The voyaging canoe Hokule‘a is spending time in French Polynesia before heading back to Hawaii in two months, wrapping up the vessel’s nearly four-year worldwide journey.
The Hokule‘a arrived in Tahiti with its sister voyaging canoe, the Hikianalia, on Thursday, marking the first time the double-hulled canoes have been together since 2015. The Hikianalia was the Hokule‘a’s support boat at the beginning of the “Malama Honua” worldwide journey and accompanied it as far as New Zealand before returning to Hawaii. A modern sailboat with the ability to tow at longer distances escorted the Hokule‘a after the Hikianalia’s departure.
In the time since, the Hikianalia has been sailing around the Hawaiian Islands and Polynesia, according to its website.
Crew members reflected on the significance of the Hokule‘a’s return to Tahiti, the destination of its first deep-sea voyage more than 40 years ago. A photo on the Hokule‘a’s Facebook page last week showed a huge crowd of possibly thousands greeting the Hokule‘a during its first arrival in May 1976.
“You could feel it (the aloha) from the canoe,” said Kala Tanaka, captain and navigator of the Hikianalia, in a news release on Thursday’s return. “The community here was overwhelmingly happy and thrilled with love in their hearts that Hokule‘a and Hikianalia were there.”
The Hokule‘a’s arrival was broadcast on live television in Tahiti, about 2,600 miles southeast of Hawaii.
Bruce Blankenfeld, master navigator of the Hokule‘a, said of the Hokule‘a reuniting with the Hikianalia, “We started this voyage together and now we end this voyage together.”
Over the weekend, the two crews participated in an arrival celebration, observing traditional song and dance on the shores of Mahina, near Papeete.
Over the next few days, the Hokule‘a will travel throughout Tahiti and Raiatea, also in French Polynesia, engaging local communities with educational outreach.
The two canoes will participate in a ceremony in Taputapuatea in Raiatea on April 25 and embark on the final deep-sea leg of the worldwide tour in early May. The two canoes are expected to return to Magic Island in mid-June.