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Hawaiian canoes reach Papeete, Tahiti

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The Polynesian voyaging canoes Hokule‘a and Hikianalia arrived in Papeete, the Tahitian capital, Sunday afternoon, returning to the welcoming landfall of Hokule‘a’s history-making maiden voyage some 38 years past.

Hikianalia arrived in the French Polynesian capital shortly before 3 p.m. Sunday, followed by Hokule‘a about an hour later.

Under sunny skies, crowds lined the harbor as the canoes arrived.

According to the La Depeche de Tahiti newspaper, the crews were greeted by local officials and representatives of the Friends of Hokulea to Tahiti Tainui, a newly created association made up of representatives from more than 15 local organizations for the purpose of spreading Hokule‘a’s message to the people of French Polynesia.

The difficult 2,600-mile crossing was just the first leg of a three-year, 47,000-mile journey around the world.

The Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage — which officially began last year with a ceremonial trip around the Hawaiian archipelago — is designed to train a new generation of navigators in the art and practice of traditional Polynesian navigation while promoting sustainability and global relationships.

The canoes left Hilo on May 30 and arrived in Rangiroa, about 200 miles to the south of Papeete, on June 16.

The Hokule‘a and Hikianalia crews will spend the next week visiting with students and community organizations on Papeete.

On Sunday, French Polynesian President Gaston Flosse will officially rename Pao­fai Beach, the site of Sunday’s landing, as Hokule‘a Beach at Pao­fai Gardens.

Starting next month, the canoes will continue their journey with stops in Samoa, the Phoenix Islands and New Zealand.

The apprentice voyagers are being mentored by a pair of master navigators: Polynesian Voyaging Society President and original Hokule‘a crew member Nai­noa Thompson and crew training coordinator and longtime canoe paddling coach Bruce Blankenfeld. Hokule‘a first sailed to Tahiti in 1976.

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