Update | Departure Ceremonies Prepare Hōkūleʻa for New Horizons
HONOLULU – Polynesian ceremonies took place in preparation for Hōkūleʻa’s departure from the Pacific. The legendary voyaging canoe and her crew will depart Aurere, Aotearoa (New Zealand) for Sydney, Australia during the next good weather window, expected to be Wednesday, April 29. This will be the first time in her 40 year history that Hōkūleʻa voyages beyond Pacific waters.
“In my 39 years of voyaging in the Pacific, I have never seen this kind of collective agreement among Pacific Island nations, both in intensity and urgency to move in a very active way to protect the cultural and natural kinship of Pacific Islanders to the Ocean,” said Polynesian Voyaging Society President and Master Navigator, Nainoa Thompson. “I do believe that Pacific Islands are coming together and working diligently and collectively to provide the kind of leadership that we need to protect the world’s ocean.”
Preparation for departure centered on Pacific region ocean declarations that Hōkūleʻa will take to Australia, South Africa, and Brazil, before delivering them to the United Nations in New York in 2016. Hōkūleʻa has been entrusted with the commitment from the UN Secretary General to “rally leaders to our common cause to usher in a more sustainable future and life of dignity for all.” Throughout the Pacific, ocean protection declarations were given to Hōkūleʻa by the President of Palau, who is Chair of the 16 member Pacific Island Forum. Commitments were also given from the presidents of French Polynesia and the Republic of Palau, respectively, and the Governor of American Samoa. Additional community-led commitments on board the historic voyaging canoe include the Hawaii Promise to Paeʻāina, and Hawaii’s commitment to green growth through the Aloha+ Challenge.
Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr., President of the Republic of Palau and chair of the Pacific Island Forum, gave the Polynesian Voyaging Society a declaration and letter to carry aboard, stating, “We ask the voyage to carry forward these commitments to bring recognition that the Pacific Ocean and the oceans of the world are the lifeblood of our economies and societies, not only in the Pacific but of our planet. We further ask the Voyage to share these commitments to inspire leaders and communities to join us in setting their own visionary goals and targets to save our oceans and our Island Earth.”
Joining virtually from San Francisco for the declaration presentation were the Ocean Elders, a collective of global leaders committed to ocean protection, of which Nainoa Thompson is a member. The Ocean Elders who were present included entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, musician Jackson Browne, author and conservationist Graeme Kelleher, former Costa Rican president, Jose Maria Figueres, and scientist and advocate, Dr. Sylvia Earle. “On behalf of the Elders, we wholeheartedly support you and your mission,” said Dr. Earle, “This is so exciting to see the power you are bringing together, setting in motion this great movement of care for the ocean, and of the people of the Pacific and world.”
The two days of departure ceremonies took place in Aurere, on New Zealand’s North Island and near to Waitangi, where Hōkūleʻa was ceremonially welcomed in 1985 during her Voyage of Rediscovery. Today, a large star compass and a voyaging learning center serve as enduring reminders of the voyaging connections that have been shared between Hawaii and Aotearoa for millennia. Māori leaders and a delegation of Hawaiian youth and adults led by Dr. Randie Fong of Kamehameha Schools, the education sponsor of the Worldwide Voyage, created cultural protocol to bless Hōkūleʻa and prepare her and her crew for a safe journey.
The delegation of Hawaii students from island charter schools noted the special role of youth around the world in protecting our oceans and earth. To accompany the ocean declarations, they presented an Indigenous Youth Declaration from the World Indigenous People’s Conference on Education that will be taken around the world on board Hōkūleʻa. “Coming together to change the world affects us all, giving us a great kuleana [responsibility] to persevere and keep pushing forward,” said Kamaile Academy high school student Daniel Corpuz. “This experience will spark the flame to the change of generations to come.” Youth from Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center, also joined the delegation, preparing an offering of hula and oli (chant).