In the early hours of June 19, Hōkūleʻa and her crew departed Statter Harbor in Juneau, Alaska, officially beginning her Moananuiākea Voyage, a four-year circumnavigation of the Pacific.
The crew was given an epic send-off three days earlier at the University of Alaska with a Global Launch Ceremony that included Alaska Native and Hawaiian protocol, prayer, music, dance, an ʻawa ceremony and blessing. The 10-hour event was originally planned to take place at Auke Bay, but had to be moved indoors due to inclement weather.
On hand at the event was Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) Pwo Navigator Nainoa Thompson who gave the opening remarks. In addition to Indigenous Alaskans and Hawaiians, the launch ceremony was also attended by Indigenous Pacific partners from Taiwan, Samoa, Micronesia, Aotearoa (New Zealand) and ʻAvaiki (Cook Islands). Four Alaska Native hosting organizations presented the crew with an ocean declaration and asked that it be carried on Hōkūleʻa during her journey in hopes that others will sign on to the commitment to mālama our oceans.
After departing from Statter Harbor, it took Hōkūleʻa 12 hours to sail to her next stop, Angoon, Alaska. For several days, the crew participated in various educational and cultural engagements. They even joined the Xutsnoowú Kwáan (the Indigenous community in Angoon) for the launch of its first traditional dugout canoe in 140 years. The 30-foot-long canoe was made of red cedar and was a project led by Tlingit master carver and canoe builder Wayne Price who worked with students from Angoon High School.
After leaving Angoon, Hōkūleʻa continued sailing south along the coast of southeastern Alaska, blessed with clear skies and beautiful weather arriving at Kéex’ (or Kake) on the northwest coast of Kupreanof Island on June 23.
The crew also visited other communities in Southeast Alaska. On June 27, Hōkūleʻa left the village of Petersburg and sailed through a winding 22-mile channel called Wrangell Narrows to get to the community of Wrangell. This was one of the most dangerous legs of the journey thus far, due to powerful currents.
After spending about three days in Wrangell, the crew traveled to Ketchikan, staying there from July 1-3. At every stop they have been greeted and hosted by the Native communities, celebrating with food, songs, dances and stories.
From Ketchikan, Hōkūleʻa traveled to Metlakatla (which means “salt water passage”). Metlakatla is a settlement of the Tsimshian people and is the only Native reservation in Alaska.
Next Hōkūleʻa traveled to Hydaburg, her last Alaska stop, arriving there on July 7. The trip from Metlakatla to Hydaburg was a 90-mile, 10-hour journey. For part of the journey, Hōkūleʻa was escorted by a pod of humpback whales.
Joining the crew on the sail were three special guests: Tsimshian artist Kandi McGilton, Tsimshian carver Davie Boxley, and Hydaburg Mayor Tony Christianson who disembarked Hōkūleʻa just before arriving in the town so he could lead the arrival ceremony in full regalia.
Following their welcome, the crew traveled to the town of Klawock where they received a warm Tlingit welcome. The next day they went to the organized village of Kasaan, the northernmost village of the Haida people. While there, Tribal President Mike Jones led the crew on a forest hike to Naay I’waans, the only remaining traditional Haida longhouse.
Hōkūleʻa departed Hydaburg on July 11 and after a 12-hour journey favored by good weather, arrived in Haida Gwaii, an archipelago in British Columbia, Canada, at the Haida village of Gaw (Old Masset).
On July 14, Hōkūleʻa left Haida Gwaii, crossing the calm seas of Hecate Strait arriving 10 hours later at Prince Rupert, British Columbia, greeted by two traditional canoes. After protocol, the crew was hosted by four different area tribes – the Haida, Tsimshian, Tlingit and Nisgaʻa.
After nearly a week in Prince Rupert, Hōkūleʻa departed for a 12-hour sail to Hartley Bay. Over the next few weeks, she will make additional stops in British Columbia, culminating with a stop in Vancouver in early August before heading to Seattle where Hōkūleʻa will meet up with sister canoe Hikianalia.
All the information for this article was compiled from Moananuiākea voyage updates posted by the Polynesian Voyaging Society on their website www.hokulea.com/moananuiakea/.