Punahou teacher Ka'au McKenney listens to Kalani Mench ask a question to a Hokule'a crewman. The seventh-graders spoke with the crew of the Hokule'a via cell phone and learned about the sights and purpose of the long voyage.

Punahou kids hold court
with Hokule‘a crew

Seventh-graders get to talk
to the voyagers on a call and
gain insight into the trip

A small group of seventh-graders huddled around a Nextel phone on the floor of their Hawaiian studies classroom at Punahou School, waiting for a chance to speak with Hokule'a crewmembers via a conference call.

Every morning the crew receives a number of conference calls from various schools in Hawaii, giving students of all ages a chance to ask questions -- anything they want -- and get answers.

They started with the important stuff: The details of how one showers on a moving outrigger canoe and what it's like to be caught in a storm on the open sea.

Crewmember Leimomi Kekina Dierks answered candidly and described in some detail the hygiene practices of the crew, prompting muffled giggles from every 13-year-old boy in the room. Their teacher, Ka'au McKenney, also a Hokule'a crewmember from other voyages, allowed them a moment of adolescent indulgence, then steered the conversation back to more grown-up territory.

Dierks described as "magical" the beauty of their surroundings and urged the students to do anything they can to help preserve the Hawaiian islands.

"Get involved. Do whatever you can to restore our islands to their original beauty. That's why we're on this mission, to encourage people to make changes that will have a positive affect on the natural environment."

Rece Angelo, 13, asked her how long it will take to restore the islands.

"Oh, a lifetime," she answered quickly. "It's a never-ending journey."

Dierks described for the students the wildlife they've seen ("all kinds of birds, fish and of course, Hawaiian monk seals") and offered some statistical details on the journey, like how fast the canoe travels ("faster than six knots and it's too stressful for the canoe").

The students seemed nonchalant about being on the phone with someone anchored off the coast of Laysan Island on an outrigger canoe.

No big deal.

Until Nainoa Thompson came on the line. The injured captain of the canoe had the ear of every kid in the room. He thanked them, told them he is feeling OK and is getting better every day.

A boisterous "Aloha" rang through the room, the kids' only chance to speak to Thompson.

"Aloha, too, from Hokule'a," he answered. "Have a wonderful summer, hope to see you soon. Over."


Navigator Thompson
feels in 'top shape'

The Hokule'a is at anchor at
Laysan Isle after 'rough days'

Nainoa Thompson, captain of the voyaging canoe Hokule'a, said today by telephone from Laysan Island that he feels in "top shape" after a back injury Saturday.

He planned to go ashore with the crew to help the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rid the Northwestern Hawaiian island of invasive plant species.

"I'm healing," said Thompson. The canoe's doctor believes Thompson fractured a rib on Saturday. His right lung was removed after complications from an accident in high school and doctors feared the rib would puncture his left lung.

"It's good to be at anchor at Laysan," Thompson said. "It was a bit rough outside the last couple days."

The canoe and escort boat arrived at Laysan just after sunset last night and the crew -- 12 on the canoe and six on the escort vessel -- had a good rest, he said.

"It was so beautiful. When the sun went down, almost a full moon came up and the sand on Laysan is so white. High cirrus clouds made the whole sky kind of silvery."

He said he will probably remain on the canoe but some crew members will stay on the island while anchored there for three days.

Laysan, second largest land mass in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands with 1,015 acres, is about one mile wide and 1 1/2 miles long and "shaped like a poi board," according too the NWHI education project's Web site.

"It's an extraordinary story," Thompson said, describing the destruction of the island's ecosystem by poachers, guano traders and rabbits from the late 1800s through the 1900s.

"Why it's the most important landfall is because of the restoration of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, primarily in the last 15 years," he said. About half of the island has been restored to its natural state, he said.

"That's why this particular island is most important for this voyage." He said it is a perfect example of how a short term economic gain destroyed not only the natural environment but man's relationship to it as human beings.

He said the work of the Fish and Wildlife Service "articulates the story of restoration and the story of healing and the story of hope. That's the story we want to bring back to Hawaii."

He said Laysan has the highest diversity of bird life in all of the Hawaiian archipelago. In 1857 it had an estimated 1 million Laysan albatross, but only 30,000 were estimated in 1923, he said.

The native Laysan duck was down to a population of 20 but now it's about 450, with ducks being raised on Midway and taken back to the island, he said. "That's renewal -- an awesome story."

A master navigator and sail master with the Polynesian Voyaging Society, Thompson is making his sixth voyage on the Hokule'a. It's his fifth as navigator.

The Hokule'a left Hanalei, Kauai, on May 23 on a 1,200-mile voyage, "Navigating Change," designed to alert the public to environmental decline in the Hawaiian Islands.

The canoe returned to Tern Island in French Frigate Shoals Saturday in case Thompson had to be evacuated because of his injury. It was decided it would be safer for him to remain with the canoe.

He said the canoe's doctor, Cherie Shehata, "is watching me like a hawk." He said she was "very decisive and acted quickly," following the canoe's emergency procedures, when he was injured.

"I didn't like the decision about going back to French Frigate but I know the principles of the organization, to care for each other first. I'm very, very proud of her. She did an extraordinary job."

Except for the last 36 hours with fairly strong winds, he said the voyage has had very good weather.

The canoe will go on to Lisianski, Pearl and Hermes Islands, then Midway where Thompson said he will get an X-ray and fly back here June 11. The Hokule'a will go on to Kure with Bruce Blankenfeld as captain. Blankenfeld will be navigator for the trip back and Mel Paoa will be captain. Another crew is waiting on Midway to bring the canoe home.

Polynesian Voyaging Society


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