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Hokulea Polynesian Voyaging Society: A Legacy Worth Protecting

By: Steve Frailey Thursday October 29, 2015 comments Tags: polynesians, noni history, canoe plants

Pacific Ocean

In today’s world, where most of us navigate by GPS-enabled smartphones, it’s hard to remember how challenging navigation really is! Particularly for Polynesian explorers, who navigated the Pacific Ocean without even a compass, much less latitude and longitude, navigation was an art form.

The Hokulea Polynesian Voyaging Society helps keep that legacy alive by continuing to practice traditional methods of navigation, which were nearly extinct before they intervened to preserve the ancient knowledge. They also work to raise Polynesian cultural awareness and campaign for environmental preservation.

We want to bring your attention to this organization, because we think they’re doing some really incredible work. After all, the Polynesian colonists who so bravely explored the Pacific had a direct impact on our family’s lives, and the lives of everyone who’s benefited from our noni products. We think that legacy is worth protecting!

Visit their website here, and keep reading to learn more! 

An Epic World-Wide Journey

The Hokulea Polynesian Voyaging Society currently has two Polynesian voyaging canoes, Hokulea and Hikianalia, sailing across Earth’s oceans. Their mission is to campaign for a more sustainable future, while also raising awareness about Polynesian navigation methods and culture.

The Hawaiian name for the voyage, Malama Honua, means “to care for our Earth,” reflecting their mission to spread the idea that “our natural world is a gift with limits and that we must carefully steward this gift if we are to survive together,” as the Hokulea website so eloquently puts it.

The voyage is currently on the way from Mauritius to South Africa, the most dangerous leg of the journey yet, traversing the unpredictable Indian Ocean. They hope to reach Cape Town in mid-November, so keep an eye out for updates! 

The Art of Polynesian Navigation

Whenever I really take time to think about the methods ancient Polynesians used to navigate, I can’t believe they ever made it out of sight of land, much less all the way to the Hawaiian Islands and beyond!

Polynesian way finders didn’t have access to compasses, sextants, or even clocks to establish their position and chart a course. Instead, they used signs from nature to determine direction and location. 

Polynesian Wayfinding Methods

  • Ocean swells, wave patterns, and currents
  • The Star Compass (click here to learn more)
  • Movement of the sun and moon
  • Migratory paths of birds and behavior of animals at sea
  • Wind patterns

You can learn more about how courses are charted by clicking here. 

Noni: Legacy of Polynesian Voyaging

Noni is not actually native to the Hawaiian Islands. It came along with ancient Polynesian explorers and settlers, who brought the plants they needed most to survive along with them in their canoes. Noni was one of these plants, along with many others. 

Polynesian Canoe Plants

The Polynesians colonists brought a wide variety of plants with them, many of which are some of the most common plants on the Hawaiian Islands today. We can’t know for sure what plants they might have brought that didn’t survive the voyage, or which were unsuited to grow in Hawaii. But these are some of the most famous canoe plants, which are widespread on Hawaii.

  • Noni
  • Coconut
  • Taro
  • Breadfruit
  • Sugarcane
  • Banana
  • Bamboo
  • Sweet potato
  • Turmeric

Polynesians chose the plants they brought with them on voyages for a number of reasons. Some, like bamboo and coconut, were used to build structures. Others, like breadfruit, taro, banana, and sweet potato, were dense in calories. Finally, plants like turmeric and noni were understood to be powerful medicine

The Value of Noni

Used both topically and internally, noni was one of the most powerful botanical medicines for ancient Polynesians. It’s for that reason that noni is so widespread across the world today. Ancient Polynesians brought it with them wherever they went—and their explorers were ambitious!

Today, noni can be found in the East Indies, the Hawaiian and other Pacific Islands, all the way across the world to India. It’s a hardy plant that can survive in poor soil, but it needs tropical heat to survive. Needless to say, noni has thrived on the Hawaiian Islands.

We’re grateful every day for the Polynesian explorers who first brought noni and the other canoe plants to Hawaii. The noni trees that fill our valley have been such a gift for my family, and it’s been our honor to spread knowledge of this nutritious plant across the world. The results you share with us in testimonials and reviews are proof that this legacy is worth protecting.

Want to learn more about canoe plants? Click here.

Steve Frailey

About the Author: Steve Frailey

My wife and I (Steve Frailey) moved to Kauai, Hawaii in 1982 from our organic farm in California. There were no roads, electricity, water or buildings but lots of Noni trees (Morinda Citrifolia) in our valley. We also developed a deep relationship with Noni that was growing all through our valley.  Today we run our Hawaiian Organic Noni farm, and share the gift of health with people throughout the world.