Maui News

Hōkūleʻa Conquers Navigational Challenge of Finding Rapa Nui

February 27, 2017, 5:05 PM HST
* Updated February 27, 5:13 PM
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Hōkūleʻa voyage to Rapa Nui. PC: Nāʻālehu Anthony/Polynesian Voyaging Society/ʻŌiwi TV.

The crew of Hōkūleʻa arrived safely at Rapa Nui today after sailing for about 16 days across approximately 1,900 nautical miles of deep ocean. A team of four apprentice navigators successfully spotted the tiny remote island of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) about 43 nautical miles out at sunset on Sunday.

“Finding Rapa Nui was by far one of the biggest challenges our crew has faced,” said Hōkūleʻa captain, Archie Kalepa. “With a few more months left in this journey, we’re glad to be back in Polynesian waters and for the opportunity to reconnect with the Rapa Nui community.”

Hōkūleʻa voyage to Rapa Nui. PC: Nāʻālehu Anthony/Polynesian Voyaging Society/ʻŌiwi TV.

This is the first time Hōkūleʻa has visited the UNESCO World Heritage Site since her last voyage to the island 18 years ago. The Rapa Nui arrival also marks the voyaging canoe’s return to the Polynesian triangle since departing these waters three years ago on its Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage.

The team of apprentice navigators have been working together on navigating and turning studies into practice since departing the Galapagos Islands on Feb. 12, 2017. They have been guiding the way by using their knowledge of the stars and taking directional cues derived from their observations of nature. Because of its tiny size and remote location, Rapa Nui is considered one of the most difficult islands to find using traditional wayfinding.

Hōkūleʻa voyage to Rapa Nui. PC: Nāʻālehu Anthony/Polynesian Voyaging Society/ʻŌiwi TV.


After making landfall in Rapa Nui, the crew will be joined by a teacher and student delegation from Hawaiʻi and the group will spend the week participating in cultural and educational engagements with Rapa Nui leaders and the community. Activities will include meeting both the Governor and Mayor of Rapa Nui, a visit to the kupuna (elders) of Hare Koa Tiare Care Home, and a tour of Museo Rapa Nui. The crew and delegation will also connect with the Toki School of Music for a day of community service and voyaging outreach.


With famed archaeological sites including nearly 900 monumental statues called moai and an isolated environment rich with unique diversity, the small volcanic island of Rapa Nui represents an opportunity for the crew to learn more about the island’s status as a World Heritage Site as well as the strong cultural history of its Polynesian ancestors.

Following Rapa Nui, Hōkūleʻa will sail to French Polynesia before her return home to Magic Island on June 17, 2017.

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