Voyaging onward, Polynesian style

Here it is, Discoverers’ Day. What I’m excited about celebrating is not Columbus and his supposed discovery of the North American continent, nor the Norse explorer Leif Erikkson, nor even earlier Irish monks now given credit for the find by sea, but the present-day voyage of our own Hokulea in progress: Malama Honua. As I learned, Malama Honua means to take care of our Island Earth, and this extends to mean taking care of everything that makes up our world.

In May 2014, I penned a column for The Garden Island, “A home on the rolling sea,” about the launching of the Hokulea and the Hikianalia on the highly challenging, worldwide voyage that is projected to take three years. Many of us in Hawaii and throughout Polynesia — even if we’re landlubber types — feel excitement about this plan to sail the oceans of the world using only the old ways of reckoning stars, moon and sun, wind and tides.

Also, many people around the world — not just sailor types — have become interested and involved. The Hokulea (“Star of Joy,” named for Arcturus) is reliant upon the ancient knowledge acquired in prepara- tion for the voyage by her various captains. The Hikinalia (the Hawaiian name for Spica), a sister escort canoe, is fully equipped with solar power, technology tools, plus planned science projects, leaving Hokulea to her own human devices unless something dire arises.

The spirit of adventure calls. The idea of joining like-minded people around the world in the spirit of aloha also calls. Related books and periodicals provide reading material. The Internet allows us to access the website to see the charting of the planned worldwide voyage at http://www.hokulea.com/track-the-voyage/

This makes it possible to follow the progress of the teams of crew members online. The Internet mapping shows a yellow line tracking “our iconic canoe Hokulea.” Planned by navigators, a green line shows last point of departure and projected arrival at next port of call. There are click-it canoe points to read crew member’s individual stories, and the stories of others who support the Malama Honua project, dubbed “A Map of Hope.”

When the canoes were heading for Aoteroa, I e-mailed my cousin Max in the Auckland area of New Zealand’s north island to watch for announcements of their arrival. He loves the sea and sailboats, and was happy to send me photos he snapped the very morning when “Hawaiian visitors” arrived at Okahu Bay in Auckland. That grand arrival was Dec. 6, 2014.

My most recent visit to the Hokulea website shows an approach across the Indian Ocean toward Madagascar, with all the navigat- ional information about longitude and latitude, wind and projected landfall at the next port of call. A Google map of Madagascar is available, and a wider map, showing the French Reunion Island and Mauritius to the northeast.

The last two are “family origin” places for me on my maternal side. I think of how my forebears who went into the coffee-growing business eventually made it to South India (Pondicherry) due to the stories they heard of the warmth, beauty and richness of the land, how it was opened up to the French — a French India “pocket” for sale back in the late 1600s. This makes it doubly interesting for me because of family coffee plantations established there by these adventurous, hardworking people. Perhaps there will be other isles and lands adjacent to ports of call during this huge circling of the globe that will touch followers of the voyage in the same way. The Malama Honua project is certainly weaving a lei of aloha around our earth.

A notice came via “the coconut wireless” that our very own navigators, Keala Kai and Dennis Chun, are giving free talks courtesy of Starwood Hotels tonight (6 p.m., Princeville’s St. Regis-Waimea Room) and again on Wednesday (6:30 p.m., Sheraton Kauai-Poipu, courtyard) featuring the Hokulea.

In this instance, the message sender was Pam Brown, a writer and publishing associate, who mentioned that both Kai and Chun were interviewed, their stories included in her first book of “Kauai Stories.” According to Brown, “Both men are wonderful speakers. We are blessed to have them here on Kauai. You will feel like you are sailing on Hokulea just by listening to them.”

Kai’s talk tonight will be followed by the showing of a 60-minute documentary about way-finding, “The Navigators: Pathfinders of the Pacific.” Wednesday night, Chun will talk about way-finding, the history of navigation and Hokulea.

Also related, but representing another voyaging group — The Vaka Tamauko Project — project coordinators M. Heuionalani Wyeth and Dr. Mimi George will present a program on “Canoe Plants” carried aboard on Polynesian voyages throughout the Pacific, including to Hawaii. This is scheduled for Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Kauai Community College cafeteria and should be of interest to anyone interested in gardening, plants, food sustainability and, indeed, survival. We can learn much from the Pacific Islander tradition of caring for limited resources, living on a canoe in the vast reaches of open ocean. The Vaka Tamauko Project stems from a charitable organization established to perpetuate ancient voyaging traditions. For further information, web links to access in addition to The Vaka Taumako Project are: Polynesian Voyaging Society, and Traditional Navigation in the Western Pacific.

Dear Readers, here for us, another rich week of freely available and accessible cultural learning for all ages, to help guide us toward best choices for living today on this island “canoe” we call home.


Dawn Fraser Kawahara, author and poet, regularly instructs on the topics of history and Hawaiian culture for visitors to Kauai through Hawaii Pacific University’s “Road Scholar” program through Pacific Islands Institute. The writer is now completing her second memoir, based on a family history in Burma. She continues as principal and owner of TropicBird Press and TropicBird Weddings & Celebrations-Kauai under DAWN Enterprises.


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