A traditional Polynesian deep-sea canoe is sailing the world without a motor. The crew's goal is to increase awareness of the Native Hawaiian culture and to demonstrate how the seas connect all people of the world.
The 41-year old Hōkūleʻa is a double hull traditional canoe. It's a performance replica of the conventional canoes used by ancient Polynesians about 3,000 years ago to discover all of Polynesia.
In Hawaiian, Hōkūleʻa translates to "star of gladness." The canoe's name is also a combination of two words — "hoku," which means "star" and "lea," which means "gladness."
In 2014, the Hōkūleʻa and its Polynesian crew left Hawaii and went on its worldwide voyage. Without a motor, the crew depends on centuries-old navigational techniques that make use of cloud and wave movements. They also rely on the sun and the stars to help them navigate the traditional deep-sea canoe.
In the past 13 months, the Hawaii-based Polynesian Voyaging Society has sailed to several ports around the world and met several global leaders.
On June 8, they made it to New York for the World Oceans Day event. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the Polynesian crew. Several city officials and Native American tribes were also present during the event, along with thousands of spectators.
"We just want to build awareness about things that we value. Our major focus is the oceans," said the crew's master navigator Nainoa Thompson, who presented the society's message during the event. "Our job is not to prove we can sail without instruments but to learn how to do it."
Thompson added that taking care of the planet requires understanding it. He stressed that people can't protect something they don't understand, and if people don't care about it, they won't protect it.
Ban Ki-moon wished Captain Nainoa and the entire Polynesian crew a wonderful return journey to Hawaii.
"I count on your leadership and commitment as we carry out our plans to make this world safer and more sustainable for all. On World Oceans Day, let us renew our resolve to protect these marine treasures for generations to come," said Ban Ki-moon.
In 2014, the Hōkūleʻa visited the Cook Islands, French Polynesia and the Samoa and American Samoa. In 2015, the crew visited Indonesia, Australia, South Africa and Mozambique. This year, their itinerary includes New York, Washington, Cuba and Brazil. Next year, the crew plans to reach Costa Rica, Tahiti, Galapagos and Panama.
Over 200 people have volunteered to become Hōkūleʻa crewmembers, who often commit to 5-week shifts to man the 12-crew traditional canoe. Thompson added that while they mainly use nature to help them navigate the seas, the crew used instruments when they sailed into the Great Barrier Reef, New York, and "other places [they] don't know."