“This voyage launched over 2,000 years ago. This voyage is in the wake of the world’s greatest explorers and navigators of the time, of the whole earth and that is an argument that we can stand on. That first canoe that came here, 2400, 2500 miles from Kahikinui, was the most amazing feet in ocean exploration of all time. We are children in that wake and we respect that. The worldwide voyage in my mind, started with the dream of those who created the canoe in the first place. It’s remembering everything that we know from voyaging, that we were taught from extraordinary leaders, extraordinary mentors, extraordinary teachers,” says Pwo Navigator, Nainoa Thompson.
While she was a sight to behold, she wasn’t complete. She needed a leader, an ancestral connection, what Hōkūleʻa needed was a navigator. And she found him, a native of the remote atoll of Satawal in Microneisa. Pius Mau Piailug, was a Pwo Navigator. Pwo, meaning light, Mau commanded much more than the helm of sailing vessels, he was a mentor and guide for his community, charged with providing for the ‘ohana, immediate and extended.
Pwo Navigator, Chadd Paishon says that, “we all carry a part of him with us.”
“If I wanted to know anything about the stars, the ocean, about waves he would just like give me the answer right there. He’s like a living ancestor that you could—you could finally talk to,” says Pwo Navigator, Shorty Bertelmann.
“Here is one man from this tiny island that was able… to change the world,” says Paishon.
What began as an effort to disprove critics, who doubted Polynesians’ ability to sail purposefully and settle their vast nation unaided by navigational instruments, has grown into a cultural reawakening, a new generation of leaders, and a living commitment to sustainability.
Pwo Navigator, Bruce Blankenfeld says that, “She was built for one voyage in 1976 to go to Tahiti and come back. That was it, but the fact that here we are in 2014, she has been reenergized and rebuilt and she’s good for another 30, 40 years and she’s going to sail.”
She originally sailed to rediscover, then to reconnect. And now she’s circling the globe, carrying a message of Mālama Honua, or caring for Planet Earth, as we struggle with the degradation of our land and oceans with the firm belief that our ancient wisdom will inspire contemporary solutions.
Apprentice Navigator, Lehua Kamalu says that, “We wouldn’t be here today if our ancestors didn’t figure out how to live in balance with their environment and with these islands there is a lesson in going back to traditional practices or finding some way of bridging the gap between what is modern and ancient and making life livable and healthy and safe. The canoe is such a good representation of a family, or a community, or an island, or a planet and everything that happens on that small level of the canoe, it’s the same thing, it’s just on a much larger scale in the world.”
Hōkūleʻa to us, to go around the world, has this enormous potential to go to 40, 50 countries on the planet, to be with the great navigators on earth. I’m not talking about those on canoes. I’m talking about those who are doing things to give kindness and compassion to the earth and those who live on it, those navigators. Hōkūleʻa to me is not going to achieve that, people achieve that. Then Hawaii can give the world the greatest gift to the Earth and that is peace,” says Thomspon.