Sunday February 17, 2019

Not GPS but Stars help the voyaging canoe, Hokule’a to travel the World

To bring back the ancient culture alive, a group of Native Hawaiians and anthropologists built Hokule'a, forty years ago, which was long forgotten

Hokule'a arrival in Honolulu from Tahiti in 1976
Hokule'a arrival in Honolulu from Tahiti in 1976, source: Wikimedia Commons

Hawaii’s famous Canoe, Hokule’a is making a journey engraving its mark on history book pages, traversing the globe by wayfinding. Ancient Polynesian wayfinding technique requires memorizing hundreds of stars from where tey rise and set on the ocean horizon.

“As a navigator, your job is to look at the shape of the ocean,” told Naiona Thompson, the president of Polynesian Voyaging Society to in an interview. “You have to be on your feet and to be able to feel one wave when it comes through from one foot to another. You only know where you are by memorizing where you come from.”

Hawaiian Voyaging Canoe Hokule'a
Hawaiian Voyaging Canoe Hokule’a, Wikimedia Commons

Onboard this east coast leg is a 12 member crew, a mix veteran native Hawaiian navigators and young, lean learners who have taken their time off as pro surfers and educators.

“This floating island is a representation of the values people should have for the islands we all live in — whether that’s Hawaii, the U.S. mainland or Tangier Island. It’s been really interesting to see how people see themselves in that message. They get it.” said Na’alehu Anthony, 36, who is a crew member.

To bring back the ancient culture alive, a group of Native Hawaiians and anthropologists built Hokule’a, forty years ago, which was long forgotten.

At the time, no one knew the celestial navigating technique, no one knew how to build voyaging canoe -for the 600 years, no voyaging canoe has existed. But a man named Mau Piailug in Micronesia, a Wayfinder taught them how to sail by following cues from nature – not only observing the stars but by observing the bird species and observing the direction of the wind.

In 1976, Mau and a group of Native Hawaiians bet their lives that they could travel from Hawaii to Tahiti on a boat without any present day navigational equipment, to prove the theory that the original people who settled on the islands of Hawaii reached there with the intention of discovering the islands and not by accident.

voyaging canoe Hokule’a at Suo Oshima channel, Japan, Wikimedia Commons

After more than a month , the team finally reached its destination. This victory evoked the hope that the Hawaiian culture is still alive. People on the island demanded that the state should start teaching the Hawaiian language in the schools again.

The Hokule’a gave them the identity.

Since 1976, 25 more sea voyaging canoes have been built across 11 countries, more than 180 crew have taken a turn aboard on global trip.

Till now, Hokule’a has traveled 26,000 miles.

“This canoe is a school that’s about relearning the genius of our ancestors, and about our reconnection to our ocean,” said Thompson, one of the crew member, in an interview conducted by “This voyage is not my vision. It’s that of my teachers. I’m just a bridge between them and” — he points to his young crew — “them.”

This voyage would be the last voyage for Thompson and other elder crew members. After that, a new generation of Wayfinders will come onboard and will guide the canoe ahead.

-by Akanksha Sharma

Akanksha Sharma is a student of Journalism and an intern at Newsgram. Twitter @Akanksha4117


Next Story

Hawaii Eruption Could Last Years, Destroy New Areas: Geologists

A 1,300-foot-wide (400-meter) lava river now flows to the ocean from this "source cone" through an elevated channel about 52 to 72 feet (16 to 22 meters) above ground

Darryl Sumiki, 52, of Hilo, watches as lava lights up the sky above Pahoa during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, June 2, 2018. (VOA)

The eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano could last for months or years and threaten new communities on the Big Island, according to a report by U.S. government geologists.

A main risk is a possible change in the direction of a lava flow that would destroy more residential areas after at least 712 homes were torched and thousands of residents forced to evacuate since Kilauea began erupting on May 3, the report by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said.

A higher volume of molten rock is flowing underground from Kilauea’s summit lava reservoir than in previous eruptions, with supply to a single giant crack — fissure 8 — showing no sign of waning, according to the study published last week.

“If the ongoing eruption maintains its current style of activity at a high eruption rate, then it may take months to a year or two to wind down,” said the report designed to help authorities on the Big Island deal with potential risks from the volcano.

In this July 17, 2018 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, sunrise is seen over the Kilauea volcano lower East Rift Zone in Hawaii. (VOA)

Lava is bursting from same area about 25 miles (40 km) down Kilauea’s eastern side as it did in eruptions of 1840, 1955 and 1960, the report said. The longest of those eruptions was in 1955. It lasted 88 days, separated by pauses in activity.

The current eruption could become the longest in the volcano’s recorded history, it added.

Geologists believe previous eruptions may have stopped as underground lava pressure dropped due to multiple fissures opening up in this Lower East Rift Zone, the report said.

The current eruption has coalesced around a single fissure, allowing lava pressure to remain high.

Lava erupts in Leilani Estates during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, June 5, 2018. (VOA)

A 1,300-foot-wide (400-meter) lava river now flows to the ocean from this “source cone” through an elevated channel about 52 to 72 feet (16 to 22 meters) above ground.

“The main hazard from the source cone and the channel system is a failure of the cone or channel walls, or blockage of the channel where it divides in narrower braids. Either could divert most, if not all, of the lava to a new course depending on where the breach occurs,” the report said.

Also Read: Hawaii Could Face Volcanic Smog, Acid Rain

The report said it only considered risks from a change in lava flow direction to communities to the north of the channel as residents there have not been evacuated, whereas residents to the south have already left their homes. (VOA)