Ancient Searoads and Commitments to Sustainability in Eastern Polynesia

by Mimi George

Part One: Malama Honua, Gershon II and Rapanui

I am a cultural anthropologist and sailor, focused on voyaging traditions. I study how ancient knowledge can help us today. I just crewed on the escort boat to the voyaging canoe (wa’a) Hokule’a during the penultimate leg of her Malama Honua (Care for the Planet) World-Wide Voyage. For the last three years the iconic Hawaiian double-hulled canoe has sailed round the world to “weave a lei” of “stories of hope,” as seven billion people on earth are facing massive pollution, inequity of resources, and climate change.

I wrote short articles about leg 14 from the east coast to the west coast of South Africa, and 18 from the Virgin Islands to Key West, via Cuba. Now I write about experiences at the eight different islands we visited, and at sea, during Leg 31 of Malama Honua. On this leg we started at Rapanui (Easter Island), then sailed to Pitcairn, Nuku Hiva, UaPou, Tautira, Pt Venus and Pape’ete, Tahiti, Ra’iatea, and back to Pape’ete. At every island Polynesian people were the first to settle and are still there. During the last few decades Hokule’a had visited every one of them. It was my first time to visit most of them.

Most of my work has been with voyagers in western and northern Pacific, and in Arctic and Antarctic regions. The other times I sailed across the Pacific from Taumako, Solomon Islands through French Polynesia, I was in a rush to get back to Hawaii. This time I wanted to connect directly with people of Eastern Polynesia who are practicing, or want to practice, ancestral voyaging traditions. I wanted to learn what they think about how this activity could make their islands, and our world, more sustainable.

I hoped for ample tradewinds so that the crews of Hokule’a could practice their sailing and wayfinding skills with little need of their escort vessel. I wanted to see them shine with the joy of learning at sea.

The OIWITV crews and Hokulea.com have already posted much exciting film and many fine photos of welcome ceremonies, educational outreach activities, and crew members have told of described their purposes and life aboard Hokule’a. To see that go to Hokulea.com Here I describe some of what I saw and felt during March and April, 2017. I offer some snapshots taken at times when crews were allowed to use cameras.

Gershon II

Gershon II is a motorsailer, built to escort canoes, and with a big engine that can tow them out of danger, into harbors, and when the wind is not enough to get them to the next venue on time. Double-hulled wa’a (voyaging canoe), Hokule’a, is rigged to sail dead downwind. Gershon II, is not. Hokule’a’s jibs and spinnakers easily sail 6-7 knots in a 12 knot tailwind. Gershon’s rig cannot do that dead downwind. But keeping Gershon II within 2 miles of the wa’a is the job to be done, and often Hokule’a must reduce sail to slow down for Gershon II.

More importantly, if a crew person falls overboard at night, the odds are very low that Hokule’a can go back in time to find them. Having Gershon II within 2 miles behind Hokule’a improves the chances immensely. Nowadays the crews of both vessels wear AIS harnesses (with GPS and transmitter in them) that emit their position when wet. So if anyone falls in the ocean, both vessels know exactly where they can be found. After losing Eddie Aikau in 1978, the Polynesian Voyaging Society decided to always have an escort boat. Gershon I started escorting in 1992.

Captain Steve Kornberg, co-owner Cheryl Kornberg, and longterm crew Bob Engle are the only people who have sailed every leg of Malama Honua since they started escorting Hokule’a in New Zealand. They and three constantly changing crew members work hard to be in optimum position for a pickup, just in case. The Kornbergs teach every crew member how to go about life aboard, changing sails, towing, and safety backup procedures. Gershon II proved her worth by recovering a man overboard in the Indian Ocean last year. As Steve says, ”We are grateful to give support to the educational purpose of the voyage by making things a little bit safer.”

