UNITED STATES: The little canoe that could

UNITED STATES: The little canoe that could

No modern navigation instrumentation guided a Polynesian voyaging canoe as it followed the horizon during a three-year journey around the globe that ended in June 2017 near the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

About a dozen crew members for each leg of the voyage relied only on their understanding of nature’s cues — ocean swells, stars, wind, birds — and their own naau, or gut, to sail across about 40,000 nautical miles (74,000 kilometers) to 19 countries, spreading a message of malama honua: caring for the Earth.

Ka’iulani Murphy, an apprentice navigator on Hokulea, the double-hulled canoe, said the successful journey taught her the value of ancient Polynesian maritime techniques. “We really are sailing in their [the ancestors’] wake,” said Murphy, 38. “We had to relearn what our ancestors had mastered.”

The toughest part of the journey was dealing with cloud cover and trying to maintain the proper speed so the boat escorting the canoe could keep pace, she said.

Bert Wong went to Ala Moana Beach Park to celebrate Hokulea’s homecoming — and to celebrate his son, Kaleo, a Hokulea navigator, according to Hawaii News Now. “Just being here and feeling the mana [power] that’s here, it’s something to enjoy, which brings tears to my eyes,” Wong said.

The voyage perpetuated the traditional wayfinding that brought the first Polynesians several thousand miles to Hawaii hundreds of years ago. The trip also helped train a new generation of young navigators.

Hokulea means star of gladness. The canoe was built and launched in the 1970s, when there were no Polynesian navigators left. So, the Voyaging Society looked beyond Polynesia to find one.

Mau Piailug, from a small island called Satawal in Micronesia, was among the last half-dozen people in the world to practice the art of traditional navigation and agreed to guide Hokulea to Tahiti in 1976.

“Without him, our voyaging would never have taken place,” the Polynesian Voyaging Society said on the website for Hokulea. “Mau was the only traditional navigator who was willing and able to reach beyond his culture to ours.”

Crew members hope the success of their journey will inspire other indigenous cultures to rediscover and revive traditions.  The Associated Press

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