An icy sail for Hokulea as voyaging canoe makes history with Hubbard Glacier visit

Hawaiian voyaging canoe Hokulea has now traveled the farthest north it’s ever sailed ― to the famous Hubbard Glacier in Alaska.
Published: May. 31, 2023 at 4:07 PM HST|Updated: May. 31, 2023 at 5:38 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaiian voyaging canoe Hokulea has now traveled the farthest north it’s ever sailed ― to the famous Hubbard Glacier in Alaska.

The journey last week was part of a pre-voyage trek called the “heritage sail,” leading up to an official launch next month where the canoe will voyage around the Pacific for four years.

It takes about an hour to get from Yakutat Boat Harbor to Hubbard Glacier in a small boat.

Before the Hokulea made the journey, Yakutat Lodge charter Captain Larry Bemis takes a couple of Hokulea crew members to observe the conditions.

SPECIAL SECTION: Hokulea Pacific Voyage

Hubbard Glacier is known as the largest glacier in North America that’s created by tidewaters.

It is 76 miles long, 7 miles wide and 600 feet tall, according to the National Park Service.

For perspective, that’s larger than Maunalua Bay on Oahu.

Unlike other glaciers, it appears to defy the effects of climate change by actually growing in size.

“I think it’s awesome. Normally, we only see these things in pictures so to come out here and experience it,” said Dean Tomita, Hokulea crew member.


“I don’t have words. It’s pretty amazing,” he added.

In Alaska, Hokulea nearly 2,800 miles north of her home port in Honolulu. To get close to Hubbard Glacier, it’s a more than 20 mile sail from Yakutat Boat Harbor through Disenchantment Bay.

The crew saw collapsing ice and and tsunami-like waves from the glacier.

And while the sight is intoxicating, Bemis knows it’s best not to overstay your welcome.

The shifting currents are bringing chunks of floating ice.

“Things could change in a matter of minutes for ice flows, currents trying to get us as close as I can without getting us closed off,” said Bemis.

It took about three hours for the Hokulea to sail within a few miles of Hubbard Glacier, but the Hawaiian voyaging canoe can’t get too close as the icebergs could damage its fiberglass hull.

Polynesian Voyaging Society President and pwo (master) navigator Nainoa Thompson jumped on board a smaller vessel to send a message back home to Hawaii as Hokulea made history sailing so far north.

“We are two thirds of the way from the equator towards the North Pole and by the way, it’s like really, really cold,” said Thompson to the camera, holding up a chunk of heavy ice.

“It’s a place of extreme cold, extreme climate, and extreme life,” he added.

Hokulea seems almost out of place in these frigid conditions, but Hawaiian voyagers continue to push their limits and global boundaries for protection of the earth.