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Using only the sun, stars, and waves, the crew of the Hokulea successfully circumnavigated the globe in a three-year voyage to promote sustainability and global environmental responsibility. Photo: Polynesian Bryson Hoe/Voyaging Society

The Inertia

Jubilation is understating what occurred Saturday when a crowd of several thousands celebrated the homecoming of a traditional Polynesian deep sea canoe, called the Hōkūle‘a, after a three-year-long global circumnavigation. Using only traditional wayfinding techniques including observing the sun, stars, waves, and birds, both the Hōkūle‘a and its sister ship the Hikianalia traveled a combined 60,000 nautical miles, visiting 150 ports and 23 countries.

Hōkūle‘a is a replica wa’a (traditional deep sea canoe) that Polynesians likely used 3,000 years ago to navigate the numerous archipelagos in the Pacific.

Billed as the “Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage” (“Mālama Honua” meaning “to care for our Earth”), the excursion is an effort to both spread awareness about Polynesian culture and promote global environmental responsibility and sustainability.

“It is the realization of decades of hard work and planning on behalf of the Polynesian Voyaging Society crew and our partners and friends around the world to embark on the final leg of Hōkūle‘a’s voyage and return home,” said Nainoa Thompson, president of Polynesian Voyaging Society. “Watching Hōkūle‘a crest the waves of O‘ahu’s south shore as she returns home, much like the canoes of our ancestors, [is] a once in a lifetime experience. We are overwhelmed with emotion at all we have accomplished during this historic voyage and we look forward to setting sail on the next chapter together.”


Upon their return, Hōkūle‘a and Hikianalia were greeted by numerous sailboats, paddlers, modern ships, and jet skis. Back on land, a traditional spear throwing ceremony (where numerous spears are thrown at one man to either catch or deflect) was performed. According to CNN, it’s a ceremony that hasn’t been performed for over 200 years.

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