HONOLULU (LOG News Service) — No modern navigation instrumentation guided a Polynesian voyaging canoe as it followed the horizon during a three-year journey around the globe.
About one dozen crewmembers for each leg of the voyage relied only on their understanding of nature’s cues — ocean swells, stars, wind, birds — and their own naau, or gut, to sail across about 40,000 nautical miles to 19 countries, spreading a message of malama honua: Caring for the Earth.
On June 17, thousands welcomed the 61-foot double-hulled canoe Hokulea home to Hawaii when it entered a channel off the island Oahu and tied up to a floating dock with iconic Diamond Head in the distance.
Ka’iulani Murphy, an apprentice navigator on the double-hulled canoe, told The Associated Press that the successful journey taught her the value of ancient Polynesian maritime techniques.
“We really are sailing in their (the ancestors’) wake,” said Murphy, 38. “We had to re-learn what our ancestors had mastered.”
The toughest part of the journey was dealing with cloud cover and trying to maintain the proper speed so the boat escorting the canoe could keep pace, she said, adding that she enjoyed eating the fish the crew caught during the journey.
The voyage perpetuated the traditional wayfinding that brought the first Polynesians several thousand miles to Hawaii hundreds of years ago. The trip also helped train a new generation of young navigators.
Hokulea means star of gladness. The canoe was built and launched in the 1970s, when there were no Polynesian navigators left.
The epic round-the-world voyage that started in 2014 shows how far Hokulea has gone since its first voyage from Hawaii to Tahiti in 1976.
Disaster befell another voyage in 1978 when the canoe capsized off the Hawaiian island of Molokai in a blinding storm.
Hokulea is expected to embark next on an eight-month trip sailing throughout the Hawaiian Islands.