A double rainbow appeared at the end of Magic Island as Namahoe, the first waʻa to arrive, turned into Ala Moana channel. A fine mist and light rain followed. Manu-o-kū, or fairy terns, encircled the harbor entrance. These are special birds for navigators because they signal that land is near.
These hōʻailona started the day that marked the successful completion of Hōkūleʻa’s 42,000 nautical mile voyage around the world. It was a proud and certainly an emotional moment for many, and not only Native Hawaiians and the Hawaiʻi community. The homecoming of Hōkūleʻa was streamed live around the world so the global community, all those whose lives Hōkūleʻa touched on her Mālama Honua journey, could share in this momentous occasion. The event received 10 million online hits and 150 news crews from around the world covered it live.
Yet, there were those outside Hawaiʻi who were so deeply moved by Hōkūleʻa and her journey and mission that they wanted to personally witness the homecoming. They came from around the world to stand on the banks of Magic Island with thousands of others to cheer and to honor the waʻa as she sailed by. ʻOhana waʻa (voyaging canoe family) members from different Pacific Island nations came for the celebration, as did their families and others who have become close friends of Hōkūleʻa’s crewmembers over the years.
Tahitians came in force to the homecoming, comprising the largest group of all the visitors who traveled to Hawaiʻi. Tahiti is the nation with the most longstanding history with Hōkūleʻa, starting in 1976, when over half the island’s population came to Papaʻete Harbor to celebrate the arrival of the first Polynesian double-hulled sailing canoe to travel to Tahiti from Hawaiʻi in over 600 years. The community members of Tautira have been the caretakers of Hōkūleʻa since her first voyage, a kuleana that has since been passed down the next generation. On every leg home from the South Pacific, including the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage, Hōkūleʻa crew members have stayed with Tautira families while they await favorable conditions for their return sail to Hawaiʻi.
Māori from Aotearoa and the Cook Islands and Palauans came as well, representing other Pacific Islands. From Natal, Brazil, one of the Hōkūleʻa’s stops after crossing the Atlantic Ocean, a news crew came to film the event. From the continental. Unites States, people from Florida and on up the East Coast to Massachusetts came to celebrate.
A Youth Summit, inspired by the worldwide voyage and hosted by the Polynesian Voyaging Society, was held in conjunction with a World Youth Congress at UH Mānoa. The conference brought local youth and students from around the world, ages 5 to 25, to celebrate mālama honua stories and create a collective call to action for the future stewardship of Island Earth. Students from around the world traveled to Hawaiʻi to witness the homecoming and participate in the Summit [see Youth exchanges enrich worldwide voyage].
Mpho Tutu van Furth from Cape Town was among those who greeted Hōkūleʻa when the waʻa arrived in South Africa, the midway point of the voyage, and who traveled to Hawaiʻi for the homecoming arrival.
“I was surprised seeing the canoe come into Cape Town at how moved I was by the size of the canoe, by the idea of this tiny vessel that has been navigating by the stars for a year and a half to come to us and would be going on another year and a half to get home,” said Tutu van Furth, daughter of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. “I was so struck by the indigenous skill and knowledge and wisdom that brought the canoe that far on the journey and would bring it home again. I think as much as people here in Hawaiʻi have swelled with pride at what has been accomplished on this voyage, I can’t begin to tell you because I don’t really know how far the seeds of pride have been scattered in indigenous communities around the world and the idea of reclaiming the knowledge, wit, the wisdom of the elders. It is that wit and wisdom that we’re going to have to harness in order to continue to have a planet that is livable.”