Hōkūle‘a: The First Voyage Sailing Into History


We must know where we came from to appreciate where we are and know where we’re going

More than 600 years, long-distance deep-sea voyaging in Hawai‘i ended. There were no voyaging canoes, no voyagers, no navigators. There were no Hawaiian language schools, use of the Hawaiian language was suppressed, traditional hula suppressed, and the pride of a culture suppressed. It is in this environment that in the early 1970s, three men dared to dream, and against all odds, garnered enough support to build and launch a voyaging canoe they called Hōkūle‘a. But Hōkūle‘a would only serve her purpose if she became a vessel for voyagers and a navigator who could sail her across the ocean to an island unseen, guided only by nature’s clues. Had Hōkūle‘a’s maiden voyage to Tahiti and back failed, the theory of purposeful, skilled settling of Hawai’i would fail, the resurgence of pride and identity denied and Hōkūle‘a’s current voyage around the world with a message of Malama Honua, caring for our earth, would not be.

But consider this. Within the span of one year, a group of scientists and watermen and women with full-time jobs had to learn how to voyage, how to live on a 60’x20’ canoe for a month, how to have faith in the unknown. And they had to entrust their success to the skill of a navigator without modern-day instruments, who never sailed south of the equator, never been to Tahiti.

Hōkūle‘a: The First Voyage Sailing Into History takes viewers into that time of such great uncertainty with so many unknowns, and when so much was at stake. Who were these first voyagers? What did master navigator Mau Piailug tell these voyagers 40 years ago, on the shore of Honolua Bay, Maui on May 1, 1976 before boarding Hōkūle`a and embarking on this epic journey. What was going through the voyager’s minds? How did these vastly different groups of men get along in such cramped quarters? What was it like living on the canoe? Why did the Coast Guard have to make an airdrop mid-voyage? What was their reception in Tahiti and upon a triumphant return to Hawai’i?

KHON2 was there at departure, there in Tahiti and at Magic Island for Hōkūle‘a’s return. Crew member Billy Richards filmed the voyage to Tahiti and gave KHON2 unlimited access. Crew member Ben Young took photos on Hōkūle‘a’s voyage home to Hawai‘i and has provided them to KHON2. Hōkūle‘a crew member, and now captain, navigator and president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society will paint the picture of context – the significance of Hōkūle‘a’s maiden voyage and how her mission, though still to explore, is now allowed to grow globally and inspire a movement of caring.

Hōkūle‘a: The First Voyage Sailing Into History premiered on Nov. 22. You can watch it in its entirety online here or catch rebroadcasts at the following dates and times:

  • Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 9:30 p.m. on Hawaii’s CW
  • Sunday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m. on KHON2
  • Saturday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. on KHON2
  • Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, at 8 p.m. on KHON2