Arrival at the Navel (Te Pito o te Henua) – Rapanui (Easter Island)

We, incoming crews of Hokule’a and Gershon II, were startled to look down and see Rapanui cloaked in bright green. We expected a dusty, barren place that is known for having lost its last tree centuries ago. As we banked around their alternate landing strip for the Space Shuttle, we saw that our vessels were anchored just outside a crowded surf break at town center, Hanga Roa Beach. “Lucky conditions” we told ourselves “that we do not have to haul water to the anchorage on the lee of the island.” Along the beach we also made out some ancestral statues (Moai). We wondered if they were recent creations erected there to please tourists along the board walk, or ancient guardians still in service.”

The next morning I was fortunate to join in a drive around the island. Our progress was slow because of free-ranging horses and cows grazing on the shoulders. A month of rain gathered in the ditches had provided them a thick bank of soft green grass. Goats were bleating and scampering with delight.

Mostly buried Moai along the hillside under the main quarry

Mostly buried Moai along the hillside under the main quarry

We stopped to examine Moai scattered along the rounded hillsides and along the cliffs. We visited the quarry, and nearby crater, where over 1000 Moai had been mined. Some were half-carved from blocks of volcanic stone that form the mountain.

Partly carved Moai in the volcanic rock

Partly carved Moai in the volcanic rock

Some Moai had “walked” part way down the mountain from the quarry. Some were still recumbent. Only one sat like a Buddha at a switchback on the quarry path.

The only kneeling Moai we saw

The only kneeling Moai we saw

We then paid homage at Ahu Tongariki, the valley where 15 Moai were re-erected after the 1961 Tsunami washed their long fallen remnants far inland. Two Rapanui cultural tourism officers on the island, told us that each Moai has the name of the ancestor in whose honor it was built. “Each one is known for having cared well for Rapanui people. Now they still care for us. So, when we look at them we feel it in our hearts.”

15 Moai resurrected at Ahu Tongariki

15 Moai resurrected at Ahu Tongariki

Some Moai seemed to have penises, some seemed to have breasts, and many did not obviously have either. “Are they male or female?” we asked our guide. She answered us “Each one is a combination of female and male … with representations of both the feminine and the masculine principle.” Our guide pointed at a topknot-like “hat” that had been lifted back into place on the head of one Moai, and at others that were gathered in a pile nearby.  “Some of these have remnants of red coloring,” she pointed out “which represents the fertile blood of women.” “They are not ‘hats’” she explained, “They are vaginas.”

Femine symbols that once sat atop the heads of Moai

Femine symbols that once sat atop the heads of Moai

The next day the plane from Chile arrived, and we joined a crowd of Rapanui picking up their weeks supply of fresh veggies. “85% of our food is flown in” said Juliana, who was born and raised Rapanui. Taro, bananas, and kumara grew near homes with fences around them to keep the roaming animals out. “I think we import about the same amount of our food in Hawaii” I replied to Juliana Rapu. “Is access to water tied up by big land owners like sugar businesses in Hawaii?” Juliana replied with a determined tone “We are trying to figure out how to feed ourselves. The government is trying to bring in people from Chile to do agriculture…to supply the tourist hotels. People say that Rapanui people do not want to do that work. But we do want to become sustainable, and we want our young people to have a future here!”

When we departed the island, Rapanui dancers and drummers expressed that they Rapanui looked upon our crews as family. Young Rapanui talked about their dreams to make voyages with their own vaka, and their commitment to pursue Malama Honua at home. Much has been written about how the ancestral Rapanui overwrought the limits of their island by cutting down every last tree and indulging in the labor intensive production of Moai. But Juliana’s father found evidence that it was a tree-eating beetle that probably decimated the forest. Now it is obvious that the introduction of sheep, goats, cattle, pigs, and horses keep native trees and vegetation from growing back.

Reeds in the lake

Reeds in the lake

The lake in the crater where Moai were mined has reeds growing that are the same type as those at Laka Titicaca. Their presence at Rapanui been dated to 30,000 years ago. There is more to learn about how Rapanui came to be the island it was before the first Europeans arrived there in the 1700s.

