After reading Thor Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki and feeling convinced that the Polynesian islands had been settled by seagoing South Americans who crossed the Pacific aboard balsa rafts, my father reminded me that the Hōkūle‘a, a full-scale replica of a waʻa kaulua, had sailed from Hawaii to Tahiti in 1976, essentially disproving Heyerdahl's migration theory.

To further prove his point, my father dug out an old VHS tape on which he had recorded a National Geographic special highlighting the Hōkūle‘a and its 1976 voyage. Funded by the Polynesian Voyaging Society and led by Mau Piailug, the 35 day trip was completed using traditional Polynesian navigation techniques, without the use of modern instruments.

Since the 1976 voyage to Tahiti and back, the Hōkūle‘a has completed nine more voyages to destinations in Micronesia, Polynesia, Japan, Canada, and the United States, all using ancient wayfinding techniques of celestial navigation. Her last completed voyage, a five month trip through Micronesia and ports in southern Japan, was completed in 2007.

For additional information on the Hōkūle‘a and the Polynesian Voyaging Society, click here.

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