After weeks of delays, the double-hulled canoe called the Hikianalia has officially left the shores of Hawaii for California.
The canoe, which is created using ancient Polynesian voyaging designs, is expected to complete its 2,800-mile journey across the Pacific Ocean and arrive in San Francisco on Sept. 16, in time for the Global Climate Action Summit to be held in the city.
The Hikianalia's long expedition dubbed the "Alahula Kai o Maleka", a reference to the pathway across Hawaii to California, aims to raise awareness on the importance of caring for the oceans. The canoe and its 13 crew members plan to traverse the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating island of debris and trash the size of Alaska.
Hikianalia To Study The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
"We feel that this is part of our responsibility," said Nainoa Thompson, president of the Voyaging Society, on the canoe's trip across the floating trash island. "You can't protect what you don't understand. We want to be involved and try to do something about the garbage patch."
The crew on board the Hikianalia plans to attach tracking devices to the debris they will find in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and check stomach content of marine animals. They will also partner with scientists both from Hawaii and California to conduct research on the huge collection of trash that has accumulated at the center of the North Pacific Ocean.
The crew will bring their findings, as well as an important message about the relationship between humans and nature, to the upcoming environmental summit in California. Leaders from around the world are expected to attend the Global Action Summit set to take place from Sept. 12 to 14.
The Hikianalia's Cultural Mission
Launched in 2012, the Hikianalia was initially created as an escort to the much older Hokulea or "Star of Gladness", a replica of the double-hulled canoe used by ancient Polynesians to travel across the Pacific Ocean.
It is mostly propelled by twin sails across the water, but it also has a solar-powered motor to be used in case of emergencies. It also has a modern media center onboard to send messages from the middle of the ocean to Hawaii.
However, it does not use modern navigational equipment to travel. Crew members were trained to find their way to their destination using cues from the stars, wind, and ocean — exactly how the ancient Polynesians traveled centuries ago.
The Polynesian Voyaging Society, which is sponsoring the trek, hopes that the canoe will inspire a new generation of voyagers.
"I think wayfinding is an important thing to pass on in this day and age because it's not just locating islands and navigating across the ocean to places," said Lehua Kamalu, captain of the trip.
"It's trying to create an atmosphere and environment where people develop themselves. A traditional wayfinder is someone who is deeply connected to the world around them. You not only pay attention to the natural world, you pay attention to the people around you. "
Crew members of the Hikianalia are also training the new generation of voyagers from Hawaii, Tahiti, South Korea, and Japan.
The Hikianalia will return to Hawaii in December.