Part Two: Pitcairn

Wayfinder, Kaleo Wong, guided Hokule’a on a NNW track until the stars showed that the latitude was right to run West toward Ducie, Henderson, Pitcairn and Oeno Islands. On Gershon II we watched for the kind of clouds and reflections of green in the clouds that indicate land. We saw te lapa – the lightening like flashes of dim light that emanate from islands over 150 miles into the deep sea. There were abundant fish in these waters, plenty of birds showing the way to land each evening. As we passed closely by Henderson a pod of Sperm Whales cruised right under Hokule’a as we approached the island. Kaleo sighted Pitcairn on March 19.

As we came close to this green island of raised limestone cliffs and volcanic outcrops, we saw frigate and tropic birds soaring over the cliffs around Bounty Bay. As we prepared to anchor there, a huge, diesel powered, longboat packed with half the 28 person population of Pitcairn came out to offer us transport to shore. Three of them were children, who were half the students of Pitcairn school. One of them was having a 12th birthday party that night and we were invited!

Hokule’a anchoring at Picairn

Hokule’a anchoring at Picairn

Gershon II and Hokule’a anchored at Bounty Bay

Gershon II and Hokule’a anchored at Bounty Bay

They had also just had a month of rain, and we were so lucky to arrive when the gardens were fruiting and the water tanks full. They threw watermelons to us, and brought us through the formalities of clearing in with much aloha. Old and young dropped whatever they were doing and spent the day showing us around, talking story, offering carved and woven crafts, and allowing us to buy provisions from their store that would not be resupplied until a ship came in 2 months. The next ship would bring 14 ‘Pitkerners’ back home from New Zealand, and the 12 year old would board that ship for New Zealand, where he would attend secondary school.

Hokule’a crew at the Lookout. Hokule’a is just visible

Hokule’a crew at the Lookout. Hokule’a is just visible

A posse of 4-wheelers and a tractor brought up the dirt tracks (en masse) to the “Lookout.” On the way Kevin pointed out to me several of the same invasive species that have pushed out the endemic plants in Hawaii. Also growing were various types of familiar looking pandanus, bananas, taro, and breadfruit. The breadfruit was already growing there when the original eight Mutineers, their eight Tahitian “wives” and four male slaves arrived. There are caves with ancient Polynesian petroglyph writing, as well as signs of where Fletcher Christian used to keep a lookout for ships that he feared were pursuing them. One of the women proudly shared that she was descended from all four of the Tahitian women who birthed children. The story of the Mutiny on the Bounty is full of tragedy, and some of the 20th and 21st Century social challenges have been internationally publicized. But the “Pitkerners” (as they call themselves) we met were full of hope and plans for Malama Honua at home.

crew being carried around on 4-wheelers. Steve and Cheryl of Gershon II sit behind David, the Policeman

crew being carried around on 4-wheelers. Steve and Cheryl of Gershon II sit behind David, the Policeman

The Commissioner of Pitcairn informed us that two weeks after Obama announced the formation of the worlds second largest Marine Protected Area, the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, the Pitkerners became a part of the third largest ocean conservation area—the Pitcairn, Ducie, Henderson, Oeno Marine Protected Area. Under the terms of this protected area Pitkerners are allowed to catch fish to feed themselves, but not to sell. They already rid the island of sheep, but the goats still harry their gardens. They pointed out that some modern structures had been built on the only flat land on the island. This was the ancient taro farming area and the dirt is still incredibly fertile. Now they import most of their food at great expense and inconvenience. So they are planning to build new structures elsewhere and revive agricultural use of the flat land.

We all sat in a big circle of chairs to talk story. They explained to us that they need more young people who will raise families as Pitkerners. They hope they can bring in some of the world’s refugees and solve two problems in one. “We would like some young people from Syria or the Sahel to come settle here” their Administrative Manager declared, “or maybe some of your homeless people!” The postmistress assured us that “Anyone from anywhere can apply to take up residence, and after some years they will be given a plot of land with a lease for life.!” “Yes” added the mother of the birthday boy,” and they can choose their house sites as they like!” Later on, someone said that, to date, all the applications had been denied. Perhaps because New Zealand does not want people moving into Pitcairn to gain access to Kiwi citizen benefits, we wondered? But if you know anyone who might be interested, they can write to Pitcairn and ask for details. We closed our sharing by singing songs. They sang “In the Sweet Bye and Bye”, which brought tears to our eyes. Then they sang the Pitcairn-composed “Goodbye Song.”

