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Mālama Honua: A Three Year Voyage to Save the World

A pair of traditional Polynesian double-hulled canoes have launched an epic three-year voyage to circumnavigate the globe in order to share an important message about protecting the environment. Dubbed the Mālama Honua voyage after the Hawaiian concept of living in harmony with nature and the planet, the expedition hopes to inspire people from different countries and cultures to join the effort to help preserve the Earth for future generations. The journey was prompted by changes to the environment that are causing ocean levels to rise around the world, directly threatening the very existence of the South Pacific islands where this ships had their origins. 

Back in May, the Hokūle’a and her sister ship the Hikianalia, set sail from Oahu in Hawaii for the South Pacific. The two vessels, built to the exact specifications of ancient Polynesian two-hulled voyaging canoes, were traveling to familiar waters, before carrying their message of environmental protection to the rest of the world. Over the next three years, the crew of the two large canoes will visit 85 ports in 26 countries, covering more than 47,000 nautical miles in the process. To prepare for that journey, they first wanted to ensure the Hokūle’a and Hikianalia were completely sea worthy before setting out for uncharted waters.

Originally built and launched back in 1975, the Hokūle’a has traveled the Pacific Ocean before. In 1976, the canoe made a historic journey form Hawaii to Tahiti using only ancient Polynesian navigation techniques. Since then, the ship has made nine other long distance journeys throughout the South Pacific, as well as visiting  Japan, and the U.S. and Canadian mainlands. Its voyages have served as proof of the theory that the Pacific Islands were originally settled by Asiatic explorers who sailed the ocean hundreds of years ago. They have also demonstrated that the Polynesian islanders had a sophisticated understanding of how to navigate long distances, across open water, as well.

But the Mālama Honua expedition just might be the Hokūle’a’s most important mission to date. For the first time in the ship’s rich history of exploration, it will actually venture out of the Pacific and into unknown waters. How it will perform in those waters remains a bit of a mystery, but her crew is completely confident that she’ll hold up fine in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.

For the next few months, the Hokūle’a and Hikianalia will continue to sail the South Pacific, visiting familiar and friendly islands. But late in the year, they’ll chart a course for New Zealand, and begin their mission of delivering the message about the importance of living more harmoniously with the planet in order to ensure that future generations will have something to inherit. Next year, they’ll take that same message on to Australia, Indonesia, Micronesia, Africa, and beyond. The concept of Mālama Honua may trace its origins to Hawaii, but the crew is betting that it has universal appeal across the globe.

You can follow the progress of the voyage at Hokulea.com, the official website for the Polynesian Voyaging Society.


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