[From an official press release of the Polynesian Voyaging Society.]
(ANAKENA BEACH, RAPA NUI) – Voyaging canoe Hokulea and her crew were welcomed and celebrated by the Rapa Nui community at a traditional landing ceremony held yesterday. Hosted at the historic Anakena Beach, Hokulea’s official arrival marks her second visit to Rapa Nui since 1999 and her re-entrance into Polynesian waters on the Worldwide Voyage.
Anakena is one of two small beaches along the island’s otherwise rocky coastline and is the historic site of seafaring arrivals and departures in Rapa Nui. The crew were met by the community through song and dance before heading inland for a feast and further entertainment.
“Returning to Rapa Nui and reconnecting with our ohana and other community members is an important milestone for Hokulea and the Worldwide Voyage, marking our return to the Polynesian triangle and the deep history of Polynesian voyaging,” said pwo navigator Nainoa Thompson, captain of the Hokulea and president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society. “This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our shared commitment to preserving traditions, values, and environment, but also to discuss the challenges that we face in light of changes to our oceans, education, and well-being as island people.”
The crew has been engaging the Rapa Nui community alongside the Nahiku Student Delegation, a student group from Hawaii focused on the promulgation of Polynesian culture and wayfinding. Together, they are participating in various tours highlighting the island’s rich cultural history and discussing its future with the island’s community leaders including the governor and mayor of Rapa Nui.
At just thirteen miles wide and 1,600 feet high, Rapa Nui is considered one of the most difficult islands to find due to its remote location and its tiny size. A crew of four apprentice navigators embarked on and lead the 1,900-nautical-mile trek from the Galapagos Islands to Rapa Nui on February 12, 2017 and stretched twenty challenging days at sea. The crew is scheduled to depart from Rapa Nui in the next week, when Hokulea will sail to French Polynesia before her return home to Magic Island on June 17, 2017.
Due to its small size and remote location, the native people of Rapa Nui had lived in isolation until about a century ago when a visiting Tahitian thought the shape of the island reminded him of one of his home islands, Rapa Iti (Small Rapa), and he gave the island its widely known Polynesian name, Rapa Nui (Big Rapa).