Now one last song we’ll sing

Goodbye, Goodbye

Time moves on rapid wings

Goodbye, Goodbye

And this short year will soon be past

Will soon be numbered with the Last

But as we part, to all we’ll say

Goodbye! Goodbye!

And as we part to all we’ll say

Goodbye! Goodbye!

Fruits and veggies piled on the Longboat as gifts to our crews

Fruits and veggies piled on the Longboat as gifts to our crews

The longboat crew filled their deck with melons, passion fruit, squash, sugar cane, basil, mint, pomelos, and bananas, and ferried us out the our vessels. We were sorry to leave before the party, but we had only 6 days to go 800 miles to Marquesas, and the wind was still light. As the sun set we resumed our 4 hours on, 8 hours off watch schedule.

 

Part Three: Marquesas

The next morning a fair wind of 12 – 14 knots moved us NNW toward the easternmost outliers of French Polynesia, the Marquesas archipelago. A few days later I began to see feint light flashes (te lapa) from Tuamotus, about 150 nm west of us. I also watched the sky closely as we moved from 9 degrees to 11 degrees South. I wanted to see the stars rising and setting as they do at Taumako Island of the SE Solomon Islands. I had never been in Taumako in the first week of April, and I was happy to see the height and turn of the Southern Cross and Scorpio, and the dominance of a triad of stars known as Manu (Sirius, Canopus, and Procyon) in the night sky. Since I was keeping the 2 – 6AM watch I often was resting below decks when Orion was arching back down and setting.

The horizon was almost always occluded with cloud. We kept a close watch on approaching squalls. But had we been depending on the precision rises and sets of stars to wayfind it would have been difficult. As we approached 11degrees south the convection clouds thickened and the wind slacked to under 5 knots. After a day of 1.5 knot progress we took Hokule’a in tow so that we could arrive in Nuku Hiva in time for the welcome that had been prepared for us. Then suddenly, the clouds cleared and a lovely 12 knot NE wind took over! The NE trades had pushed the coulds and still air of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone out of the way and Hokulea was able to break tow and sail again on toward Nuku Hiva.

Nuku Hiva

Chants greeted us…first from canoes alongside us at the entrance to Tai’ohai Bay, and then from a throng of people on shore. All the time we were anchoring the sounds were giving us chicken skin. Then we jumped into waiting canoes and paddled to shore. We climbed up the stony beach and were embraced as long lost family members finally come home.

All paraded down the shore and into the ancient marae. Many stone ki’i had been lovingly restored, and at the end of the marae there was a raised platform and large grass thatch hale. There, chants, speeches, and dancing proceeded (see video clips on OIWI channel and hokulea.com). The giant pahu drums moved us from within. The chants and dancing told us of the movements of birds, the work of pigs, and the transformations from belligerence to Aloha that are a model of human process toward cooperative and joyful relationships (see Hokulea.com for video and photos).

We learned that Nuku Hiva community built a large, double-hulled voyaging canoe in the 1980’s. A French yachtie showed them how to build it, and then navigated for them in voyages to nearby islands. But then a tragedy befell them when a psychiatric patient burned both the va’a and the Cultural House where they worked on her. Nuku Hiva community has not recovered from this loss. Even when a wealthy foreigner offered help them rebuild they declined, because they know that they do not have the resources to maintain a fiberglass structure and steel rigging vessel, they would need training in how to sail and navigate it, and they cannot afford to make voyages because of the expenses they would have on arrival at any islands. Yet their support for Hokule’a was strong and the longing of their youth to join in voyaging was obvious.

Deborah Kimitete organized the generous hosting of our crews. Over twenty years ago her husband was the Mayor of Nuku Hiva until the plane that he and other cultural revival activists were flying in disappeared. She continues to work for cultural programs in Marquesas, and she told us the sad story that the UaPou Island community also built a Va’a in the 1980’s. They made one voyage over the Nuku Hiva for a cultural festival. But they had a similar lack of knowledge and resources, and their Va’a had rotted before they could make more voyages. Deborah told us that there is now a Canoe House at UaPou, and maybe there the community was ready to try again.

