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Taking the Worldwide Voyage Underwater in Australia

Lodestone Reef, one of the 2900+ individual reefs that make up the Great Barrier Reef system. (Photo by Daniel Lin)
Lodestone Reef is one of the 2,900+ individual reefs that make up the Great Barrier Reef system. (Photo by Daniel Lin)

It’s been a little over a year since the Polynesian Voyaging Society set sail from Hawai’i to embark on the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage (WWV). Since then, the Hawaiian voyaging canoe, Hōkūle’a, has traveled approximately one quarter of the distance around the world, sailing to places like French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, and New Zealand, and then making the historic crossing into unfamiliar waters when she arrived Sydney, Australia.

Hōkūle'a arriving in Sydney Harbor last month. (Courtesy of O'iwi TV)
Hōkūle’a arrives in Sydney Harbor. (Courtesy of Polynesian Voyaging Society)

Currently, we are sailing up the eastern coast of Australia paying a visit to the largest structure of living organisms on Earth: the Great Barrier Reef.

The theme of this Worldwide Voyage is Mālama Honua, a Hawaiian term that means “Caring for the Earth.” So much of the well-being of our planet is tied directly to the well-being of our oceans, and as voyagers we are continually reminded of this fact each and every day. Therefore, this particular leg of the WWV is a critical one to our mission and one that all of us have been looking forward to since before we ever left Hawai‘i.

Diving the Great Barrier Reef

For us, the Great Barrier Reef is an amazing classroom that has so many lessons to offer us as individuals, as professionals, and as stewards of our own home communities.

This enormous geological and ecological wonder–spanning more than 1,400 miles and containing close to 3,000 individual reefs–is considered to be one of the best-preserved marine sites on Earth. Naturally, we needed to see this for ourselves. We needed to take the voyage underwater.

So, over the weekend, a group of crewmembers went out diving at Lodestone Reef, to witness the beauty of this place firsthand.

Dr. Kawika Zunin, crewmember, marveling at the healthy corals at Lodestone Reef. (Photo by Daniel Lin)
Dr. Ira “Kawika” Zunin, crewmember, marvels at the healthy corals at Lodestone Reef. (Photo by Daniel Lin)
Crewmembers diving at Lodestone Reef. (Photo by John Bilderback)
Crewmembers dive at Lodestone Reef. (Photo by John Bilderback)

Visiting the Australian Institute of Marine Science

While part of the crew was diving, another group of crewmembers attended a large “Open Day” event at the renowned Australian Institute of Marine Science, or AIMS. Our crewmembers, along with almost 30,000 other participants, listened to presentations on the Great Barrier Reef from leading scientists and were able to connect with like-minded individuals on the topic of stewardship.

The experience at AIMS really opened our eyes to the amount of passion, curiosity, and concern for the ocean that exists here in this community and throughout the country. This is the same kind of passion, curiosity, and concern that is woven into the DNA of our voyaging mission.

Hōkūle'a Captain, Kalepa, and crewmember Tamiko at the AIMS Open Day, 2015. (Courtesy of O'iwi TV)
Hōkūle’a Captain Kalepa, and crewmember Tamiko pose for a photo at the AIMS Open Day, 2015. (Courtesy of O’iwi TV)
Crew got schooled from the Australian Institute of Marine Science. (Photo Courtesy of O'iwi TV)
On shore, the crew got schooled (in a good way) at the Australian Institute of Marine Science. (Photo Courtesy of O’iwi TV)

Next Stop

As we get ready to sail to our next port in Cairns, my mind keeps coming back to the image of the reef, seen from above and below the water. It is hard to put into words and the photos certainly do not do it justice. All I can say is that this immense world built by tiny animals, and home to countless other organisms, is undeniably one of Earth’s greatest wonders. Natural treasures like this one are something that we must continue to preserve. We owe it to the next generation and every generation thereafter because, just like us, they deserve to inherit a world that still knows what it means to have healthy coral reefs.

Hōkūle'a crewmember Haunani Kane diving at Lodestone Reef. (Photo by John Bilderback)
Hōkūle’a crewmember Haunani Kane diving at Lodestone Reef. (Photo by John Bilderback)
Crewmember Haunani Kane and Dr. Ruth Gates, both Marine scientists, take a moment to share some stories and laughs in Townsville, Australia.  Hōkūle'a crew recently conducted a community day at Reef HQ - the largest living coral aquarium in the world. (Photo by Daniel Lin)
Crewmember Haunani Kane and Dr. Ruth Gates, both marine scientists, take a moment to share some stories and laughs in Townsville, Australia. The crew of Hōkūle’a recently conducted a community day at Reef HQ, the largest living coral aquarium in the world. (Photo by Daniel Lin)

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