Waiting for Weather

Waiting for Weather

“The single greatest environmental issue of the 21st century is to protect these oceans so that it will protect life on earth.”

[dropcap2]H[/dropcap2]ōkūleʻa and Hikianalia have sailed more that 4,500 miles since departure from Hawaiʻi in June. But the next stop, just 78 miles away, may prove to be one of the most elusive of the voyage.

“We’ve been experiencing pretty unusual weather here in Sāmoa, not the winds that we had researched and looked at. This is strong trade winds, and the winds are about 4-5 days now steady at 20-25 knots, gusting to 30 near gales,” said master navigator and Hōkūleʻa captain Nainoa Thompson.

Thompson points out that the canoes can and have sailed in these types of conditions before, but it would not prudent to do so if given a choice.

“We wrestle with the conflict with the need to arrive to fulfill that part of the voyage’s mission with the issue of putting the canoes and crews at risk and in the end the decision is simple, it’s all about safety. So we wait,” said Thompson.

While waiting, crews spent time in safety meetings getting ready for the voyage as well as tending to last minute details that always accompany the start of another leg of the journey. Leadership, meanwhile, keeps a close eye on the weather using a mix of high tech modeling, engaging local knowledge, as well as, simply going outside to see what you can see.

“The winds from yesterday for me are going down. I think the trend is starting, and if it does that through tonight and tomorrow morning, we’ll probably go, ’cause it’s time to go,” said Thompson.

[pullquote]“It’s time to go.”[/pullquote]

Because the waiting isn’t easy, the stakes are high to attend the UNESCO conference in Apia that is held only once every 10 years. One of the top conversations of this year’s list: global climate change.

“So my opinion is that the single greatest environmental issue of our time in the 21st century is to protect these oceans so that it will protect life on earth. So that’s what’s at stake in my opinion,” said Thompson.

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