UaPou

After a few days of maintenance and provisioning of our vessels, and visit to church, schools, and other community venues all was ready to sail to UaPou. Deborah joined the crew of Hokule’a and we departed at 6AM. On arrival at noon, we could see incredible spires rise high from this island.  As we rounded the breakwall to enter the harbor the siren of a fire truck sounded and a fountain of water was aimed over our heads. The wailing chants and the pounding of the pahu took over, and did not stop until all our crew members were ashore.

The rock spires of UaPou

The rock spires of UaPou

We were again awestruck by the precise and aggressive male dancing, much of it referencing the quick aerial maneuvers of birds of prey. Next the women danced as gracefully soaring birds, who beckoned us welcome. After singing hymns and feasting a woman performed nurturing imagery to a melodious song, which ended with her offering her breast to us while dancing away. We swooned, and many tears fell in the silence that followed.

The Mayor and Deborah walked us along the seaside to the UaPou culture center, where many beautiful stone and wood carvings and crafts were displayed for sale. We also watched small children from the Canoe Club expertly paddling one-man outriggers into surf that broke right onto the reef. We also saw them desert the break and race over to Hokule’a when the crew invited anyone to come inspect the wa’a.

 

Part Four: Tautira, Tahiti Iti, and Tahiti

 

Arrival site at UaPou Harbor

Arrival site at UaPou Harbor

We were blessed by enough wind for Hokule’a to sail almost all the way from UaPou, Marquesas to Tautira, Tahiti Iti. Kaua’i resident Moku Pu’ulei-Chandler was one of three wayfinders during the first 24 hours it took to sail from UaPou through the southwesternmost Tuamotu Islands pass, between Rangiroa and Arotua.

On April 11 we entered the fringing reef at Tautira, the ohana/partner community of PVS in Tahiti since 1976. Many crew who had been to Tautira before were greeted by their families there, while others bunked at the Mayor’s capacious home. Every morning and night we gathered there for ono meals and the superb singing and playing Tahitian banjos, guitars, and ukulele, by family members. Some of our crews joined in singing and playing spoons. Ulu was just coming into season, kalo, rice, goat and fish were offered nightly, along with French baguettes and rice. The next few days were very hot, so when we had time some of us walked to a cold pool at the bottom of one of the high waterfalls that fall into the back yards of several homes along the road.

Hokule’a has been coming to Tautira since 1976, and many Tautirans have also come to Hawaii. Now plans were to be made for the final voyages and cultural exchanges of Malama Honua,. Gershon II gained another crew member for the voyage from Tahiti to Ra’ieatea. Willie Tearii, is one of the family who have hosted the Kornbergs since the 1992 voyage. But first we were to sail round the island for the big, official, welcome to Tahiti.

 

 

 

Tahiti

As we rounded the NW point of Tahiti, it was apparent why Cook chose the site to observe the transit of Venus. That morning 5000 people swarmed the black sand beach that is a km long extension of Matavai Bay. Hokule’a and Gershon II were joined at sea by Fa’afaite, the Tahitian va’a which had just returned from a voyage to Raevavae, and Hikianalia, the Hawaiian crew-training wa’a which had just voyaged from Hawaii’i to Tahiti in 14 days. The welcoming protocols there were well documented by OIWI TV and clips of that are shown on Hokulea.com.

Crew watching dancers at Pt Venus

Crew watching dancers at Pt Venus

 

Jean-Claude Terierooiterai and other Tahitian leaders had brought together a amazing array of cultural educators, artists, students, and activists. Tents were full of the work of school children who had been following the Malama Honua, round the world, voyage of Hokule’a. There were displays for ocean conservation, climate change awareness, and cetacean and reef protection, as well as supporters of Canoe Clubs and the double-hulled voyaging canoe of Tahiti, Fa’afaite.. A superb choir sang in the all-out style that struck me as Tahitian gospel. As we feasted on sashimi, palusami, kalo and kumara, children drummed and danced for us. How could anyone not ‘get it’ that voyaging traditions and working with nature are important to people of the islands and coasts of our world?

