“Au i ke Kai me he Manu Ala: Cross the Sea as a Bird”


– ʻŌlelo Noʻeau No. 237

Polynesian explorers traveled from Tahiti and Bora Bora to Hawaiʻi over 1,000 years ago in ocean-voyaging waʻa (canoes) guided by traditional navigation. Canoe carvers were revered members of the community, and villagers would often work together to weave sails. Waʻa were a foundational part of traditional society. In the 1950s, outrigger canoe races became popular since the innovation of canoe materials – made of ultralight carbon – were lighter and faster. Duke Kahanamoku, Hawaiʻi’s own legendary waterman, and others started the Hawaiian Canoe Racing and Surfing Association in 1950.

In 1976, attention grew when Hōkūleʻa, an ocean-crossing Hawaiian outrigger canoe under the leadership of the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS), made its first voyage across the Pacific from Hawaiʻi to Tahiti using only traditional navigation guided by natural elements, sea currents and the stars. This 30-day, 2,500-mile voyage became the catalyst and inspiration to regain the ancestral knowledge of ocean voyaging and traditional navigation that had been lost for hundreds of years. It was also an opportunity to train generations of young navigators and voyagers.

Local artist and historian, Herb Kawainui Kāne (1928-2011), designed a double-hulled canoe similar to the one used by his Polynesian ancestors. He sought to rekindle Hawaiian culture and traditional navigation. Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association (NaHHA) co-founder Sen. Kenny Brown (1919-2014) was also a key individual who advocated on behalf of PVS to ensure their mission to mālama (care for) endured. Kenny once told Pwo Navigator Nainoa Thompson, “If you want to help our people, strengthen their spirit.” Nainoa has taken these words to heart, and they serve as an inspiration to continue to voyage on Hōkūleʻa.

In 2023, Hōkūleʻa will celebrate 48 years of voyaging and will take her 15th voyage this summer named “Moananuiākea – A Voyage for Earth.” The first stop will be Alaska. Hōkūleʻa, along with sister canoe, Hikianalia, will travel several legs encompassing 43,000 nautical miles throughout Moananuiākea (the vast Pacific) with a 400-member crew to visit 36 countries and archipelagoes, nearly 100 Indigenous territories, and 345 ports connecting peoples across the vast Pacific and representing an important renaissance of culture for Native Hawaiians and for Polynesia.

PVS shares that their purpose is “To ignite a movement of 10 million planetary navigators who will pursue critical and inspiring ‘voyages’ to ensure a better future for the earth.”

Today, a reawakened collective environmental conscience guides individual and Hawaiʻi-wide efforts to mālama our home. Moananuiākea – A Voyage For Earth, is one that will ʻauamo (take on) the kuleana of our people to mālama our island earth and will have positive effects for the Pacific community generations into the future.

To learn more about the voyage of Moananuiākea, follow the virtual third canoe (Waʻa Honua), and engage with the virtual global hub visit: https://www.hokulea.com/moananuiakea-voyage/ and https://waahonua.com/.