‘Hawaiki’ chronicles hopes tied to Hokule’a
By Gary Kubota
Sam Low’s “Hawaiki Rising: Hokule‘a, Nainoa Thompson, and the Hawaiian Renaissance,” captures in convincing style the heartbreak, sacrifice and hopes of the crews aboard the historic double-hulled sailing canoe Hokule‘a.
The book takes readers well beyond the first Hawaii-Tahiti voyage in 1976 that supported the assertion that Pacific islanders could navigate the open ocean without instruments, relying on signs in nature and the heavens, well before European expeditions to the Americas.
Low, who sailed on three subsequent Hokule‘a voyages in the Pacific, writes about the evolution and rise of the vessel as a symbol of the Pacific renaissance. The canoe’s founders and crew members provide new insight into the intense study and training of navigator Nainoa Thompson, as do the book’s black-and-white photos, star charts, maps and detailed illustrations.
“Hawaiki Rising” also brings into focus the selfless life of the late master navigator Mau Piailug of Satawal in Micronesia, who shared his knowledge with Thompson in hopes of reviving his own people’s wayfaring traditions.
The charm of this story is the realization that a community of supporters of varied ethnicities helped Thompson to achieve the goal of becoming the first Native Hawaiian noninstrument navigator in modern history.
It is a tribute to people with different goals and backgrounds who helped form the voyaging movement. They include Hokule‘a co-founder Ben Finney, who wanted to show that Native Hawaiians could have been capable of noninstrument navigation between Hawaii and Tahiti, and late co-founder and artist Herb Kane, who hoped for a rebirth in Hawaiian culture.
It is a tribute to learned people such as the late Bishop Museum Planetarium lecturer Will Kyselka, who gave Thompson access to the facilities at night to study and commit to memory the paths of more than 100 stars.
Most of all, it is a tribute to Piailug, who died in 2010, and the world of native wayfinders in the Pacific.
How can you tell if a flying sea bird is headed toward land?
If you see a moon with a halo, what kind of weather should you expect?
Low’s book gives readers glimpses of the knowledge of the natural world required by wayfinders like Piailug who knew the answers to these questions.
Readers also are left with a new appreciation for Thompson’s arduous path as he sought to renew native voyaging.
Author Gary T. Kubota was a crew member aboard the Hokule‘a during its 2007 sailing through Micronesia, receiving an “Editorial Excellence” award from the Hawaii Publishers Association for his coverage of the voyage.
“Hawaiki Rising: Hokule‘a, Nainoa Thompson, and the Hawaiian Renaissance,”
by Sam Low (Island Heritage, $24.95)