Hōkūleʻa’s Voyage to Rapa Nui Tests Skill of Apprentice Navigators
With more than 1,600 miles traveled since leaving the Galapagos Islands 12 days ago, Hawaiʻi’s iconic voyaging canoe Hōkūleʻa is facing one of the most challenging legs of the voyage under the direction of the crew’s apprentice navigators.
The canoe’s destination, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), is considered one of the most difficult islands to find due to its remote location and its tiny size, just 13 miles wide and 1,600 feet high. The crew is expected to reach the island in about four days.
“The leg to Rapa Nui presents a unique learning opportunity for the young navigators to test their wayfinding abilities and refine the skills needed to navigate aboard Hōkūleʻa,” said Pwo navigator and captain Nainoa Thompson. “It’s so important that we provide ample opportunities for our next generation of navigators to explore the ocean and the complexities of wayfinding.”
The 1,900 nautical mile trek from the Galapagos Islands to Rapa Nui is characterized by direct headwinds that create difficult conditions to balance the canoe against wind and wave patterns.
“The big challenge is not just beating into the wind, the problem is you’re trying to find the single-most isolated landmass on the Earth. It’s smaller than Lānaʻi and a little bigger than Kahoʻolawe,” said Thompson. “Even if you’re extraordinarily precise, you could still miss it. And so it is one of the ultimate navigational challenges of all time.”
A team of four apprentice navigators have been team-navigating and turning studies into practice since departing the Galapagos Islands on Feb. 12, 2017. They have been using their knowledge of the stars and taking directional cues they derive from their observations of nature.
Learning from kupuna, or elders, to raise the next generation of wayfinders, the crew is a multi-generational group combining science, wisdom, and instinct to form one of the most challenging trials for the young navigators.
Following Rapa Nui, Hōkūleʻa will sail to French Polynesia before her return home to Magic Island on June 17, 2017.