Wa'a Wednesday: Hōkūle'aʻs Great Lakes journey

Sept. 7, 2016

Contributed by Shaundor Chillingworth

As Hōkūleʻa finished leg 22 of the Mālama Honua voyage along the east coast of the United States and Nova Scotia, Canada, a new journey has taken the iconic canoe to the Great Lakes for the first time in history.

After sailing through New York via the Hudson River, Hōkūleʻa set sail through the fresh water systems of the Erie Canal, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. The canoe will reach the farthest point north of the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage when she arrives in Sorel, Canada in mid-September and is expected to return to New Jersey by October (weather-permitting).

Leg 23 of the the Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage gives the Hōkūleʻa crew an opportunity to learn about Canada's parks, lakes, rivers and wetlands and what the country is doing to protect and conserve these resources. Canada has one fifth of the world's freshwater.

In traveling towards Canada's locks and waterways, Hōkūleʻa's crew sailed up New York's Hudson River to the Erie Canal to reach Lake Ontario and plans to travel all the way to the Saint Lawrence River in Quebec to access Montreal. The canoe is expected to journey through 52 locks and under 160 bridges, crossing fresh water systems throughout inland Canada.

"Exploration is core to what we do, which is why we are sailing Hōkūleʻa to waters where we never imagined she could go," said Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging society and pwo (master) navigator.

"Because of Canada's lock system and other complexities, the voyaging team has spent months preparing for this leg by researching and studying these waterways," he added.

A lock is a complex waterway system used for raising and lowering watercraft between bodies of water of different levels on rivers and waterways.

The canoe first encountered the waterway lock system in March this year during her Florida sail. However, this current series of locks is the most extensive lock system that the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage has experienced, and the crew will take this time to learn the more intricate details about the physics of the lock system.

One exciting moment along this historic new sail came last week when the canoe crossed paths with a traditional Viking ship.

The encounter happened while Hōkūleʻa was sailing along the Erie Canal. The canoe crossed paths with the Draken Harald Harfagre, a modern day Viking ship from Norway on a similar mission of connecting the ancient ways of sailing with modern-day exploration.

After tying up bow-to-bow with the Draken Harald Harfagre, Hōkūleʻa crew members welcomed the Draken crew on board the traditional Polynesian canoe. They also received the opportunity to board the 114 feet long, 80-ton ship with a 3,200 square foot sail from Norway crafted from oak. The two crews exchanged gifts as a gesture of respect and friendship.

Hōkūleʻa is currently docked in Ogdensburg, NY and will be heading for Ontario, Canada next. After exploring the canal systems of New York and Canada, Hōkūleʻa will begin her journey home by sailing back down the East Coast of the United States.

To follow the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage, visit http://hokulea.com/track-the-voyage.  

Kamehameha Schools is proud to be the Education Sponsor of the Hōkūleʻa Worldwide Voyage. For more information about the Polynesian Voyaging Society and the Worldwide Voyage, visit hokulea.com or find the society on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Google+. To see more Wa‘a Wednesday stories and much more about the Mālama Honua Voyage, go to the KS Online Mālama Honua page.