Crews of Polynesian voyaging canoes welcomed home after journey to Tahiti
Polynesian voyaging canoes Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia returned home to Oʻahu last week after a successful voyage to and from Hawaiʻi’s ancestral homeland of Tahiti.
The two-month “Kealaikahiki Voyage” focused on training the next generation of voyagers; honoring the relationship between Hawaiʻi and Tahiti; and starting initiatives to build Pacific connections in preparation for next year’s Moananuiākea Voyage.
“When we began to map out the idea of the Moananuiākea Voyage, we knew we had to start by returning to our ancestral homeland of Tahiti to deepen our understanding of our voyaging traditions and the ancient searoad of Kealaikahiki,” said Nainoa Thompson, CEO of the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS).
The voyage also was an important step towards ensuring the future of voyaging.
“Despite the many challenges, the young navigators and crew demonstrated that they have the skills, values and commitment to ensure that voyaging never goes extinct in Polynesia again,” Thomson said.
As Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia set sail for Tahiti, the Polynesian Voyaging Society also launched the first phase of waahonua.com, a virtual “Third Canoe” website that allows audiences to virtually follow the canoes’ journey through a voyaging dashboard, video stories, articles and educational resources.
The Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia crews started the Kealaikahiki Voyage from Sand Island, Oʻahu on April 11. They sailed to Hilo on the BIg Island. After a five-day stop to wait for favorable weather conditions, the canoes departed for the French Polynesian Tuamotu Island of Rangiroa, making landfall 18 days later.
On May 7, the canoes and crew received a warm welcome by Tahitian dignitaries and the community at an arrival ceremony and celebration in Papeete, Tahiti.
During the two-week stay in French Polynesia, the PVS crew participated in highly sacred ceremonies at the ancient voyaging marae of Taputapuātea where Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia were consecrated as sacred vessels of heritage. The canoes will carry the mana (spirit) of Polynesia throughout the vast Pacific on the Moananuiākea Voyage, which will start in the spring of next year.
The crews also participated in ocean conservation events during the Blue Climate Summit, a gathering to accelerate ocean-related solutions to climate change. Thompson and crew leadership joined French Polynesia President Edouard Fritch for the signing of a Joint Declaration for the protection of oceans by French Polynesia and PVS.
On the return leg of the Kealaikahiki Voyage, the canoes stopped in Rangiroa for three days before continuing home to the Hawaiian Islands. After 17 days at sea, the crew spotted Hawaiʻi Island’s Mauna Loa. After an overnight stop at Keauhou to clear US Customs, the canoes arrived at their homebase at the Marine Education Training Center at Sand Island on June 16 at 6:45 pm.