as the generations still to come. Perhaps that feeling is best captured through the motto of the program: Our Land—Our People—Our Future.

As we continue to sail on to new ports and foreign destinations, we will carry these stories of hope with us and share the lessons with the communities we meet along the way. After all, that is what this Worldwide Voyage is all about.

Hōkūle'a Crew and the Indigenous rangers of Yuki-Baja-Muliku (Archer Point).  Photo by Daniel Lin
Hōkūle’a Crew sits with the Indigenous rangers of Yuki-Baja-Muliku (Archer Point). (Photo by Daniel Lin)
Hōkūle'a captain, Nainoa Thompson, throws up a double 'shaka' to signal that everything is good to go. (Photo by Daniel Lin)
Hōkūle’a captain, Nainoa Thompson, throws up a double ‘shaka’ to signal that everything is good to go. Onward! (Photo by Daniel Lin)

More About the Archer Point Rangers

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Dan Lin Photography




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