Ho‘ina Hōkūle‘a — Hōkūle‘a Returns

Inset: Hawaiian practitioners oli (chant) greetings to the Hōkūle‘a crew. Left: Pwo Nainoa Thompson, Polynesian Voyaging Society President.

By Leilehua Yuen

Hōkūle‘a now begins her final leg of the Worldwide Voyage—traveling the Hawaiian Archipelago to approximately 30 ports. Her crew will get to share their adventures with some 100 schools on various islands. After circumnavigating the Earth in a three-year-60-thousand nautical mile voyage to help grow the global movement toward a more sustainable world, on June 17, 2017 Hōkūle‘a returned to Hawai‘i nei.

Click the cover to see this story in our digital magazine.

Click the cover to see this story in our digital magazine.

Hōkūle‘a and her sister wa‘a (canoe) Hikianalia, were escorted home by Okeanos Marshall Islands, the newly launched vaka motu (boat for the island) of the Okeanos Foundation and Fa‘afaite, Tahiti’s voyaging canoe. The four deep-water wa‘a were greeted by a flotilla of Hawaiian and Polynesian canoes and other watercraft. Makali‘i (from Hawai’i Island), Mo‘okiha o Pi‘ilani (from Maui), Mo‘olele (from Maui), and Nāmāhoe (from Kaua’i) were present to pay homage to their sister wa‘a.

Nearly 50,000 people were gathered on the shore of Ala Moana Beach Park to celebrate the wa‘a and crew. As Hōkūle‘a approached the floating dock at Magic Island, oli (Hawaiian chant) rang out. Once she was secure, and the crew on land, “I Kū Mau Mau” and other chants honoring canoes and voyagers filled the air. Hale Mua, an organization devoted to nurturing and strengthening Kanaka Maoli men through cultural practice, presented kāli‘i, a ceremony in which spears are thrown at an arriving chief who must catch them, or fend them off. Hōkūle‘a crew member Sam Kapoi represented the crew and canoe, fending off eight spears. “It was done for canoes that left the realm…basically in the hands of God. The spears show that the person catching is still a man, not a god,” Kapoi told Hawai‘i News Now.

The theme of the homecoming celebration was Lei Ka‘apuni Honua, which translates to English as “a lei around the world.” It honors the journey of connecting cultures and people around the world. The Worldwide Voyage was the first time a Polynesian canoe circumnavigated the Earth.

VIPs from Hawai‘i, the Pacific, and the world were on hand for the aha ‘awa, the formal kava ceremony, and then the chairs were cleared from the tent so the public could enjoy the ho‘olaule‘a (celebration) where video and a large screen outside the main tent allowed more people to see the protocols and enjoy the entertainment.

Hōkūle‘a ties up at Magic Island after her historic three-year voyage.

Hōkūle‘a ties up at Magic Island after her historic three-year voyage.

Hawai‘i Governor David Y. Ige said, “The State of Hawai‘i is tremendously proud of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, crewmembers, volunteers and community partners of the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage for their efforts to share our knowledge and values and work collaboratively with cultures around the world to protect our environment. As a global leader in sustainability, Hawai‘i and its people will continue to support environmental conservation and preservation initiatives that make our world a better place.”

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell called the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage a “global movement that has not only encouraged stewardship of our island Earth, but also has inspired the next generation of navigators, explorers and engaged citizens who are proud of where they come from and what our culture stands for. The value and lessons from this voyage will continue to help our community thrive for years to come.”

Cheryl Taupu, of Kealakekua, was there for a special reason. “While I watched the canoes enter Magic Island, I looked at the thousands of people gathered. I tried to imagine that I, and all those people, were there in ancient times, welcoming our family and friends from around the Pacific. I would like to think that I could somehow identify with them, but I don’t know if I have enough humility, as I was not very modest in the pride I showed that day as Hōkūle‘a arrived.” Cheryl’s husband, Tava Taupu, was one of the crew bringing the storied canoe home. At age 72, after sailing on Hōkūle‘a for over forty years, Tava says “I retired after this voyage. This was my last long distance sail. For me it was letting go.”

Other events during homecoming week included the Mālama Honua Fair and Summit, a three-day summit, including a youth summit, based on the voyaging, cultural, environmental, educational and health and well-being missions of the voyage.

Men of Hale Mua participate in Kāli‘i, a spear throwing challenge ritual used in ancient times.

Men of Hale Mua participate in Kāli‘i, a spear throwing challenge ritual used in ancient times.

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‘i was ecstatic to be a part of Hōkūle‘a’s homecoming and celebration of the World Wide Voyage. ‘Imiloa has created a voyaging outreach program for interested schools that is motivated by the Polynesian Voyaging Society and aimed at inspiring the next generation of oceanic explorers. Staff from the program flew to O‘ahu for the celebration, and set up a 20-foot star compass and large portable planetarium, kindly loaned by the Bishop Museum so ‘Imiloa staff could share with the community lessons in oceanic navigation and voyaging starlines.

Planetarium presenter ‘Āhia Dye said, “We saw hundreds of people, some who even flew in from other countries, just for this event! School groups and summer programs brought their students; the place was just abuzz in this epic outreach event! We were so excited to be a part of it with all. And seeing all the other partners and collaborators sharing with the public, it reiterated our collective mission for this entire Worldwide Voyage—to mālama honua, every day—it was a very special event!”

