Earlier this month, I had the chance to attend the welcome ceremony for the arrival of the Hokulea in Boston. The Hokulea is a replica waʻa kaulua, the type of twin-hulled voyaging canoe used by ancient Polynesians for deep-sea sailing. The Hokulea is currently traveling up the East Coast on the last leg of a three-year circumnavigation of the globe; remarkably, the Hokulea’s crew sails without modern instruments, instead relying entirely on traditional Polynesian navigation methods.
It was an unrelentingly grey and dreary day, but there was a surprisingly big crowd waiting at Fan Pier to greet the Hokulea as it arrived in Boston. When the ship docked, representatives from the Massachusett Tribe greeted the crew on the gangway. In the welcome ceremony that followed, the Hokulea crew formally requested permission to land, and the Hokulea’s captain spoke about the idea of malama honua, or “caring for Island Earth.” After that came a series of performances from a Boston hula group, Samoan dancers, a grass dancer and fancy dancer (whose stamina was absolutely extraordinary), and the intertribal drum group Urban Thunder.
My favorite part was a hula that commemorated the 1992 satellite call between the Hokulea crew and Hawaiian astronaut Lacy Veach on the shuttle Columbia. There’s something staggering about an ancient deep-sea canoe — the same kind used by the first settlers of the Polynesian islands — in contact with a space shuttle orbiting Earth; it’s an incredible reminder that the spirit of exploration is a very old, very fundamental part of humanity.
Pictures of the welcome ceremony are here on the Hokulea’s website.