Maui News

Polynesian Voyaging Society Launches Training Voyage To Papahānaumokuākea, Young Navigators To Be Tested

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Training sail through the Pailolo Channel. File photo (May 2021) courtesy: Polynesian Voyaging Society.

Voyaging canoes Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia set sail at approximately 12:30 p.m. on Friday, June 18 for a two-week training voyage to Papahānaumokuākea. Themed “Navigating the Kupuna Islands,” the voyage will bring the canoes to Nihoa, Mokumanamana and Lalo (French Frigate Shoals) and will focus on the voyaging, cultural and ecological significance of these places.  

“These precious islands are a school that holds lessons for all of humanity and the earth and our canoes are the classrooms,” said Nainoa Thompson, Pwo Navigator and President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society.  “Because they are so rare and special, these islands will help us learn how to behave in the sacredness of nature. The crew will learn about the cultural and environmental importance of this Marine National Monument, which is one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world,” he said. 

The training voyage will test six young navigators on five challenging deep-sea legs:

  • Leg 1 — Kaʻena Point to Kauaʻi
  • Leg 2 — Niʻihau to Nihoa 
  • Leg 3 — Nihoa to Mokumanamana (The most challenging navigational test, comparable to finding an island about two-thirds the size of Manana (Rabbit Island) from Kona with no land in between.)  
  • Leg 4 — Mokumanamana to Lalo
  • Leg 5 — Nihoa to Kaʻula

PVS is partnering with NOAA on this voyage to do an underwater survey of Lalo to assess the damage to the atoll and coral reef from Category Three Hurricane Walaka that swept through in 2018. The visit will allow the crew to understand the impacts of climate change and how nature has the capacity to renew and heal itself if humanity leaves it alone, as Thompson says the Kupuna Islands of Papahanaumokuakea are home to the standard for what coral reefs are supposed to be, in terms of health. They also will identify areas with large amounts of marine debris.  

“Papahānaumokuākea is one of the greatest natural laboratories in the world,” said Randy Kosaki, NOAA’s Research Coordinator for Papahānaumokuākea and Hōkūleʻa Crewmember. “The lessons we learn here will help us to better mālama the coral reefs of our inhabited main Hawaiian Islands. The highest and best uses of these islands also include perpetuation of Native Hawaiian culture by training the next generation of navigators and environmental stewards.”

The “Navigating the Kupuna Islands” Training Voyage is the second in a series of deep-sea training sails to prepare crew for the Moananuiākea Voyage, a circumnavigation of the Pacific scheduled to launch in May 2022.  The 42-month, 41,000 mile journey will cover 46 countries and archipelagoes, nearly 100 indigenous territories and 345 ports. Focused on the vital importance of oceans, nature and indigenous knowledge, the goal of the Moananuiākea Voyage is to develop 10 million new crew members, navigators and leaders for the planet.

Mokumanamana. File (2019) Jason Patterson / Nā Kālai Waʻa and ʻŌiwi TV


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