It was a historic moment Saturday, June 17 as the Hokulea, a double-hulled Polynesian voyaging canoe, and her sister vessel, Hikianalia, returned home to dock in Hawaii after being away for three years on the Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage. Her journey took her around the world, roughly 40,300 nautical miles, and to more than 150 ports in 23 nations and territories. Tens of thousands of people, from dignitaries and ambassadors of foreign nations to families from every Hawaiian Island, were present, and emotions were high, as the canoes finally made their way into the harbor. The celebration was a vibrant mix of the traditional and the modern, the young and old, as everyone prepared to welcome home the first Hawaiian voyaging canoe to traverse the world 600 years after the last wave of Pacific voyaging, using only the art of traditional Polynesian navigation and no modern nautical instruments.
To many gathered on the shores, the Hokulea is far more than just a canoe. She represents the global revival of a lost indigenous art and great pride in the achievements of their ancestors. She is an affirmation of the way the Hawaiian Islands were settled so long ago, not merely by chance, but with purpose, and a symbol of the hope that future generations will continue to treasure and care for the waters she sails in.
The Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage, meant to share a message of environmental sustainability, served to bring communities from all over the world together in caring for "Island Earth."
Here are a few captures from the historic celebration.
With every canoe that came in, the powerful sound of conch shells filled the air. The blowing of conch shells is a deep ceremonial part of Hawaiian culture, once used to communicate across the waters between people in canoes and those on land.
This young newspaper hawker was giving out special edition issues featuring the Hokulea.
People proudly displayed the Hawaiian flag.
Hawaii's own Disney princess, Aulii Cravalho, beloved throughout the world for portraying "Moana," was in attendance with all her aunties and uncles. She also performed later in the day.
Out on the water, once the canoes from each island, plus New Zealand and Tahiti's canoes had preceded her, Hokulea's entourage converged to escort her in.
The crowd erupted into cheers as a water guard carried the Hawaiian flag across the ocean to the canoe.
The Hokulea in front of Diamond Head. On board were members of its inaugural 1976 crew, while watermen including several members of the Aikau family, escorted her on jetskis.
It was a scene of jubilation as the crowd gave the crew members a royal welcome.
Hokulea's master navigator and president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, Nainoa Thompson, disembarks. He's a legend for being the first Hawaiian to practice the Polynesian art of navigation since the 14th century.
A group of spear-throwers wait to perform the Hawaiian rite of kalii, a ceremony that hasn't been performed publicly in nearly 200 years.
Traditionally, this was a ritual for when a chief set foot on a new land or neighboring island. He, or his champion (Hokulea crew member Sam Kapoi standing in the foreground, acted as the canoe's champion for the rite), would stand while spears were thrown at him, and have to catch one and dodge the others to prove his worthiness.
Though the Hokulea has come a long, long way, one thing is clear: The future of modern Polynesian voyaging is just beginning.