HONOLULU, HI - Service members along with thousands of guests participated in the historic welcoming ceremony of the double-hulled canoe Hōkūleʻa at O'ahu's Magic Island, Hawaii, June 17.
Hōkūleʻa and sister ships manned with the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) crewmembers concluded a three-year sail around the globe. Departing Hawaiian waters on May 30, 2014, the crewmembers relied only on their understanding of nature's cues: ocean swells, stars, winds, and birds to navigate across roughly 47,000 nautical miles. During the voyage they managed to visit 85 ports and 26 nations, spreading a message of "malama honua," which means "Caring for the Earth."
"Prior to the voyage, the Navy provided the team with a Search and Rescue training, offered advice about routes and dangers that might be faced, and provided volunteers, like myself, with some basic sanding and maintenance of the canoe," said Miki Tomita, Director of the Polynesian Voyaging Society Learning Center. "We want to honor the crewmembers of Hōkūleʻa and congratulate them on their accomplishment."
In 2011, U.S. Navy Sailors home-ported in Pearl Harbor supported Hōkūleʻa's mission by sanding pieces of the canoe to help restore it, learning about ancient Hawaiian culture in the process.
In 2013, prior to Hōkūleʻa departing, crewmembers met with the Commander of Navy Region Hawaii and other key leaders, who discussed risk mitigation and provided guidance on adjusting waypoints during their voyage to remain out of dangerous waters.
"This is a big effort," said Tomita. "Our group welcomed the Navy and the Coast Guard’s help in making the homecoming a success,"
Tomita said the military is an important part of the Island's Ohana. She said the military provides security and stability at sea on a global scale.
During the homecoming ceremony, more than 40 service members from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam helped people board the free shuttles transporting to and from Magic Island.
"This was a very fulfilling experience for my family and I, we felt blessed to be a part of Hawaiian history in the making," said Joe Rayray, attached to Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific. "We helped people board the shuttle and were greeted with many smiles and 'thank yous'."
The volunteers were able to watch up close as Hōkūleʻa arrived back at home.
"This was an awesome experience helping out the community," said Logistics Specialist First Class Garrett Degler, assigned to Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. "I'm proud to be a part of something so remarkable."