In 2013, the Hōkūleʻa embarked on a three-year voyage around the world, on a historic mission to circumnavigate the planet using only the stars, the sun, ocean currents, and cloud movements. The purpose of Hōkūleʻa’s journey was to “join and grow the global movement toward a more sustainable world” in the Mālama Honua (to care for our earth) Worldwide Voyage. Hōkūleʻa made 15 stops in her Lei Kaʻapani Honua (lei around the world): Tahiti, Sāmoa, Aotearoa, Australia, Bali, Mauritius, South Africa, Brazil, Caribbean, US East Coast, Panama, Galapagos Islands, Rapa Nui, and Tahiti before returning to Hawaiʻi yesterday.
Hōkūleʻa was built in the 1970s at a time where cultural extinction was a real threat to native Hawaiians. By the time of her creation, there were no traditional native Hawaiian navigators left. Our people, who discovered Hawaiʻi and sailed around Polynesia in the ancient times, nearly lost our identity with the near disappearance of navigating techniques. Thanks to master navigator Mau Piailug (my favorite!) from Micronesia, the Hōkūleʻa made her way from Hawaiʻi to Tahiti in 1976 on her first journey. Hōkūleʻa once again set her sights on Tahiti in 1978, but a treacherous storm capsized the waʻa near Molokaʻi. Legendary surfer and crew member Eddie Aikau set off to search for help on his surfboard but the crew was rescued and Eddie was lost at sea. The iconic annual ‘Eddie’ was named for the Hawaiian hero in remembrance that “Eddie Would Go”. The next year, Mau trained Nainoa Thompson to become a chief navigator so that he might pass on the knowledge to the next generation of Polynesians. Nainoa sailed to Tahiti in 1980 and came back to Hawaiʻi, which was a first in 600 years. Nainoa has led each voyage since and has become a navigating icon among Hawaiians and other Polynesians.
Yesterday, Hōkūleʻa, her sister Hikianalia, and waʻa from all over Polynesia sailed home to Oʻahu in front of tens of thousands of proud, ecstatic kanaka. Witnessing her arrival was breathtaking, especially when considering that my people circumnavigated the world in a historic journey. I truly believe that kanaka maoli are some of the most brilliant, remarkable human beings and it was a privilege to see us perpetuate our heritage. Knowing that she and Hikianalia sailed 60,000 nautical miles, to over 150 ports, and 23 countries and territories relying solely on the techniques of our ancestors is breathtaking. Welcome home, Hōkūleʻa, we are so proud of you!