April 14, 2017

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By: Danielle Epifani


In 1976 Hōkūle’a arrived on the shores of Tahiti having raised Havaiki from the sea. Known as the dwelling place of the ancestors, Tahiti is considered the departure point for the historic migrations that would colonize the largest expanse of ocean on earth- the Polynesian Triangle. Through the re-creation of a traditional double-hulled voyaging canoe, Pwo navigator Nainoa Thompson would become the next to inherit, and carry the legacy of celestial wayfinding into the future. The arrival of Hōkūle’a in Tahiti had been a dormant journey of 600 hundred years. It united the people of the South Pacific, awakening in them a sense of identity and pride for which their forefathers accomplished one of the greatest feats in human history.

©2015 Polynesian Voyaging Society, ‘ŌIWI TV, Bryson Hoe.

The Pacific ocean covers one-third of the planet’s surface and holds close to half of its water. It is the largest and deepest living system on earth. There are more than 25,000 islands in the Pacific and most are located south of the equator. Home to six million people, it is at once in the middle of nowhere, and everywhere. It houses some of the world’s most important fisheries, provides critical food and economy to its inhabitants, and is faced with some of the greatest extraction and climate change threats. Rising seas, a warming ocean, overfishing, coral degradation, plastic gyres, and impending deep sea mining not only compromise the people of the Pacific, but all those who depend on the health and integrity of an intact ecosystem.  

Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of her maiden voyage, Hōkūle‘a’s arrival in Tahiti is met by her sister canoe Hikianalia in what will be the final leg of her Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage — circumnavigating the globe in “Care for our Island Earth.” Upon her return to Hawaii, she will have traveled over 3 years, 60,000 nautical miles, called upon 100 ports, and visited 27 nations. Weaving a “Lei of Hope” her message for all humanity: men, women and children: we are part of this vessel of the sea which unites us in a global movement of respect for one another, and the creation of a sustainable world for the future. When Hōkūle’a sails, we Polynesians sail with her on the backs of our ancestors.* Counted among her ports of call are Hope Spots in Australia, Indonesia, Micronesia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Galapagos, Easter Island, South Africa, the United States, the South Atlantic, and the Caribbean.

Ocean Elders Dr. Sylvia Earle and Nainoa Thompson, IUCN World Conservation Congress
Hawaii. ©2016 Polynesian Voyaging Society, ‘ŌIWI TV, Kaipo Kī ‘Aha.

In the words of Tua Pittman, “It is the pride of knowing that you are of this ocean, and in the end the ocean will control the destiny of humans.” For the past, the present, and for the future: Maeva, manava I Tahiti. Farii mai te tapa’o faaitoito no to outou tere. Mauruuru e na te Atua hau e tia’i mai la outou. We welcome you to Tahiti, we offer you courage in your journey. We offer you our gratitude and our blessings.

To learn more about the Polynesian Voyaging Society, Hōkūle’a, and her Worldwide Voyage visit www.hokulea.com. To find out how she’s continued to inspire Polynesian wayfinding in the South Pacific: offering disaster relief, and fossil free inter-island transport, visit our partners at Okeanos Foundation For the Sea. For more Mission Blue partner initiatives in Tahiti, visit Tetiaroa Society‘s world-class LEED certified science and conservation center. And for marine mammal, and sea turtle conservation visit Te Mana O Te Moana.

Tahitian youth and Tiare Tahiti. Creative Commons CC0.

Danielle Epifani is a descendant to some of the greatest mariners in history. Her maternal grandfather follows the family line of Fletcher Christian and his Tahitian consort Maimiti- mutineers to the HMS Bounty. Her maternal grandmother’s line arrived in Tahiti by way of two Danish sailing captains shipwrecked on the reef in the Tuamotu Archipelago. Born and raised in the United States, her ancestors are never very far away — connected by the mana that unites us all in the voyage on board the blue canoe.

*Sam Low, Author: Hawaiki Rising: Hōkūle’a, Nainoa Thompson, and the Hawaiian Renaissance.  

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"With knowing comes caring." - Dr. Sylvia Earle