News / USA

Hawaiian Voyaging Canoe to Navigate World Without Instruments

The Höküle‘a is about to set sail on an around-the-world journey to spread a conservation message. (Courtesy: Polynesian Voyaging Society/Oiwi-TV)
The Höküle‘a is about to set sail on an around-the-world journey to spread a conservation message. (Courtesy: Polynesian Voyaging Society/Oiwi-TV)
Heidi Chang
A Hawaiian voyaging canoe is set to sail around the world using the age-old art of wayfinding  navigating without instruments as part of a global movement to help create a more sustainable world.

Polynesian voyaging rediscovered

When the Hawaiian voyaging canoe known as Höküle‘a first sailed from Hawaii to Tahiti in 1976, no one imagined it would spark a revival of Polynesian voyaging throughout the Pacific and become an important symbol of cultural pride.  

"Our primary motivation in building and sailing and navigating canoes was to have Hawaiians and other Polynesians, and other Pacific Islanders, take over the leadership in relearning, reinventing the technology, and putting it to use, and demonstrating its use, so it becomes their project, not my project," said Ben Finney, founding president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, which built the canoe.
Hawaiian Voyaging Canoe to Navigate World Without Instruments
Hawaiian Voyaging Canoe to Navigate World Without Instrumentsi
|| 0:00:00

Now 82, the retired anthropologist says they initially wanted to demonstrate it was possible for Polynesians to have intentionally explored and settled the Pacific. Finney recalls they also wanted to revive the art of wayfinding, navigating without instruments, guided only by the stars, winds, waves, birds and other signs of nature.

The tradition had been lost in Polynesia. Fortunately, the society found an expert navigator in Micronesia, and under his guidance, Nainoa Thompson became the first Hawaiian in 600 years to practice the art of wayfinding. Thompson also integrated the tradition with modern science. Since then, he’s helped train a whole new generation of navigators.

Circumnavigating the globe

Now, after nearly 40 years of sailing Höküle‘a around the Pacific and the Pacific Rim, Thompson is about to embark on a worldwide voyage called Malama Honua, Caring for our Earth. He says several people inspired the vision for the voyage, including his friend, the late NASA astronaut Lacy Veach.
  • Master navigator Nainoa Thompson became the first Hawaiian in 600 years to practice the art of wayfinding (date unknown). (Polynesian Voyaging Society)
  • Half the crew of the Hokulea is under the age of 30 (date unknown). (Oiwi TV and the Polynesian Voyaging Society)
  • The Hokulea (left) and the Hikianalia sailing off the Hawaiian Islands (date unknown). (Oiwi TV and the Polynesian Voyaging Society)
  • Master navigators Chad Kalepa Baybayan (left) and Nainoa Thompson (date unknown). (Chad Kalepa Baybayan)
  • The Hokulea is a a Polynesian double-hulled voyaging canoe (date unknown). (Oiwi TV and the Polynesian Voyaging Society)
  • The Hokulea at sea (date unknown). (Oiwi TV and the Polynesian Voyaging Society)

"He kept saying, 'Nainoa, you need to know how beautiful your island Earth is,'" Thompson said. "'It’s just one island in space. It’s all we've got. There’s no other island we can go to. And it’s fragile, and it needs to be protected, and Höküle‘a needs to help us learn and find the way. Take it around the world.' That was 22 years ago.”

To prepare for the expedition, Thompson and his crew spent a year sailing around the Hawaiian islands with Hokulea, which means Star of Gladness, and a new canoe, Hikianalia. Both are named after stars that navigators use to guide them back to Hawaii. The double-hulled canoes will circumnavigate the globe together.

The voyagers will visit more than 20 countries, learning from other cultures, including the Zulu of South Africa.

"Imagine that we’re going to go to South Africa," Thompson said. "Imagine that we’re going to have the chance to meet the Zulu that are about 140- to about 180,000 years old, and to celebrate the fact that they’re still here on this planet, maybe one of the oldest cultures. So it’s our privilege to be the youngest culture and have the ability to explore and go and meet and pay respects to all the cultures of the earth."

Inspiring a new generation

One goal of the worldwide voyage is to inspire young people and strengthen a new generation of navigators and voyagers.

That’s why half the crew is under the age of 30. Thompson, who’s now in his 60s, hopes many people will follow the voyage online and participate in its educational journey.

“If you don’t teach children how to take care of the world, they won’t have the tools to do that," Thompson said. "We’re not going to go save the world. All we’re trying to do with Höküle‘a and Hikianalia is do our part. And our part is to sail. And so we want to join that human movement of kindness and compassion on the planet with the belief that collectively we can make a difference.”

Once the canoes leave Hawaii with the first good wind, they won’t return until 2017.

Nainoa Thompson will captain and navigate Höküle‘a on the first leg of the voyage to Tahiti, sharing a message of Aloha and Malama Honua caring for our Earth.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs