Crew members Glenn Biven, left, and Diane Tom-Ogata, right, use a wooden rudder to steer the Hokulea canoe. (AP Photo/Oskar Garcia)
Would you go around the world – in a canoe?
November 23, 2015
A Polynesian voyaging canoe is being guided solely by nature as it circles the globe. It has now reached South Africa. It is at the halfway point on a three-year journey. And it is the most dangerous leg. That is partly because of difficult ocean conditions.
The double-hulled canoe Hokulea left Hawaii last year. Its crewmembers are sailing without today's navigation tools. They are using the motion of the waves and the position of the stars to guide their path. It is sailing the way that brought the first Polynesians to the Hawaiian Islands.
The trip is expected to end in 2017. By then, crewmembers will have sailed more than 60,000 nautical miles. They will have dropped anchor at 100 ports. And they will have seen 27 nations.
They recently arrived in Cape Town, South Africa. Crewmembers are teaching the local community about traditional navigation. They are also teaching them about Native Hawaiian culture and ways to care for the ocean.
"We are here. We are safe," navigator Nainoa Thompson said from Cape Town. "We got around South Africa safely."
The trip is also about building relationships and connections at all their stops, Thompson said.
"To be honest, the majority of people do not know much about Hawaiian culture or Hawaii," he said.
He told of a moment when Hawaiian students who have joined up with the voyage met with children in Cape Town.
"We did not know how to connect until our children danced. Then their children danced," he said.
"We had a chance today to witness what world peace looks like and sounds like," he added. He described the sounds of Hawaiian pahu drums beating along with African rhythms.
The stop was made possible with permission from a Nobel Peace Prize winner. That was Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He blessed the canoe during a 2012 visit to Hawaii, Thompson said.
"We are finding the definitions of caring and compassion and aloha from many of the places that we go," Thompson said. Then he reflected upon hearing news of the attacks on Paris. "We are just very blessed and very fortunate to be witness to it among all the stories of rage and anger."
The canoe will spend two weeks off the water. Then it will head across the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. South America is the next stop. Up to 200 crewmembers have sailed with Hokulea so far. They join and leave the trip at different points.
Hokulea was first built and launched in the 1970s. It was built in a bid to bring back Polynesian wayfinding. The first trip to Tahiti in 1976 was successful. The canoe became an icon amid an ongoing Native Hawaiian revival.
The latest trip is called Malama Honua. It means, "to care for our Earth."
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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why isn’t the crew using GPS?
Write your answers in the comments section below