Hawaiian Canoe Hōkūleʻa Preps for the Tasman Sea, Continues Round-the-World Voyage

by Owen James Burke

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The crew of the Hōkūleʻa prepare to cross “the ditch”–the Tasman Sea as winter falls on the southern hemisphere. Photo: ‘Ōiwi TV/Maui Tauotaha.

Having turned back from Auckland for Hawaii, Hikianalia (Hōkūleʻa’s sister ship), Hōkūleʻa is now preparing to cross the Tasman Sea alone.

The Tasman Sea is known for relentless swells, and the last few weeks have been particularly rough (I should know, I’m here), but it looks like a good weather window for the next few days, and yesterday, for the first time in her 40-year lifetime, Hōkūleʻa was due to set sail beyond the Pacific.

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Back into tropical waters, mahimahi  are providing welcome and familiar table fare for the crew. Photo: ‘Ōiwi TV/Jason Patterson.

Meanwhile, with the chilled and tempestuous wintertime south seas behind them, the Hikianalia is making for home. She’s just pushed into calmer waters, somewhere just southeast of the Cook Islands in the doldrums, waiting for a breeze to pick up and blow them back to Hawaii.

The crew on Hikianalia are taking advantage of the mild conditions and light air to address scientific interests, clipping fins and samples from everything they catch, down to the stomach contents.

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Seems that mahimahi have a taste for Velella velella, or “by-the-wind sailors” (similar to Portuguese man-o-war), juvenile triggerfish, seagrass-dwelling crabs, juvenile pelagic species (perhaps barracouta/barracuda, or wahoo/ono), along with their regular diet of flying fish. Photo: ‘Ōiwi TV/Jason Patterson.

“Something big took the entire lure rig on our starboard outrigger including one of Timiʻs saimin spoon bird macgyvers. His innovation has landed us all of our fish,” writes crewman and onboard reporter (and photographer) Jason Patterson. The issue is not dire, but it does severely hinder the crew’s ability to haul a steady load of food. Surely they’ll come up with a replacement rig; that’s part of what this journey is about.

In the meantime, with mahimahi on the remaining line and flying fish tossing themselves aboard, they should all have plenty of fish to eat. Fair winds to both crews! –OJB

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Above: Hōkūleʻa (left) in port in Aurere, New Zealand, and Hikianalia (top right) well into the South Pacific

Here’s a quick video edit of the voyage so far, backed by Jack Johnson and Chucky Boy Chock’s single, “Nā Hoʻokele ʻŌpiopio” (The Young Navigators), with which they are supporting the Hōkūleʻa (keep posted, and download and donate here).

Traditional Polynesian canoes after which the Hōkūleʻa is modeled are built of materials harvested on the islands. This clip below is from “The Navigators,” a film feature on the enduring maritime culture of the seafarers of Satawal, a small island in Micronesia, about 500 miles south of Guam.

Watch “The Navigators: Pathfinders of the Pacific” in its entirety here.


Required Reading:

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Hawaiki Rising” by Sam Low

To read about the history of Polynesian seafaring, and the Hawaiian renaissance that has brought about a revival both in appreciation and application of these ancient, instrument-less navigation methods, read Sam Low’s book “Hawaiki Rising” about the original Hōkūleʻa voyageMau Piailug and Nainoa Thompson.

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