Hokuleʻa and Hikianalia are set to depart from Hilo Friday morning for Tahiti on the first leg of their worldwide voyage.
Hokuleʻa has made the journey many times since her maiden trip in 1976, which was crucial to the resurgence of traditional navigation practices, as Hawaiian voyagers proved to the world our ancestors intended to settle in the islands and didn't drift here by accident.
Hikianalia is a much younger waʻa, or canoe, but officials say she's impressive. While many know her as Hokuleʻa's escort canoe, they say she's so much more -- a floating classroom, science center and communications hub.
Hikianalia is Hokuleʻa's modern-day counterpart complete with state of the art technology that will allow of Hawaiʻi and the rest of the planet to participate and engage in the worldwide voyage.
"On every single leg ʻOiwi TV will have a crew member on each canoe -- taking stills and video and collecting blogs -- and sending them back to people in Hawaiʻi so that we can share them with people all over the world," described Maui Tauotaha, the ʻOiwi TV crew member assigned to Hikianalia.
According to Tauotaha, the first piece of the puzzle that makes that possible are the Ubiquiti antennaes that create a marine wifi network between the two waʻa.
"It's like a big ethernet cable in the middle of the ocean so we can send files back and forth. We can video conference and we can enable video conferencing through our google hangouts with schools," Tauotaha explained.
As ʻOiwi TV crew captures images and video of the journey, the rest of the world will get to experience it in real time thanks to the Fleet Broadband satellite dish onboard.
"The way we're going to get all this media from the middle of the ocean back home to Hawaiʻi to distribute across the world is through our little buddy over here R2D2," said Tauotaha pointing to the dish. "We just fire him up and send stuff up to the satellite and it goes back home. It's pretty cool."
A media center was built into a hale at the center of the canoe, in hopes it will protect the technology from sea water and the salty air.
"The communications platform is very important for this voyage -- this "Malama Honua" voyage -- to spread the message to keiki and people all over the earth to let them know that we need to take better care of our oceans. Our oceans are sick right now, so we'll be going around the world sharing stories of how people take care of their oceans and take care of their land and we're really grateful to have this technology to be able to engage children from all over the world and share the message and have people communicate together and work together because there's a lot of work to be done," said Tauotaha.
16 solar panels will keep all of Hikianalia's electric components powered -- and most importantly her back-up engines -- should she need to tow Hokulea or respond to an emergency.
"In case of that one little moment when she's needed for an emergency of any type, she can position herself a lot better than Hokuleʻa can. Hokuleʻa is purely a sailing waʻa with no motors," said Pwo navigator and Hikianalia captian Bruce Blankenfeld. "Her very purpose is to be a companion vessel to Hokuleʻa so they'll sail together."
As high-tech as Hikianalia is, crew members are quick to point out they'll still be sailing her as a traditional voyaging canoe -- and just like Hokuleʻa will not use any modern-day instruments to navigate.
"Everything's going to be the same. The language is still going to be the same. The commands. The calls and responses. The navigating off the rail for the sunrise and sunsets -- everything's the same," said Hauʻoli Smith, Hikianalia's first mate. "That's how it's been done, that's how it will be done and that is the mana of the Polynesian voyaging society."
Officials say Hikianalia's features make their "Malama Honua" mission possible -- by helping them create global relationships and collect best practices for caring for our oceans and planet.
"We're really grateful to have this technology to be able to engage children from all over the world and share the message and have people communicate together and work together, because there's a lot of work to do," said Tauotaha.
Crew members say there's a deeper message also at play-- the validity of native ancient wisdom in a modern world.
"Hawaiʻi is not only a beautiful place, but has a beautiful spirit that our ancestors laid down for us. It's something that's very valid, very valid and can be shared and with the capabilities that we have of traveling and gathering knowledge from others that is just as valid, just as beautiful, just as deep -- and sharing it here at home as well as echoing across the planet constantly -- I think that's going to be a nice beautiful shift in reshaping history," said Blankenfeld with a smile.
A satellite tracker onboard will allow anyone to keep an eye on Hikianalia and Hokuleʻa on their worldwide voyage, by following their journey on Google Maps. For more information, log on to: hokulea.com