The Homecoming Summit also included larger keynote events. The World Youth Congress Summit was hosted by the Polynesian Voyaging Society, in collaboration with the World Youth Congress. Young people from around the world were invited to celebrate Mālama Honua stories. Together, they made a collective call to action to the next generation to create a new sail plan for the future stewardship of the planet.

The International Speaker Series featured individuals who are navigating towards a more just and sustainable future for island Earth. Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, talked about how the relevance of Hōkūle‘a in the modern world was questioned, and how some tried to discourage him from risking the canoe on the three-year voyage. His emotional and evocative speech covered Hawaiian disenfranchisement, Hōkūle‘a’s role in the Hawaiian Renaissance, the stories of the original Hōkūle‘a navigators, and the role of young people as navigators into the future. His full speech is available on YouTube. (Search “navigator Nainoa addresses attendees”).

Also speaking at the Homecoming Summit was Megan Smith, United States Chief Technology Officer, Dieter Paulmann, Sylvia Earle, Jean-Michel Cousteau, Captain Don Walsh, Reverend Mpho Tutu van Furth, and Alaska Lt. Governor Byron Mallott. On the final day of the summit, individuals from around Hawai‘i and the world came together to talk about the work they or their organizations already were doing and planning.

The eclectic group of more than 100 participants were from public, private, non-profit, for profit, educational, and governmental entities, connecting to find ways to support and accelerate current mālama honua initiatives, as well as to develop and initiate new ones.

Left to right: Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Bradford Nakamua, Mpho Tutu, Congressworman Tulsi Gabbard, Govenor David Ige, Danny Akaka, Anna Akaka, and Hector Busby.

Left to right: Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Bradford Nakamua, Mpho Tutu, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Govenor David Ige, Danny Akaka, Anna Akaka, and Hector Busby.

For the crew of Hōkūle‘a, their shipmates are ‘ohana (family), with ties as strong as blood. Wallace (Wally) Wong, of Hilo, felt that pull during his son’s graduation. “I was out of state during the homecoming, but watched it live streaming on the computer…I was thinking about it all day while I was at the graduation and checking the tracking map to see where both canoes were, but it didn’t really hit me until I got home and turned on the live stream. We watched it with friends and a whole flood of feelings came through me. Guilt was one. I should have been there helping with the homecoming as I watched all my fellow crewmembers on live streaming. A sense of accomplishment or relief that Hōkūle‘a is safe at home now. And pride in seeing all our older crewmembers and newer crewmembers sitting side-by-side enjoying the festivities. It was a long voyage and everyone deserved all the attention for their commitment to this project.  It was such a beautiful day and Hōkūle‘a looked great.”

Wally was chosen to sail three legs of the Worldwide Voyage. In 2014, they sailed from Pago Pago, to Vavau & Nukualofa Tonga and then on to Waitangi, Aotearoa. He says, “My last leg was from Miami, Florida, to Key West, then down and through the Panama Canal. Sailing on the Caribbean was exciting as I thought of all the great ships that sailed before us. Our highlight was traveling through the Panama Canal and seeing one of the greatest engineering marvels ever. All of these three legs were awesome. We were able to experience different cultures; foods and everyone that we met along the way were always amazed with our journey and with Hōkūle‘a. She is very special and one of a kind.”

Longtime crewman Tava Taupu grew up on Nuku Hiva working fishing canoes with his father. “Not big like Hōkūle‘a,” he says. “But we used sails and would be out on the ocean a long time. You learn how to not only fish to feed the family but also to live on the ocean. Almost the same on Hōkūle‘a. Not only sail, but how to work to take care of the canoe and work with everyone on the canoe. I had to learn plenty of things about the canoe. How to put the sails up, how to work the line, how to steer the canoe, plenty of things to keep the canoe going safe.”

Danny and Anna Akaka greeting voyagers with pule and oli.

Danny and Anna Akaka greeting voyagers with pule and oli.

Tava continued, “When Herb Kane and the first crew were doing training sails, around 1974–75, they came to Kona and stopped at Ka‘ūpūlehu where I was working at Kona Village, I saw Hōkūle‘a and fell in love. I promised myself I would sail on her and asked if I could crew. That was 40-plus years ago and still a crew member, still sailing.” But now, Tava says, his long-distance days are done. “Sailing to Tahiti and Taputapuatea, and saying goodbye to all my old friends was very sad.”

During the Worldwide Voyage, Hōkūle‘a and Hikianalia visited more than 23 countries and territories, and 150 ports. Soon, they will begin the most important leg of the voyage*: an eight-month sail to 30 ports throughout the Hawaiian Islands and some 100 schools, to thank Hawai‘i’s people and share what we have learned with the children,” said Nainoa Thompson, Polynesian Voyaging Society president.

Tava says, “I will continue to educate our keiki who visit us at Hālau Maluhia, and help with the Hōkūle‘a educational mission as she sails around Hawai‘i, share our culture and knowledge.” Cheryl adds, “We, as a family, have always been a part of Hōkūle‘a’s mission to educate our communities.” And, like the other members of the Hōkūle‘a ‘ohana, “We will continue to do so for as long as we can.” ❖


More information about Hōkūle‘a, visit: hokulea.com.

*At the time of printing Ke Ola Magazine, the summer tour dates were not available.

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