Hōkūleʻa Update | Exploring St. Helena

Bruce BlackWritten by Bruce Black

St. Helena is a close knit community where the local populace of 4,000 knows one other and casual waves are common among passers-by .Discovered by the Portuguese in 1502, St. Helena became a Dutch settlement and then a British possession, which it remains today. It has a melting pot community very much like Hawaiʻi.The island has everything you would need to exist in harmony with nature, and every home has a beautiful ocean view. 


The heart of the community is the road running up from the ocean: Main Street, Jamestown. On either side of the road are old rock buildings housing the bank, middle school, post office, hotels, police department, gift stores have stood the test of time.


The land by the coast is all cinder ash rock, dry and barren. As you go up the ridge on a single lane road, knifed in to the steep ridge face, the vegetation begins to turn green. It is a steep climb into the clouds which hang on the mountain top at 2,690 feet. Up-country there are seven districts intersected by deep valleys the locals call guts. There is a variety of lush landscapes, open pasture land, farms and crops, rock formations, water falls and dense forest. We had an informative tour of the house Napoleon Bonaparte lived out his exile. 


On Sunday, all of the shops and offices are closed, and no one is on the streets. For the crew, it was a day to clean-up the canoe for the next leg of the journey, the crew scrub the deck and the bottom of the canoe and checked the lashing on the sails. The local TV station interviewed Bruce and Kaleo on the pier as they shared the story of Hōkūleʻa’s Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage. 


On Monday, we visited the acting Governor Sean Burns at the port castle. At the time of our arrival to St. Helena, the appointed Governor was on a trip to nearby Ascension Island, which he also administers along with Tristan de Cunha Island. It was a formal introduction followed by an exchange of pleasantries. Bruce and Kaleo shared an informative discussion about the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage and Govenor Burns had many questions about traditional navigation and the living conditions on Hōkūleʻa. There was also a bonding discussion about the similarities and differences of the Hawaiian Islands and St Helena. 


We were very excited to do a community project to mālama honua, and initially planned to clean up the cliffs along Jacobʻs Ladder. But we found the incline too steep and hazardous for land slide. Fortunately, we were able to find a few places safe enough to clean. We also met the St. Helena National Trust, a non-profit organization launched in 2002, which aims to promote awareness of and to protect and enhance St Helenaʻs environmental, built and cultural heritage. The National Trust has many conservation stewardship projects in the works to maintain and restore the endemic plants and animals, many of which are only found on this remote island. We also be adopted a wirebird, the island’s only endemic land bird, for life with a donation. 


Although our time at St. Helena was brief, the connections we made with this tight-knit community will continue on for the remainder of the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage.

Aloha and a hui hou from the Leg 16 crew!

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