Hōkūle’a and the Story of Island Earth

Lessons on Aloha and Connection From our Ancestors

“We need myths that will identify the individual not with his local group but with the planet.”
― Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

When we look out at the vast reaches of space, Mother Earth is indeed an island floating in an endless sea of stars unlike anywhere else in the universe. It is a reality of mythic proportions to just be alive on this planet. The great mythologist, Joseph Campbell spoke often of the need in this modern time for us to have stories that connect us, and remind us that life is still filled with magic and mystery. Today we have a real-life story emerging of global proportions that is every bit as epic as Homer’s Odyssey yet is barely known outside of a remote island chain in the Pacific. As you read on you will discover that a piece of your own ancestry is woven into this unfolding global narrative.

Alt text hereA traditional double-hulled Hawaiian voyaging canoe sales towards a newly formed island
photo courtesy: Paaponomilolii

The story of Hōkūle’a comes from the Hawaiian Islands but it belongs to the whole world and that is why its’ significance has been recognised by leaders like Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Barack Obama, Richard Branson, and others. When we consider human migrations across the planet over millennia, these islands are some of the last stops on the line. Far away from Africa where archaeologists believe humans first originated, these islands also represent some of the most recently created land on Mother Earth. (Big Island of Hawaii is still growing every year as hot lava pours from active volcanic vents.)

As science has shown us, our memories have been passed through our DNA for many lifetimes. That means that every one of us has a piece of the collective memory of our ancestors who were oppressed as well as our ancestors who were the oppressor. Much migration was initiated by drought, unsustainable agricultural practices that brought famine, conquest, and war that pushed people off of their homeland. We all have this shared history, the good, the bad, and the ugly right in our blood. This tumultuous history made us strong, it made us survivors, but it is not a history that we need to repeat anymore.

Alt text hereJeremiah Taleni, right, gives a Shaka, a Hawaiian greeting gesture, as he shares a laugh with the Dalai Lama photo courtesy of Pillars of Peace Hawaii via AP

At the End of the Circle Comes a New Beginning

Hōkūle’a is the story of a modern epic voyage that retraces humanity’s invisible steps across the ocean and  throughout history to bring the healing wisdom of aloha, love, and sustainability. This message of unity is being carried in a traditional double-hulled Hawaiian voyaging canoe using only traditional navigation techniques while this powerful message is being amplified through networks of friends using social media. The story is alive, and you are part of it. This is where the ancient meets the future, where endings find new beginnings, and the mythic becomes reality.

Alt text hereHokulea in Capetown South Africa.
Photo: copyright and courtesy of Kamehameha Schools Kapālama and Hālau Kū Māna Charter School

Unanswered Questions

The discovery of this remote island chain in the Pacific is shrouded in unanswered questions. How did they find it? What made them know this land was here? Some say that shamanic dreams or intelligent sea creatures like dolphins, whales, and sharks (Kamohoali’i) guided early navigators to this place surrounded by a thousand miles of ocean. Sailing a thousand miles to find a small string of islands is as technologically profound for ancient mariners as it is for modern astronauts to land on the moon.

These are the children of the living breath (Aloha)…They go out to the deep ocean to find out what the original song was… We’re not lost. We’re going home.
– Sam Kaai, a true son of Maui and noted scholar of Hawaiian cultural practices.

Island lifestyle in Hawai’i is filled with potent wisdom that is universal though it has been forgotten in many places around the world. Living on an island teaches that resources are finite, and that we can’t run too far from what we create (good or bad). Hōkūle’a invites us to re-awaken, remember, and live consciously as we begin to recognise Planet Earth as an island of life floating through a vast galaxy of stars.

According to legend, the 16th navigator Paka’a could not only predict the wind and weather, he could actually control them with a wind gourd bequeathed to him by his kupunawahine La’amaomao, the wind goddess, whose name ‘Distant Sacredness’ suggests the divine breath which emerges from holes in the far horizon.
– Dennis Kawaharada, No NāMamo

Alt text hereA view of the ocean across newly hardened lava

It’s in the Stars

Hōkūle’a and her sister Hikianalia are full scale replicas of a waʻa kaulua (polynesian double hulled canoes) operated by crews that only uses traditional indigenous technology (no iPhones) to navigate long distances. By studying the wave patterns, behaviour of dolphins and other fish, one can find their way across vast distances across the oceans. By noticing where stars rise and set along the horizon one is able to navigate the Star Path to their destination.