In the evening the four va’a moved to the docks in the Pape’ete Harbor. For the next several days new crews left and arrived, along with students from Kamehameha Schools who were performing and interacting with Tahitian students in educational outreach programs on various islands.

Memorial to people killed and islands broken and contaminated by nuclear testing

Memorial to people killed and islands broken and contaminated by nuclear testing

The Papeete harbor shoreline park included Hokule’a Beach, Hokule’a picnic area, and across the street were the Hokule’a apartments. There was a small, but powerful, monument to the islands that have been destroyed and the people killed and injured by testing of nuclear weapons.

The plaque at the memorial

The plaque at the memorial

Many countries that detonated the bombs, and their victims, were named. But we know that the radioactivity in some places will not become safe to visit for over a million years, and other places, like the atolls broken by the bombs, are leaking into the ocean. We felt grateful that somebody erected this memorial. It testifies to our urgent need stop the insanity of nuclear weaponry.

The hole from a spear that a giant warrior threw through the top of the mountain at Moorea

The hole from a spear that a giant warrior threw through the top of the mountain at Moorea

Gershon II sailed over to Mo’orea for a few days to visit with Alex Jacubenko and his family. Alex, now 90 years old, was the former escort of Hokule’a and builder of Kamahele, Ishka, and Gershon II. We also crossed paths with students from Miloli’i when we were making a day trip to view the marae complex. Back in Papeete we all prepared for the voyage to Ra’iatea.

 

Part Five: Taputapu’atea, Ancient Voyaging Gateway and World Heritage Site

Tahitian and other Polynesian oral texts tells us that the Taputapu’atea sacred site (marae) was an international meeting place of voyagers, and was associated with the ‘‘Oro Cult’ that spread through the Pacific around the 14th Century, which is also the time when archeologists tell us that the structure may have been built. Hokulea began its worldwide voyage here in 2013, and now the leaders came back bearing the rocks that they carried with them as they circumnavigated our planet … the sacred stones that were entrusted to them upon departure by the guardians of Taputapuatea.

Hokule’a sailing to Ra’iatea

Hokule’a sailing to Ra’iatea

The onshore sea was driven by 20 knot wind when Hokule’a, Hikianalia, Gershon II, and a huge motorboat with media on board, arrived at the entrance to the TeAvaMoa passage. The schedule circulated back in Papeete said we should wait until the sign of raised paddles was given, and only vessels under sail should enter the passage. But we were early and there were no paddles to be seen. We were early. Calls on the radio did not clarify matters and all the while Hokule’a was drifting closer to the reef. Once Hokule’a was close enough to see a raised paddle, she could not but go through the passage. Then Hikianalia, the motorboat, and Gershon II followed, and all anchored. But Tahitian protocol required that we go back out and re-enter after receiving the paddles up signal. So we did. A trio of Tahitian double hulled, outrigger, paddling canoes with ti festooned platforms, carrying Priestly officials took up positions at the entrance and this time all went well. After we all anchored the Tahitian canoes ferried us ashore on.

We stood in the shallows while the Priests of Taputapu’atea, the President of French Polynesia, the Senator and a host of Kupuna and cultural performers from Ra’iatea, delivered the protocol. Kamehameha School students gave us lei and assisted us in donning our kihei (ceremonial capes). We walked to the marae through a corridor of joyous greeters and then the crews were welcomed onto the marae by traditional leaders. Two stones that had been carried around the world were returned to the marae. Permissions were given to voyage onward to Hawaii. A choir of Tahitian school children performed for us before we exited the marae. Then after the kupuna and leadership sat in a kava circle, our hosts led us over to a bountiful feast under tents while drummers and dancers performed vigorously for hours in the blazing sun. Kamehameha School students then led kanikapila long into the night (see OIWI TV and hokulea.com).

