Nainoa Thompson reflects on Malama Honua ahead of Hokulea’s homecoming

Photo: Polynesian Voyaging Society/Oiwi TV

On Friday, May 26, Hokulea crossed the equator, marking an important milestone in her journey north from Tahiti back to Hawaii.

Her homecoming on June 17 marks the conclusion of a historic, three-year worldwide voyage.

Since departing Hawaiian waters in May 2014, Hokulea has sailed more than 31,000 nautical miles and made stops in 16 countries, spreading  the message of Malama Honua, or taking care of the earth, by promoting sustainability, environmental consciousness, and cultural exchanges.

“It’s been a long voyage, 36 months. Hokulea’s been a long 42,000 miles. That’s twice the distance around the earth. We’ve been to nearly 300 ports,” captain and master navigator Nainoa Thompson told Living808. “It really hasn’t sunk in yet. She’s coming home. She’s on her last thousand miles, and we have great, young navigators on board. They’re doing a great job.”

Thompson stresses that Hokulea’s voyage would not have been possible without the people of Hawaii.

“We had a chance to see the earth, but there’s no better place than here,” Thompson said. “I think back about the 32,000 man hours of volunteer time to get Hokulea ready, the six years of preparation of all the crews, and you can’t even account for all the support from everybody in Hawaii. It’s not just that. It’s the prayers and the kind acts, absolutely. We need to thank Hawaii for making the voyage successful.”

Looking back on the past three years, Thompson says the journey came with a unique set of challenges.

“It’s been exhausting. Even though I’m not on the canoe, you still worry,” Thompson admitted. “We’ve been in foreign countries on foreign soil and other places for 700 days. A lot of things could go wrong. It’s a dangerous thing to do.”

While Hokulea’s homecoming marks the end of one chapter in a very special voyage, the journey is far from over.

“The world is changing. It’s the only island in space that we have. The question is are we going to hand our children a world that’s worth it. You can’t protect what you can’t understand and even more if you don’t care,” he said. “We went around the world. We made relationships, connections. Strangers are now friends. We’re working toward the greatest human movement of all time to care for the earth. So we’re meeting these people, building these connections, and that becomes the foundation for the continuing of work through these relationships.”

Hokulea’s return on June 17 will be celebrated at Magic Island with a cultural welcoming ceremony. Tune into KHON2 for a special weekend edition of Wake Up 2day as we cover her homecoming live from Ala Moana.

The week-long celebration will continue with the Malama Honua Fair and Summit, a three-day event at the Hawaii Convention Center, which will highlight the voyaging, cultural, environmental, educational, and health and well-being missions of the Worldwide Voyage by sharing malama honua “stories of hope” and voyage-inspired initiatives and activities with the public. (Click here for more information.)

The event’s inspirational speaker series will feature local and global speakers who have engaged with the Voyage including: Megan Smith, 3rd chief technology officer of the United States; Dieter Paulmann, founder of Okeanos Foundation for the Sea; and Ocean Elders Sylvia Earle, Jean-Michel Cousteau, and Don Walsh.

Registration for these events is now open at

Hokulea crew members perform a deeply significant ceremony to mark the crossing. (Photo: Polynesian Voyaging Society/Oiwi TV)

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