ʻImiloa: The Science of Navigating

ʻImiloa: The Science of Navigating

Kālepa Baybayan, captain and master navigator of Hōkūleʻa, is one of many educators taking the science of navigation around the world and returning to Hawaiʻi with a wealth of new experiences.

As one of only a handful of Native Hawaiians bestowed the title of Pwo or master navigator, Kālepa Baybayan has taken his expertise and kuleana to a broader audience, integrating this into his career as Navigator in Residence at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo’s ʻImiloa Astronomy Center.

Kālepa Baybayan, Captain and Master Navigator of Hōkūleʻa said, “It’s a very very fulfilling and a very very broad ranging job. What I do is I help lead the content there, which is the education department, the outreach program, the exhibit floor, the planetarium and what I do is just help the group as a whole to envision a horizon that they want to move the organization to, which is Imiloa and we just all kind of work towards that direction.”

Beyond ʻImiloa, Kālepa is teaching and training a whole new generation of visionaries aboard Hōkūleʻa as a captain and navigator for the Worldwide Voyage, a journey that has allowed him the opportunity to share his experience and knowledge in ports around the world — most recently in Washington D.C.

Baybayan said, “Being here is super special in the nationʻs capital to bring our culture from the 6,000, 7,000, 8,000 miles away all across the nation to the shores of the nationʻs capital. Itʻs a great privilege and honor, itʻs also an important kuleana that we share the uniqueness of who we are culturally as an island kingdom.”

Steven Williams, Chief of STEM Engagement at the National Air and Space Museum said, “I mean he was of course talking basic astronomy and when we dig deeper on the subject, bringing in things like the winds the currents, the bird analogy that he used brought in a lot of different aspects of physical and natural sciences that all fall under STEM and thereʻs also some engineering involved as well to make the the canoe capable of such voyages. I’ve been studying astronomy and planetary science for most of my adult life, but this was a very different perspective of the night sky than what I am familiar with, so I personally found it to be both engaging and entertaining to see how early peoples figured out a compass system based on the sky. That was ingenious, something I had never thought about before and so if I am learning something, the public is probably learning something too.”

Kālepa is one of many University of Hawaiʻi employees who will return from the voyage with a wealth of knowledge to share back home in Hawaiʻi along with new connections made throughout the world.

David Lassner, President of the University of Hawai’i Systems said, “Well its kind of interesting because before I was involved this isn’t something as far as I could tell that the university planned, it’s just our students, faculty and staff are just so passionate about the voyage and mālama honua that they pulled us into it I think.”

Kaʻiulani Murphy, Hōkūleʻa crew member and educator at the University of Hawai’i said, “I think itʻs awesome that teachers from all educators from all different backgrounds and fields are able to experience even if itʻs a short overnight or weeklong or more time on the canoe because I think that really just enriches us as people like in bringing that back to whatever kind of classroom or setting that we do share that we are teaching in. We really become the scientist and we are able to share that story with especially young children having the ability to be out there on the ocean, see things for yourself first hand you know and be able to share that gives it so much more backing and mana I think when you are in different places and sharing that with people.”

Baybayan said, “This 3 year Voyage will provide me with a lot of experience and thatʻs why I was tasked and assigned to the Polynesian Voyaging Society. Itʻs about building the depth of experience so that I can continue to tell the great stories and inspire all people, not just the generations to come, but to inspire all people.”

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