Monday, October 4, 1999

100 Who Made A Difference

Star Nainoa Thompson Star

Star-Bulletin file photo
Through five Pacific voyages, the Hokule'a navigator helped
remind distant Polynesian communities of their origin
and inspired a new generation of guides.

Wayfinder helps youth
read the stars

By Tim Ryan


NAINOA Thompson has become Hawaii's most renowned navigator, reviving the art and science of seafaring throughout the Pacific islands.

Thompson, 45, perfected the art of traditional navigation using the stars, waves and other signs of nature to guide the traditional Hawaiian voyaging canoe Hokule'a rather than relying on modern navigational equipment. He replicated the voyages of ancient ancestors who settled every inhabitable island in Oceania. He is the first modern-day Polynesian to learn and use wayfinding for long-distance, open-ocean voyaging.

After several years of studying dead-reckoning navigation, Thompson became navigator of the 62-foot double-hulled sailing canoe. He was Hokule'a navigator on its 1980 and 1985-87 voyages.

In the last 23 years, Thompson has made five voyages -- four as navigator -- to the South Pacific, covering about 75,000 miles.

A University of Hawaii graduate, Thompson was named 1995 Educator of the Year by the National Education Association.

He learned the ancient art of navigating from Micronesian navigator Mau Piailug, then taught the next generation of Hawaiians, as well as navigators in the Society Islands, Cook Islands and Aotearoa.

Part of his voyages always has been to bring the Hokule'a to Hawaiian communities -- 32 to date -- to perpetuate tradition and strengthen the Hawaiian community. Through various programs, Thompson helps Hawaiians increase self-esteem and teaches ocean skills; he currently is training 18 new navigators from Hawaii and other Pacific islands.

Since departing the Big Island June 15, Thompson and crew members now are sailing the Hokule'a on the last leg of the voyage to Rapu Nui.

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