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Hōkūleʻa: French Polynesia’s Gift to the World

Daniel Lin is a well-traveled photographer and writer whose love of the Pacific and its many islands and cultures has inspired him to explore their every niche. Follow him as he partakes in the long-awaited and historic Hōkūle‘a canoe voyage from Hawai’i across the world—which uses only wayfinding, or traditional navigation, to guide it over perilous seas.

Three sister canoes - Hōkūle’a, Hikianalia, and Faafaite - sailing into Huahine.
Three sister canoes—Hōkūle’a, Hikianalia, and Faafaite—sailing into Huahine. (Photo by Danee Hazama)

Strengthening Bonds

As the crew for the second leg of the Worldwide Voyage (WWV) make their way across the South Pacific, they have connected with numerous island communities in French Polynesia. This group will sail the two voyaging canoes, Hōkūle’a and Hikianalia, from Tahiti to Pago Pago, American Samoa.

Overall, the time spent in Tahiti was incredibly rewarding for the members of the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS), affirming the close bond between the Hawaiian and Tahitian communities. Upon arrival in French Polynesia, the first international stop on the four-year voyage around the world, the Polynesian Voyaging Society shared the mission of the Worldwide Voyage—Mālama Honua—by calling for ocean conservation and celebrating the deep connection to the sea that Polynesians share. The Tahitian community embraced this idea and took it upon themselves to contribute to the message of Mālama Honua (or Marama Fenua in Tahitian) in a way that none of the crew members could have expected.

Warm embrace between crew and community.  (Photo by Danee Hazama)
A warm embrace between crew and community. A vital part of this voyage is the notion that we must all take care of not only ourselves, but each other and the Earth. (Photo by Danee Hazama)
Tainui - Friends of Hōkūle’a, presenting the Message of Mālāma Honua to the Polynesian Voyaging Society.  (Courtesy of Pew Charitable Trusts in French Polynesia)
The Tainui—Friends of Hōkūle’a organization, presenting the Message of Mālāma Honua to the Polynesian Voyaging Society. (Photo courtesy of Pew Charitable Trusts in French Polynesia)

French Polynesia’s Commitment

This message was echoed on the shores of Tahiti as numerous Polynesian associations, including the Pew Foundation’s Global Ocean Legacy project in French Polynesia, joined together as the Tainui—Friends of Hōkūle‘a to make a pledge to the voyage and to the world.

Their message consists of four major components:

Nainoa Thompson, PVS President and Master Navigator, looks up at the sign for the newly-renamed beach in honor of Hokule'a in Papeete, Tahiti.  (Photo by Ken Chong)
Nainoa Thompson, PVS President and Master Navigator, looks up at the sign for the newly-renamed beach in honor of Hokule’a in Pape’ete, Tahiti. (Photo by Ken Chong)
  1. To create a network of large-scale marine protected areas. Specifically, to call for 20% of the territory’s waters to be protected by the year 2020.
  2. To preserve Polynesian cultural ancestry and its strong link to the oceans by focusing on the perpetuation of traditional knowledge.
  3. To preserve marine biodiversity through sustainable practices with regards to fishing, tourism, and pearling.
  4. To act on climate change and achieve 100% renewable energy by the year 2030.

At approximately 1.9-million square miles (five-million square kilometers), French Polynesia’s waters span an area as large as the landmass of the European Union. Within these waters, there exists over 21 species of sharks and an exceptional coral reef system that supports 176 coral and over 1,000 fish species. Therefore, setting a goal of preserving 20% of these waters would be a truly momentous gift to the world. To honor this commitment, PVS will carry the message, literally and figuratively, aboard Hōkūle’a and deliver it to the delegates gathered for the UN Small Island Developing States (SIDS) conference this September in Apia, Samoa.

Faafaite, a voyaging canoe from Tahiti, escorted the two Hawaiian canoes throughout French Polynesia.  Photo by Danee Hazama
Faafaite, a voyaging canoe from Tahiti, escorted the two Hawaiian canoes throughout French Polynesia. (Photo by Danee Hazama)
Crew and community gathering in a big circle to commence the cultural practice of stone fishing on the island of Maupiti.  (Photo by 'Āina Paikai)
Crew and community gathering in a big circle to commence the cultural practice of stone fishing on the island of Maupiti. (Photo by ‘Āina Paikai)

Mahalo

Though the goals set forth by Tahiti are no doubt ambitious, it is hard to argue against the need to preserve our oceans and, in turn, our Earth. When it comes to caring for the only home we have, no matter how ambitious or challenging it may be, it’s worth it… it will always be worth it.

So to our brothers and sisters in Tahiti, we say:

Me ‘oukou pākahi ke aloha o ko Hawai‘i Pae ‘Āina a hiki i ka ho‘i hou ‘ana mai o ua mau wa‘a kaulua ‘elua nei ma ka moana mālinolino o Polenekia Palani—me he mau ‘iwa ala e kīkaha ha‘aheo ai ma ka hokua o ka ‘ale i ka ‘ili o ka moana uliuli.

Ke aloha nō*

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* – “May the love of the people of Hawai‘i be with you all until the two canoes return once again to the tranquil waters of French Polynesia—like ‘iwa birds proudly gliding over the waves that crest upon the surface of the deep blue sea. Farewell.”

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Comments

  1. Skip Snyder
    Kihei Hawaii
    August 5, 2:11 pm

    What a wonderful voyage. Mahalo to all.

  2. WALKER Roo Rommel
    Tahiti
    August 5, 9:30 am

    You welcome all our sisters and brothers from Hawaii, we love you all and miss you now, thanks for the message Malama honua that we’ll transmit to our children…good wind to you Hokule’a and Hikianalia.

    Mauruuru e Iaora’na