Hokule’a: Sailing for the World


The Hokule’a in 2009
Photo by HongKongHuey via Wikimedia Commons

Liz Waid and Bruce Gulland tell about Hawaii’s Hokule’a. This traditional canoe is helping to preserve a culture.

Watch Video


Transcript


Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2  

And I’m Bruce Gulland. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1  

Imagine you are on a boat in the middle of the ocean. Everywhere you look there is nothing but blue water and sky. You have been out at sea for weeks. And it will be many more days before you reach land again. Even with modern technology, it is dangerous to sail a boat over the ocean. It is even more dangerous without equipment to move the boat or to know where it is going. But people did this thousands of years ago. And some people are doing it still today.

Voice 2  

The islands of Polynesia in the Pacific Ocean have a long history of traditional boats, called canoes. The first people came to live on these island countries thousands of years ago on these canoes. Now there are airplanes and modern ships. But the tradition of Polynesian canoeing still survives. This is because of one canoe: the Hokule’a. Today’s Spotlight is on this Hawaiian voyaging canoe. It is changing the world by sailing around it.

Voice 1  

The story of the Hokule’a starts in the 1970s in Hawaii. The Pacific islands of Polynesia were becoming modern. People were forgetting their native culture. One thing people forgot was how to build and use traditional voyaging canoes.

Voice 2  

The voyaging canoe is a boat designed to travel far on long journeys or voyages. It is an important part of Polynesian culture. This kind of canoe was built simply and only with local materials. Bruce Blankenfield is a Captain with the Polynesian Voyaging Society. In a video he describes how a voyaging canoe can be so simple and so strong:

Voice 3  

“If you took the canoe all apart you just have all these pieces. What holds it all together? There is no glue. There are no metal nails. There are no screws. There is over six miles of rope: cordage that holds her all together. It is all tied together in special ways. That technology is thousands of years old. It is very strong. It would hold together against enormous pressures.”

Voice 1  

In the 1970s there had not been any voyaging canoes for 600 years. A Hawaiian artist named Herb Kane had an idea to change this. With two other men, he started the Polynesian Voyaging Society. They designed and built a traditional deep sea canoe. They gave it the name Hokule’a. In English this means Star of Gladness.

Voice 2  

The Hokule’a has two the main parts of the boat called hulls. Each hull is over 18 metres long. It has two large red sails. These are made of cloth. They catch the wind and help the boat to move. There is no electric motor. The canoe moves through the power of the sea and wind. Sometimes the people on it use wood paddles to move better through the sea. But the Hokule’a does not have a computer or radio. People on it do not use satellites, smartphones or even maps. So without modern technology, how do they know where they are sailing?

Voice 1  

Traditionally, Polynesian people sailed canoes using the art of wayfinding. This kind of navigation uses the natural environment around the boat to show the way. Navigators do not use compasses or maps. Instead they use the stars, the wind, and the ocean to know which way to move the canoe. Nainoa Thompson was a navigator on the Hokule’a. He told the news organization NPR:

Voice 4  

"As a navigator, your job is to look at the shape of the ocean. You have to be on your feet, and to be able to feel one wave when it comes through from one foot to another. You only know where you are by remembering where you come from."

Voice 2  

In the beginning, Thompson and others did not know how to sail a canoe using traditional wayfinding. But there was one man who did. His name was Mau Piailug. He lived on a tiny island in Micronesia. He agreed to teach people how to sail the Hokule’a. And in 1976, he led them on a very dangerous journey.

Voice 1  

On this journey, the Hokule’a sailed more than 4300 kilometres from Hawaii to Tahiti. It took over a month. But when they arrived in Tahiti, there were over 17,000 people waiting to greet them. They had proved that these ancient sailing methods worked.

Voice 2  

The Hokule’a had started a movement among the Polynesian people. Polynesian people began to relearn their traditions. This included wayfinding and voyaging by canoe. Since the Hokule’a, people in different countries have built 25 more deep-sea canoes. People also began to relearn other cultural practices including traditional music, dances, rituals and other things. Nainoa Thompson tells how special this was in Hawaii:

Voice 4  

“The Hawaiian culture is coming out again, learning again, growing strong again. That is not a common story around the world. That is a story that is special. There are cultures and languages being lost every day on this planet.”

Voice 1  

In 2013, the Hokule’a set out on a longer journey - to go around the world. This took six years of planning. The crew of the Hokule’a trained hard. Some of them had been sailing for many years. They would need this experience in the middle of the ocean. Twelve people lived on the Hokule’a at one time. It was very difficult work.

Voice 2  

On this journey, the Hokule’a stopped in 26 countries, including Australia, South Africa, Brazil and the mainland of the United States. It traveled almost 40,000 nautical miles. And after a four-year journey, the Hokule’a returned to Hawaii in 2017.

Voice 1  

The traditional ways of the Hokule’a do more than continue and protect Hawaiian culture. They also protect the Earth’s natural environment. On its journey, Hokule’a travelled with a message: to take care of the earth that we share. Billy Richards is a crew member on the Hokule’a. He explains in a video about Hokulea’s worldwide voyage why this message is so important:

Voice 5  

“The people who came before us gave us this gift. It is our job to pass it on. It is our job to make sure that what our children receive is even better than what was given us.”

Voice 2  

Are there traditions that your culture is losing? Are there efforts to protect them? What message would you share with the world? Tell us what you think. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also comment on Facebook at Facebook.com/spotlightradio.

Voice 1  

The writer of this program was Rena Dam. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, “Hokule’a: Sailing for the World”

Voice 2  

Visit our website to download our free official app for Android and Apple devices. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Are there traditions that your culture is losing? Are there efforts to save them?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
Honneur
said on September 09, 2019

In Brazil, there are many cultural traits, belonging to our heritage of natives, Africans, and Europeans. Dances, songs, foods from these origins are present and most of them are protected by groups interested in preserving these traditions.