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
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The Polynesian voyaging canoe that is guided solely by nature as it circles the globe has reached South Africa. It's the halfway point on a three-year journey and the most dangerous leg. That's partly because of difficult ocean conditions.
The double-hulled canoe Hokulea left Hawaii last year. Its crewmembers are sailing without modern navigation equipment. 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 voyage is expected to end in 2017. By that time, crewmembers will have sailed more than 60,000 nautical miles. They will have dropped anchor at 100 ports in 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're here. We're safe," navigator Nainoa Thompson said from Cape Town. "We got around South Africa safely."
The journey is also about building relationships and connections at all their stops, Thompson said.
"To be honest, the majority of people don't know much about Hawaiian culture or Hawaii," he said.
He shared a moment when Hawaii students who have joined up with the voyage met with children in Cape Town.
"We didn't 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 was describing the sounds of Hawaiian pahu drums beating along with African rhythms.
The stop was made possible with permission from a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He blessed the canoe during a 2012 visit to Hawaii, Thompson said.
"We're finding the definitions of caring, 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're 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 journey at various points.
Hokulea was first built and launched in the 1970s. It was built in an attempt to bring back Polynesian wayfinding. The first voyage to Tahiti in 1976 was successful. The canoe became an icon amid an ongoing Native Hawaiian renaissance.
The latest voyage 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