Pacific islanders sail to summit in canoes

The gathering unites indigenous people and scientists to discuss ocean issues

By Gary T. Kubota

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jun 22, 2011

Seven double-hulled sailing canoes from Pacific island nations as far as New Zealand were scheduled to arrive on Maui this morning, as part of several visits in the Hawaiian Islands including Oahu, where they will participate in an environmental conference.

The Kava Bowl Ocean Summit 2011, June 30-July 3 at Hawai‘i Imin International Conference Center in Manoa, is intended to focus attention on problems facing the Pacific Ocean, including global warming, pollution and acidification, organizers said.

Okeanos — Foundation for the Sea, a summit sponsor, says the private gathering will bring together scientists with indigenous peoples who are directly affected by the changes in the ocean, and people trying to influence environmental legislation.


Okeanos founder Dieter Paulmann said the trans-Pacific voyage puts people in touch with nature, to reconnect with their ancestors and to see the need to care for future generations.

“We have an ethical responsibility,” Paulmann said.

“We have to keep our resources … for future generations.”

Okeanos officials said they are looking for strategies that will help to reduce ocean pollution and deal with rising sea levels.

Chad Baybayan, the way-finding navigator in residence at Hawaii island’s Imiloa Astronomy Center, said holding an environmental conference about Pacific Ocean problems with native islanders represents a “major paradigm shift.”

“What better platform to explain it than through the eyes of islanders?” he said.

Others listed as sponsors include the East-West Center, Stanford University, the Stockholm Environmental Institute and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Voyage commodore Magnus Danbolt said the crews’ common goal is to raise one voice from the Pacific to highlight oceanic problems.

“The ocean is in trouble, and we need to take care of it,” Danbolt said.

Danbolt said rising sea levels are forcing some islanders, including those living in Kiribati, to plan for eventual evacuation.

Danbolt said the fleet is making stopovers to various islands to pay homage to the Hokule‘a voyagers who used traditional way-finding to make the historic Hawaii-Tahiti sail in 1976.

The Hokule‘a voyage supported the assertion that Polynesians could have navigated thousands of miles centuries ago and has inspired islanders from other Pacific archipelagos to establish voyaging societies.

Crews on the seven sailing canoes relied upon traditional way-finding, noninstrumental techniques to navigate to Hawaii, Okeanos officials said.

The voyage from New Zealand or Aotearoa to Hawaii with stopovers, including one at Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas, totaled some 6,500 nautical miles and took 59 days, officials said.

The sailing canoes were designed with traditional double hulls but made of fiberglass, to avoid cutting down large trees, officials said.

The canoes are the Faafaite from Tahiti, Gualofa from Samoa, Marumaru Atua from the Cook Islands, Te Matau a Maui from Aotearoa, Uto Ni Yalo from Fiji, Ohana Waa from Hawaii, and two pan-Pacific canoes: the Haunui and Hine Moana.


Canoe fleet commodore Magnus Danbolt said the crews plan to arrive on Maui at Hanakaoo Beach in Kaanapali early this morning, after leaving Hilo Tuesday.

The fleet is scheduled to arrive at Kaunakakai on Thursday and leave Molokai Friday and hold a welcoming ceremony open to the public at Kualoa beach at 9 a.m. Saturday.

The crews plan to leave Oahu on July 6 for Kauai, then head for San Francisco on July 10.

Other scheduled stops include San Francisco on Aug. 10; Monterey, Calif., on Aug. 16; Los Angeles on Aug. 26; and San Diego on Sept. 4, where it plans to spend the winter before leaving Jan. 30 to return to New Zealand via Marquesas and Tahiti.

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