Our Hawaiian voyaging canoes, Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia, are on a five year, 60,000 nautical mile voyage to discover how local communities around the world are navigating toward a sustainable future. Mālama Honua, caring for our island earth, is the guiding value of our voyage and it is inspiring learners of all ages to join us as we discover stories of hope from cultures around the globe. – www.hokulea.com

A Journey of the Heart

Aloha is a lifestyle that is closely connected to nature with a great love for the land and it’s inhabitants. Bill Mollison, an influential visionary in the global permaculture and sustainability movement, says that Hawaiians are some of the most prolific gardeners in the world. 1,700 years ago the first Hawaiians brought 25 plants known as canoe plants, to grow on these volcanic islands that originally had no vegetation.

We live in times of epic proportion facing environmental issues for the first time as a global community. Love, kindness, and compassion are central to any response we will take in order to heal our planet as well as ourselves. Though the journey ahead may look impossible at times, we can draw from the strength and wisdom of our ancestors to create a truly beautiful future for all.

Alt text herewe can draw from the strength and wisdom of our ancestors to create a truly beautiful future for all

Hōkūle’a Voyage has Begun

It is a real-life story rich with metaphors that are relevant to us all as our collective memory awakens. The best part is that you can follow along, participate, and learn with the crew about diverse cultures, and sustainable practices to make a better world. If you have kids or grandkids, you can explore canoe to classroom or a thorough list of resources for anyone who wants to share this journey of learning with their loved ones. There are also plenty of videos, as well as an interactive map. While crew members collect and share stories of hope and inspiration along their journey, you can read blog entries and see pictures on their website, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. If you are really lucky you can meet the crew when they come to a port near you!

The Worldwide Voyage

Mālama Honua (caring for our Island Earth) is becoming a Global Movement

The Hōkūle’a Crew has a pledge that they share with everyone they cross paths with which forms a great foundation for creating a beautiful future, together on this planet.

I recognise that Earth is a blue planet. Our ocean is the cornerstone of life, and our planet’s life-support system.

No matter where on Island Earth I live, the ocean produces the air I breathe and helps to regulate the climate.

I recognise that our ocean and Island Earth is changing because of the habits and choices of human beings.

I recognise that with supporters like me, and the community I reach out to around me, the future of our oceans and our Island Earth can improve.

The difference will start with me and spread to others. I pledge to support our oceans and Island Earth, and inspire people of all ages to do the same.

– One Ocean, One Island Earth Pledge

Take some time to breathe in the Aloha knowing that we all come from a long lineage of survivors and we all share the same breath of life. Gaze at the stars and imagine just how beautiful it is to be in the middle of this great and mysterious cosmic soup. It is a blessing beyond measure and with this blessing comes a great responsibility to respect all of life.

We have a story for our times that is made of all the stories of our past and it is rising like a Phoenix to bring a great change across the land and sea. Though we are diverse and we have been through a lot collectively as a people, we share one planet and must learn to live together as one family. The journey of Hōkūle’a represents a very special moment for all of us, the end of a circle always brings new beginnings. Our ancestors are with us and this is our moment to make all of them proud as we navigate towards a beautiful future!




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4 Comments on "Hōkūle’a and the Story of Island Earth"

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David S. Shaw
David S. Shaw
With sea levels rising and coastal communities already being devastated, humanity will be increasing faced with decisions as how to cope with the destructive power of water and wind. Collectively and as individuals we seek to go with the flow of the Universe, knowing that there are no islands unto them selves. We can be perplexed by what to do about global climate change and more perplexed about how to make sense of the destructive power of Black Holes and galaxies colliding. The human story is in the stories of humans, always on a journey. Mass culture directs us to… Read more »

The poetry of this story is compelling but the science is not science. Until the fact based essence of science is married to the power of myth, it seems we will falter along in rutted paths.

Andrew Cooper
Andrew Cooper

“Some say that shamanic dreams or intelligent sea creatures like dolphins, whales, and sharks (Kamohoali’i) guided early navigators to this place surrounded by a thousand miles of ocean. ” What? You denigrate the skill and knowledge of the Polynesian navigators. They needed no dreams or guides, they did it on skill, and the will to dare the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean.

Jean-claude Catry
Jean-claude Catry

the science of living in harmony with the earth is the only one worth believing in , and may be it is an art and it probably need a solid mythology and faith in natural processes of life and held by love of life in all its form! We need it all as long as it come from a sense of connection and seek connection. Feeling the pain of disconnection is part of the journey