Hokulea and her crew will soon reconnect with their Alaska ‘family’

In 1976 the Hokulea sailed from Hawaii to Tahiti without navigational instruments.
Published: May. 15, 2023 at 5:32 PM HST|Updated: May. 15, 2023 at 5:58 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaiian voyaging canoe Hokulea is now in Juneau, Alaska and will sail along the coastline before embarking on a four-year voyage around the Pacific this summer.

It’s the canoe’s first trip to Alaska, but the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s connections to the area are strong.

In 1976, the Hokulea sailed from Hawaii to Tahiti without navigational instruments. Years later, the Polynesian Voyaging Society had a plan to build a canoe using indigenous materials ― and that search took them to Alaska.

The 1990s film, “In The Wake Of Our Ancestors,” follows Hawaiian voyagers on a search for logs to build a canoe out of traditional materials. But the koa forests of Hawaii were too depleted.

“It’s man that created the depletion of the koa. There really is no excuse. There is really no excuse of the taking of the whole forest,” said Nainoa Thompson, of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, in the film.


In 1990, the journey went to Alaska ― west of Ketchikan ― where two 400-year-old spruce logs were found and donated. After being shipped to Hawaii, carvers built the Hawaiiloa canoe. Hokulea showed Native Hawaiians could reclaim their wayfinding traditions while Hawaiiloa proved they could build it.

Hokulea will be sailing to Yakutat from Juneau later this week. The small town is between Juneau and Anchorage and the only way there is by boat or plane.

Thompson speaks with pride when talking about the connections between Native Hawaiians and Native Alaskans.

SPECIAL SECTION: Hokulea embarks on Pacific Voyage

“We know we are going to go straight to family so we talk about love of family,” Thompson told Hawaii News Now.

Thompson says parts of the four-year voyage around the Pacific will have more treacherous waters than any other voyage, but he says he’ll try to sail as little as possible during Moananuiakea as part of an overdue succession plan.

“I back up to push forward, but the areas of risk, I don’t want to give that to young people so parts of Alaska, I would do. South China Sea, I’m not going to let anyone do that except for me,” said Thompson.