Hokulea's crew physician shares treasure trove of memories from - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hokulea's crew physician shares treasure trove of memories from 1976 voyage

(Image: Dr. Ben Young) (Image: Dr. Ben Young)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

On Hokulea's maiden voyage in 1976, Dr. Ben Young served as the crew physician on the returning trip to Hawaii from Tahiti.The crew's medical needs to minor, so Dr. Young spent most of his time documenting the journey. 

Now, Dr. Young is sharing his treasure trove of photographs and memories from the voyage. 

He recalls well-wishers were so excited when they arrived in Tahiti that they nearly sunk the canoe. 

On board illnesses were minor, like seasickness and boils, so Dr. Young began taking photographs in his spare time.

Young way-finders on the trip home included Buffalo Keaulana and Nainoa Thompson. One photo shows Makala Yates, Kainoa Lee and Dr. Young reenacting the spirit of 1776 to honor the bicentennial.

Being at sea also took a toll on some crew members which, Young says, led to conflicts.

Some navigators were focused on honoring the art of Polynesian navigation while others were fueled by scientific discovery. 

"So with the differences like that conflicts, were bound to erupt and they did result in some physical conflicts," Dr. Young said.

Factor in differing ethnic backgrounds, education levels and socio-economics, and tensions built.

Some of it was documented in National Geographic.

"We realized the publicity was so terrible, when we got back we were going to slip into Honolulu Harbor. Once we cleaned up Hokulea, we were going to go to a Chinese restaurant to eat chop suey," Dr. Young said.

But the homecoming was far from quiet.

Dr. Young proudly shows his collection of newspaper clippings where the bold headline of the Honolulu Advertiser proclaims '15,000 greet voyagers with cheers.'"

"Unbelievable. Fantastic. Just thousands of people lining the shores of Oahu," said Dr. Young.

Dr. Young was president of the Polynesia Voyaging Society in 1978 when Eddie Aikau was lost after the Hokulea was swamped in the Molokai Channel, and he took that loss personally.

"My goodness my Lord, if we can only find Eddie, I'll do anything for you Lord and finally you have resolution that we are not going to find him," recalled Dr. Young.

Some thought Hokulea couldn't sail again. He says Governor George Ariyoshi offered to help and he credits Nainoa Thompson's father, Pinky, for galvanizing the crew to continue voyaging.

"Most of us never realized the impact back in the early 70's. None of realize the impact of this simple voyage to Tahiti and back on not only Hawaii but rest of the world," said Dr. Young.

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