Hokule'a voyage a valuable undertaking


POSTED: Sunday, March 01, 2009

WHEN the Hokule'a first set sail 33 years ago, its mission was to counter the prevailing notion that Polynesians had explored and settled islands in the Pacific merely by accident.

Since then, the Hokule'a - along with its companions Hawai'iloa and Makali'i - have traversed the vast ocean numerous times, reviving and passing on ancient navigational skills and the craft of building sea-going canoes. It has more than proven its point.

Hokule'a's next undertaking will be its most ambitious, a worldwide series of voyages over three years that will take crews as far as India, Egypt, the Canary Islands and the Galapagos, across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and the Panama Canal before returning to the Hawaiian Islands.

Its purpose is to draw attention to the need to take care of the seas and the land-based ecosystem from which it cannot be separated. The voyage also will educate a new generation of leaders.

The Polynesian Voyaging Society's Nainoa Thompson, who learned to sail by stars and wave patterns from one of the few remaining master navigators in the world, said degradation of the marine environment in his lifetime alone brought home the need to lessen human impact on the ocean.

The worldwide project, set to begin in 2012, will enlist scientists, government and business leaders, educators and others to help reshape global policies and management of the seas where fish, reefs, marine mammals and plants are increasingly threatened.

The image of an ancient sailing vessel will serve as a reminder of a time when a now-ailing resource was healthy and rich with life.