Visiting Hōkūleʻa and meeting a Pwo Navigator

Today, April 19th, 2019,  instead of studying and reading how the ancient Hawaiians voyaged across the sea, we got to talk to a real pwo navigator about how they actually did it. Our group met at the Hawaiian Convention Center on the Ala Wai Canal, where the Hōkūleʻa was moored.

The team had a mini tour of the canoe by one of the Kilo ʻĀina instructors Anuschka Faucci. She showed us everything from the storage to the bathroom of the canoe. Most importantly, she showed us reflectors placed on the sides of the canoe acting as an indicator or guide to use Nainoa Thompson’s star map. The reflectors help the navigators understand the direction they are moving and were they are on the ocean.


Hokulea in Ala Wai

#LIVE: Check it out! We're on board the Hokulea as its docked at the Ala Wai to celebrate the official completion of its Malama Honua worldwide tour.MORE: #HINews

Posted by Hawaii News Now on Friday, April 19, 2019


When the tour ended, Anuschka introduced us to pwo navigator Onohi Paishon. We discussed the major questions our group encountered. If we wanted to sail to Tahiti could we do it at anytime of the year? Do navigators use all the stars? If not, what are the major stars that are used to navigate? What is the significance of each star while navigating? If the nights become cloudy and make it unable tosee stars, how are you able to navigate? The first question had a simple answer, “yes, you could”, however, Onohi Paishon explained, not everyday is a good day or time of year to sail. He began talking about intuition of the captain and knowledge passed down of when it is the best time or day of the year to sail to a certain place, in this case, Tahiti. The second question was explained by way of personal reference, he said any star can guide you any place you’d like to go, however, each star has its own identity, “That star could mean this, this, and this. And that star represents this, this, and this. That star will sail me to this place at this time of year and that star means the oceans move like this.” There is no one star that is more important than the other but each star can tell the navigator what’s going to happen if you follow it. That last question, again, had a simple answer, “You stop and wait until there’s a break. That way, if you are off and not sure where you are, you don’t dig yourself a deeper hole.”

– Branden


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