Back to Papeete

At 6am we towed Hokule’a out TeAvaMoa pass and into in the face of 15 knot tradewinds. Papeete, Tahiti is about 120 n.m away, so if we could make over 3 knots we should arrive there the next evening. We were making about 3.5 knots SE of Huahine when the engine alarm signaled overheating. Steve changed out the impeller and we started up again. But after only 15 minutes the heat exchanger overheated. We waited another 2 hours for it to cool down enough to remove more hoses. Crews of both vessels hoisted their sails and started to tack toward Papeete. This time Gershon II slowed down to stay with Hokule’a.

The wind decreased through the night and our speed was only1 knot at sunrise. The entire crew of Hokule’a and I were ticketed to fly home the next day, on the once/week flight. The incoming crews were waiting for us to help them get oriented. The outgoing and the incoming crews had much to do before sailing for Hawaii.. When Billy Richards, Captain of Hokule’a, advised Nainoa of our position, he sent a tow boat to bring both vessels to Papeete. We arrived at 5 the next morning, fully aware that if we had had to sail there it could have easily taken a week or two.

I count this experience as a reminder of how modern technology that we all depend upon does break down, and it takes a lot of unsustainable resources to maintain petrochemical engines and satellite communications. The ancients waited for fair winds to make their voyages…and made themselves useful and happy in other locations.

Outliers and Connections

For me, the highlights of this last two months were talks I had with crew members of Hokule’a, Hikianalia, and Fa’afaite, and with community members of Rapanui, Pitcairn, Marquesan, and other Society Isles. Many are working on educational programs that help the youth and kupuna connect. Some are nurturing relationships between them and other small island communities around the Pacfiic (like Rapanui, UaPou and Taumako). They share a common focus on growing an intimate and inter-active relationship with the ancient elements of voyaging—the wind, swells, birds, weather, and ancestral phenomena that kupuna from each island can share with youth.

During the last two months I have come to understand that Rapanui, Pitcairn, and Marquesas, despite their complete lack of voyaging canoes and loss of sailing and wayfinding expertise, are remote from their political and commercial centers in a degree that might be compared to Taumako, and many other Polynesian Outliers in the Western Pacific. Though these eastern Polynesian islands are not living the traditional lifestyle of Taumakans, they are determined to build on their cultural identity to create practical transport, and a network of relationships between islands that will make their economies sustainable and their people happy. They know they this is the only way to give opportunities to their children. Youth want to come home from faraway schools, and need programs that they can work in to replace the drugs, junk food, and glitzy ‘shwag,’ that are destroying the health and economy of their people. Young islanders dream to rebuild the trans-oceanic nation that is their heritage, and they feel the urgent need to care for life on this planet (malama honua).

I am so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to join the escort crew of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, and particularly to Steve and Cheryl Kornberg, owners of the Gershon II. They gave so much to support Malama Honua. Gershon II also escorted Hokule’a and other wa’a making voyages in1992 and 1995, and came to Taumako in 2005 and 2012 to give support voyages there (see “Holau Kaveia” on vaka.org). We all have learned so much from them.

A small Taumakan training vaka

A small Taumakan training vaka

I now turn my attention back to preparations for a voyage that Taumako students plan to make to Santa Cruz Island during May or June, 2017. I hope that the 24 year relationship between Taumako voyaging students and their world-wide supporter will continue to grow. I hope that my own Kaua’i community, with its new wa’a, Namahoe, and Hokule’a, among other wa’a of Hawaii, will find the way to visit Taumako (see vaka.org) and meet their distant cousins who are still practicing ancient wayfinding and vaka building technologies that have been lost among other Polynesian people.

When Hokule’a arrives back in Hawai’i the steady stream of “stories of hope” from the World-Wide Voyage will end, and new plans will be made. Then we all may be able to work together in new ways to realize our common hopes for sustainability, by learning more from each other and by helping others to put into practice more of the deep environmental and spiritual knowledge of our voyaging ancestors.

Hokule’a and Gershon II sailing for Ra’iatea - ©john_bilderback From Malama Honua, Hokule'a - A Voyage of Hope coming fall 2017 from Patagonia”

Hokule’a and Gershon II sailing for Ra’iatea – ©john_bilderback From “Malama Honua, Hokule’a – A Voyage of Hope” coming fall 2017 from Patagonia