Saturday, October 9, 1999


Star-Bulletin file photo
Senior navigator Nainoa Thompson helped lead the
crew of the Hokule'a to make landfall in Rapa Nui
just 17 days after they left Mangareva. He is seen
here in silhouette aboard the Hokule'a at sunset
during a training run off the coast of Oahu in April.

Hokule‘a crew
to go ashore
at Rapa Nui

Residents are expected to
welcome the canoe's crew with
a simple ceremony in the harbor

By Susan Kreifels


The Hokule'a crew planned to go ashore this morning on Rapa Nui, the crowning step of 25 years of following the stars, their hearts and the ancient paths of their Polynesian ancestors.

But a day after finding the tiny, remote island, senior navigator Nainoa Thompson was still in disbelief that the crew did it in so little time -- 17 days. He had allowed a maximum 40 days.

Two nights before they spotted Rapa Nui's thin line on the horizon, Thompson said he had started to lose confidence and feel uncomfortable about their location.

Then, due to heavy squalls, the Hokule'a stopped Thursday night -- and the next morning, a crack of sunlight piercing the dawn fell on the island.

Thompson attributed the canoe's success to two years of preparation, and the crew's pushing themselves during this voyage. But weather and other forces were out of his control.

"The way it happened left us with a strong sense of mana, the spirit of the canoe," Thompson said, in a telephone interview aboard the Hokule'a last night.

Thompson said Rapa Nui residents were expected to welcome the crew this morning with a simple ceremony in the harbor. The big celebration will be held Oct. 21, after hula groups, students and others from Hawaii arrive.

The Hokule'a left Hilo on June 15. This last sail of the century completes what historians call the Polynesian Triangle -- the migration routes followed by the ancient Polynesian navigators who settled every inhabitable island in the Pacific Ocean. They were guided by the stars, waves and other signs of nature -- the same way Thompson and his co-navigators guide the Hokule'a, which does not carry modern navigational equipment.

Thompson has always warned Hawaii residents that the crew could have missed Rapa Nui, the most remote inhabited island in the world. The Hokule'a also had to sail against tradewinds.

Thompson had planned to conduct an intense search for the island by tacking most of the way.

Winds turned favorable, however, and the canoe didn't need to tack for the first 800 miles.

On Oct. 21, Hawaiians will join Rapa Nui people for a traditional greeting ceremony of prayers, chanting, dances and the blowing of the conch shell. Hula groups from Hawaii and Kamehameha Schools will perform.

Three Hawaii delegates will also present a pohaku, or stone from Hawaii, to be left on Rapa Nui as an offering. Hawaii crews have left a pohaku at every destination they have reached.

Thompson has always stressed that the main benefactors of traditional voyaging were Hawaii's children. Students throughout the state have followed the voyage through Web sites, teleconferencing and school lessons specially designed for use during the voyage, in an effort to teach them traditional values and appreciation of the environment.

For the last 25 years, Hawaiians have led a resurgence of traditional voyaging among Polynesian people. The Hokule'a also helped trigger a revival of native Hawaiian culture.

Grand Master Navigator Mau Piailug of Micronesia taught the Hawaiians navigational skills of the ancient Polynesians, the greatest deep-sea sailors of their time.


The public can track the progress of the Hokule'a on the World Wide Web at

Photographs from the Hokule'a are available at

Hokule'a to Rapa Nui
Jun. 7, 1999
Rapa Nui, the Loneliest Island
Jun. 14, 1999

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