NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hokulea has traveled more than 26,000 miles with stops in 27 countries. The Polynesian voyaging canoe has also sailed through five oceans since departing Hawaii two years ago.
Hokulea has been sailing around the world spreading a message of how important it is to "Malama Honua" -- or care for our island earth -- and there's no bigger platform for that initiative than in New York for the United Nations celebration of World Oceans Day.
Hokulea and her crew will be honored as one of the distinguished guests during a ceremony at the United Nations on Wednesday.
"The fact that United Nations asked us to be the centerpiece for World Oceans Day this year is a great honor for all of us. I mean, not just for the crew and the canoe but for everybody back home," said Billy Richards, a Hokulea captain and one of the original crew members aboard the canoe on its maiden voyage 40 years ago to Tahiti.
"Oh, it's exciting. You know, New York is a real pivotal place with a lot of really neat things going on with people who can make a difference," said Bruce Blankenfeld, pwo (master) navigator and the crew training coordinator for the worldwide voyage.
Crew members have sailed all over the world -- from Samoa to South Africa -- but say each stop along the way has been preparing them for this event in New York.
"This is one of the culminating moments I think of the World Wide Voyage. We're going to the United Nations and we're bringing with us all the messages, the declarations, the stories of hope that we've gathered from around the world," said Jenna Ishii, a Hokulea crew member and education coordinator.
"What better vessel to bring these messages of aloha and bring these messages of commonality and wanting to malama 'aina and malama honua than Hokulea? And so we're just really excited to be here," said Naalehu Anthony, a Hokulea crew member and 'Oiwi TV CEO.
The theme of this year's World Oceans Day is "Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet."
"Our number one focus is raising awareness about the stewardship of the world's oceans. The world's oceans are the number one processor and regulator for climate change. It is also the number one incubator for oxygen," said Baybayan.
As navigators and educators, crew members say this opportunity to share on an international stage what they've learned from communities around the world is critical to their overall mission of a more sustainable planet.
"World Oceans Day is potentially one of the reasons why we've been sailing. I think it's a great thing because we have these opportunities to come together. Share these solutions and ideas that we're using that we could potentially have the ability to duplicate some place else," said Pomai Bertelmann, a Hokulea crew member and educator.
More than a year ago, when Hokule a made her stop in Samoa, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon gifted the crew with a message in a bottle, which he asked them to hold on to for safekeeping until they could return it to him when they successfully reached New York. On Wednesday, crew members will do just that.
"The U.N. is just a milestone of every shore that we've touched -- everywhere that we've gone to spread this message of Malama Honua -- and what we are doing to take care of our island Earth," said Archie Kalepa, a Hokulea captain and safety officer.