As Hikianalia accompanies Hōkūleʻa on her Worldwide Voyage, their mission is to prove that old traditions are applicable in a modern context both here in Hawaiʻi and abroad.
“The way that we’re trying to bridge that gap is we’re conducting high-tech modern science on a traditional platform with a traditional mindset. If we can tie it to our culture and try to explain it in a way that’s important to not only Hawaiʻi but to other parts of the world as well, then we can really try to grab other people’s interest and help them to understand why it’s important to care for the ocean,” said apprentice navigator Haunani Kane.
In partnership with scientists at the University of Hawaiʻi, the crew is conducting five research projects out at sea that study hydroponics, fish population, marine acoustics and the importance of plankton as a part of the marine food chain. These organisms could hold solutions for breaking down marine debris, such as plastics.
“We’re trying to do all of the science projects on Hikianalia, to keep Hōkūleʻa as traditional as possible,” said Kane.
Although Hikianalia is a more modern vessel, the crew faces new challenges of staying ecofriendly while conducting their research.
“A lot of the researchers are used to working on these big ships that have a lot of electricity, or freezers, or refrigerators to store their samples, so for us it’s really been about how do we conduct science in a way that doesn’t require a lot of energy and is safe and can be done not just by a scientist, but also by a crew member,” said Kane.
Other features allow for even those of us on land to access their findings.
“Within the hale itself, we have the ability to connect to satellites and teachers, and classrooms, and even share the data that we’re collecting with the scientists,” said Kane.
Eventually the crew hopes to share their findings with those from all around the world with their biggest science project yet, (which is) to build a network of indigenous scientists.
“We’re hoping that as we go around the world we can highlight young-indigenous scientists because we believe that these people are kind of like the first indigenous people in their fields and when they’re older and they find themselves in positions where they will be making decisions, hopefully they’re the people that younger people look up to and aspire to be more like,” said Kane.