On the 29th day of Nainoa Thompson’s first voyage as a student navigator, he sees two birds fly south overhead. He orders the crew aboard the double-hulled voyaging canoe named Hokule’a to sail in the direction of their flight. These seabirds travel a short distance out to sea at dawn to eat and return to land at night, which means the canoe’s destination, Tahiti, must be nearby. At sunset, a crew member climbs the mast but does not see land. They lower the sails, heave in the Pacific Ocean and wait.
By late the next morning, Thompson feels panicked. One of Hokule’a’s crew members saw a bird fly out of the north and Thompson, convinced the canoe passed the island during the night, has the crew reverse direction.
But another man — who spied a little fish in the bird's beak — advises him to turn back. This is nesting season and before sunrise the feathered animal flew out to sea to hunt for food to deliver to its babies. Later, the bird would fly out to feed itself.
The man with the wise advice is Mau Piailug, a master navigator from the tiny Micronesian atoll of Satawal who had come to the islands of Hawaii to pass on his knowledge of ancient Polynesian wayfaring, which relies on ocean swells, waves, the sun, moon, stars and seabirds to travel the open seas.
Imagine: no GPS tracking, sextant, compass, not even a wristwatch.
An hour passes and the shores of Tahiti appear. With it, Thompson becomes the first Hawaiian in more than 600 years to navigate a voyaging canoe using traditional wayfaring.
Since then, the Polynesian Voyaging Society has achieved several expeditions, and an immeasurable impact on the lives and spirit of native Hawaiians. PVS is currently preparing to launch an ambitious worldwide voyage, expected to span three years. This year, the group celebrates the 35th anniversary of its maiden voyage to Tahiti by embarking on a series of stateside sails.
This summer, I will travel to Honolulu, HI for two weeks to conduct interviews, observe the crew and, ideally, participate in a short-distance voyage. I will post daily photos, video and reflections on my blog.
I’m seeking your support to complete a feature magazine article on the revival of ancient Polynesian voyaging in Hawaii, and how this movement has helped restore cultural pride in native Hawaiians. Your valuable assistance will help offset flight, housing and transportation costs. Thank you.
To learn about the origin of the “Wailing Peacocks” title, visit www.wailingpeacocks.wordpress.com.
UPDATE: Some of you have asked what happens if backers pledge more than the $900 requested. If that happens, all additional money will also go toward the "Wailing Peacocks" project to cover as much travel, housing and related expenses as possible. Thanks!
- (30 days)