Hawaii Canoe Now Halfway Around World

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This has been a pretty grim week for the world, so it’s time for an upbeat story, about some people who are doing something really cool.

The double-hulled voyaging canoe Hōkūle’a, which left Hawaii last year with the aim of sailing around the world in ancient Polynesian fashion, has reached South Africa, 16,000 miles into its three-year journey around the world. Its crew is sailing without modern electronic navigation equipment, and instead is using wave motion and celestial navigation to guide its journey.

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It’s the same method used by the first Polynesians to reach the Hawaiian islands.

When Hōkūleʻa competes is journey in 2017, it will have dropped anchor at 100 ports in 27 nations. You can track the voyage here.

The craft was first built and launched in the 1970s in an attempt to revive Polynesian-style sailing. The first voyage to Tahiti in 1976 was successful, and the canoe became symbolic of rising enthusiasm for native Hawaiian culture.

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After another week in South Africa, Hōkūleʻa will re-embark on the most hazardous leg of its journey, a 2,400-mile straight line between Mauritius to Madagascar to the eastern side of South Africa, and then around the southern tip of the Island.

“When we enter the Mozambique channel, it’s got the fastest oceanic, it’s called a western boundary current, in the world,” navigator Nainoa Thompson Thompson explained in an update on the craft’s website. “It’s stronger than the Gulf Stream.”

“So when the current comes down, it goes against the wind. What it does is it makes the waves bigger and it stacks them, it brings them closer together,” she continued. “Hōkūleʻa does not like those stacking waves, she’s not built for that.”

If the going gets too dangerous, the crew will be compelled to wait until the waves die down.

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