Science, technology, history, and culture collide in the story of the Hōkūleʻa.
Today, tens of thousands of people gathered at Oahu's Magic Island for an historic moment: welcoming the return of the Hōkūleʻa after a three-year journey around the world.
During the trip, the double-hulled waʻa visited 150 ports, 23 nations & territories, and traveled 60,000 nautical miles using only the traditional methods of celestial navigation.
The Worldwide Voyage, mālama honua, to care for island Earth, began in 2013 with a path through the Tahitian islands. The foundation of the project is firmly based in the belief that "blending traditional and modern technologies will help us find our way to a healthier future."
This voyage wouldn't have been possible without the renaissance in understanding of traditional navigation techniques, which were almost lost in the Hawaiian culture.
It is a story of survival, rediscovery, and the restoration of pride and dignity. It is a story of a society revaluing its relationship to its island home. - Polynesian Voyaging Society
Hōkūleʻa and the Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage are products of years of planning and design. There were many scholars, historians, and sailors who didn't believe Hōkūleʻa could navigate the open oceans, but leaders and crew members have been proving them wrong for more than 40 years.
In the mid-70s a group of cultural practitioners set out to re-create a traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe more than 600 years since the last of these canoes had been seen.
Nainoa Thompson, who has been involved in the project since inception, explains his interest in traditional navigation: "Thousands of years ago some genius figured out how to build the deep-sea voyaging canoe, the spaceship of our ancestors, that could sail far on the ocean. Two thousand years ago there was a vessel that arrived to Hawaii for the first time, put a human footprint on the sand for the first time. Two hundred years ago there's a whole new wave of Western explorers and things change in Hawaii. There was a loss of culture, loss of land, loss of heritage, loss of language. It was essentially losing who you are as a people [...] So all of a sudden, we are re-learning our history and we're regaining a sense of pride and dignity. Hōkūle‘a was the light and flame that started everything."
Hawaiʻi, our special island home, is a place where the land and sea are cared for, and people and communities are healthy and safe. - Polynesian Voyaging Society
In regards to the vision of blending traditional and modern technology, as Thompson puts it, "having indigenous knowledge coupled with modern science and technology, we believe, is part of figuring out a new sail plan" --by which he means figuring out our plans for a sustainable future.
The sister canoe to Hōkūleʻa, Hikianalia, was home to several science research projects conducted during the voyage. These included research on plankton populations, water quality, marine debris collection and plastic pollution, hydroponic food production, marine mammal acoustics, and fish DNA and populations.
In 2015, the Hikianalia returned to Hawaiʻi and spent a year sailing the islands, fulfilling the mission of the voyage by providing experiential learning opportunities for students across the state.
The Hikianalia was among the entourage welcomed at Magic Island today celebrating the completion of the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage.
The Polynesian Voyaging Society states: "Mālama Honua is simply translated as 'to care for our Island Earth', but the Hawaiian language is beautiful and complex. Mālama Honua means to take care of and protect everything that makes up our world: land, oceans, living beings, our cultures, and our communities. It means learning from the lessons of islanders to take care of your limited resources, as though you were living on a canoe in the open ocean or an island in the middle of the sea."
The Hōkūleʻa is a physical reminder of the importance of our cultural connection to science and technology in Hawaiʻi.
The stories of the Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage and the voyages prior will be remembered for generations to come. Let us all remember this proud moment for Hawaiʻi by sharing in the vision of blending traditional and modern technologies for a more sustainable future.