Menu

Happy 40th Birthday to Hōkūleʻa, the Canoe That Revived a Culture

When Hōkūleʻa entered the water for the first time in Kualoa 40 years ago, it was the beginning of a sail plan that has spanned generations and taken us on a 150,000-nautical-mile journey to reconnect the Pacific Ocean family that shares a common history of voyaging and exploration. Here on our island home, Hōkūleʻa became part of a movement to revive Hawaiʻi’s culture, language, and way of life, which is now cherished around the world.

On March 8, 1975, below the peak of Kanehoalani ("Kane, Heavenly Companion") and the broad cliffs of Mo'o Kapu o Haloa ("Sacred Section of Haloa") at the north end of Kane'ohe Bay, Hōkūle'a slid down a coconut log ramp and floated calmly at sea. The site in Kualoa Regional Park in windward O'ahu, at the border of the ahupua'a of Kualoa and Hakipu'u, was chosen for the launching because of its importance to the voyaging traditions of Hawai'i. Photo courtesy of Polynesian Voyaging Society.
On March 8, 1975, below the peak of Kanehoalani (“Kane, Heavenly Companion”) and the broad cliffs of Mo’o Kapu o Haloa (“Sacred Section of Haloa”) at the north end of Kane’ohe Bay, Hōkūle’a was launched for the first time.  The site in Kualoa Regional Park in windward O’ahu, at the border of the ahupua’a of Kualoa and Hakipu’u, was chosen for the launching because of its importance to the voyaging traditions of Hawai’i. (Photo courtesy Polynesian Voyaging Society)

Hōkūleʻa brings people together from all walks of life in a way that very few things can. There is something special about the human effort she represents. It brings together people of different ages, ethnic groups, geographies, and professions.

Mau Piaiulug was the bridge between the ancient tradition and its modern revival. When he instructed the crew he was likely the last person on Earth capable of the task. (Photo courtesy Polynesian Voyaging Society)
Mau Piaiulug was the bridge between the ancient tradition and its modern revival. When he instructed the crew he was likely the last person on Earth capable of the task. (Photo courtesy Polynesian Voyaging Society)
Nainoa Thompson, Clay Bertleman and others think and prepare in 1992. (Photo courtesy Polynesian Voyaging Society)
Nainoa Thompson, Clay Bertleman and others think and prepare in 1992. (Photo courtesy Polynesian Voyaging Society)
(Photo courtesy Polynesian Voyaging Society)
When Hōkūleʻa and her crew arrived in Tahiti in 1976, vast crowds came to welcome them and see for themselves this incredible revival of Polynesian technology, culture, and pride. (Photo courtesy Polynesian Voyaging Society)

She does this at a time when we are in danger of losing the very fibers that hold us together, just when we need unity more than ever before. I see, in my lifetime, the fish disappearing, the ocean rising to cover more and more of our shores, marine debris on our beaches, houses pushing further and further up the ridgelines and out onto the lava fields, and a decline in our ability to embrace all members of our community. As a voyaging ʻohana, we worry about what kind of home our children’s children will have here in Hawaiʻi Nei. So we take to the sea again, this time not to discover new islands but to share new solutions and bring together a global community that will set the course for our next generations.

Mau Piaulug conducts a pwo ceremony on the island of Satawal in the Caroline Islands on March 17, 2007. It is stated by Lambert Lokopwe, that a pwo navigator takes on responsibilities for his island community and you use your knowledge of navigation to serve the people. Photo courtesy of Polynesian Voyaging Society.
Mau Piaulug conducts a pwo ceremony on the island of Satawal in the Caroline Islands on March 17, 2007. It is stated by Lambert Lokopwe, that a pwo navigator takes on responsibilities for his island community and you use your knowledge of navigation to serve the people. (Photo courtesy Polynesian Voyaging Society)

Hōkūleʻa’s legacy is to help us set our course and define for ourselves what our individual and collective voyages will be. For the young people I speak with, their voyage will require them to balance tradition, values, technology, nature, and to be our leaders in seeing a new way forward. We can empower them to create inventive, compassionate solutions to some of the most difficult challenges that we face here, so that the Hawaiʻi they come home to is worthy of their children. And their solutions will have meaning to an entire planet struggling with the same challenges.

Hokule'a is greeted by a welcome ceremony in Rapa nui where the canoe reached the far southeastern corner of Polynesia, completing her modern exploration of the Polynesian Triangle. Photo courtesy of Polynesian Voyaging Society.
In 1999, Hōkūleʻa is greeted by a welcome ceremony in Rapa Nui (Easter Island) where the canoe reached the far southeastern corner of Polynesia, completing her modern exploration of the Polynesian Triangle. (Photo courtesy Polynesian Voyaging Society)
IMG_8138 (1)
Worldwide Voyage crewmembers collect scientific data for oceans research, 2014. (Photo courtesy ‘Ōiwi TV)
IMG_1821 (1)
Students at a port of the Worldwide Voyage learn about our oceans and the plankton that live inside the water. (Photo courtesy ‘Oiwi TV)

What is extraordinary about Hōkūleʻa is not what she does—it’s how she encourages people to see what they are capable of, inspiring people to take risks and create their own future, even if it is something they can’t quite yet imagine.

Read All Posts From Hōkūleʻa’s Worldwide Voyage

 

 

Comments

  1. Malia Elliott
    Honolulu Hawaii
    May 29, 2015, 4:30 pm

    National Geographic produced a TV Special documentary film called the “Voyage of the Hokule’a” after her FIRST voyage between Hawaii and Tahiti and back. Is that Nat Geo film still available? Will it be shown again to commemorate the beginnings of what now is a great World Voyage?

  2. evan ravitz
    United States
    March 12, 2015, 4:01 am

    There’s a great book about this: Hawaiiki Rising by Sam Low. If you’ve read the best-selling true adventure book Born to Run, this is like Born to Voyage.

  3. Mike Hope
    Newport Beach, CA
    March 9, 2015, 9:43 am

    As the mate on the escort vessel for the original voyages in 1976 I am still awed by the accomplishments of Hokule`a and the. Polynesian Voyaging Society. I see it as a watershed event in the Hawai`ian renaissance.

    Sail on, Hokule`a!