The true story of Hokule'a, her crew and the Hawaiian Renaissance.
A book by Sam Low to be released in May of this year.
Hokule'a begins her voyage around the world in June so the publishing of Hawaiki Rising is particularly timely. As Hokule'a’s navigator, Nainoa Thompson says, “This book is an important part of our olelo, our history, and it contains the mana of all those who helped create and sail Hokule'a.”
Hawaiki Rising tells the story of Hokule'a’s creation at a time when Hawaiian culture was almost lost. “Growing up in Hawaii in the nineteen sixties,” Nainoa writes in the book’s Foreword, “I found my Hawaiian culture ebbing away. I had never seen an authentic hula, attended a traditional ceremony and seldom heard our language spoken. It was a confusing time for me and I felt lost between worlds that seemed in conflict. All that changed one night when Herb Kane introduced me to the stars and explained how my ancestors had used them to find their way across a vast ocean to settle all of Polynesia. At that moment, my vision of my ancestry became timeless and alive in those same stars.”
Hawaiki Rising tells Nainoa’s story for the first time. How he searched the heavens to find patterns lost in time that once allowed his ancestors to find their way accurately across thousands of ocean miles without charts or instruments. Here too is Nainoa’s great mentor, Mau Piailug, from the tiny Micronesian island of Satawal, as he joins forces with Hokule'a’s Hawaiian crew to not only recapture their pride but to help pass on his own seafaring heritage. “Our great teacher, Mau Piailug, taught us to travel always with seram,” says Nainoa, “with the light. He taught us that voyaging aboard Hokule'a was a kuleana, both a privilege and a responsibility: that a voyager sets out to discover new worlds and new values and to bring them home to nourish the spirit of his people.”
The book is populated by the 'ohana wa‘a, the family of the canoe - those men and women who shared the vision of raising distant islands across the sea. Among the crew who are honored is Hawaii’s most famous waterman, Eddie Aikau, who gave his life in a heroic effort to save his crewmates in 1977 when Hokule'a capsized in a fierce storm. Readers of Hawaiki Rising will sail aboard the canoe through powerful gales and mind-dulling calms; gain a primer in the wayfinding art; understand the canoe’s central meaning to Polynesians and enter a spiritual world where a voyage is much more than finding a destination – it is discovering deep personal values that helped Nainoa and his crew navigate not just across oceans but to a deeper understanding of themselves. “On all of our voyages, we have been guided by the wisdom of our elders, our kupuna,” as Nainoa tells us. “Among them is my father, Myron 'Pinky' Thompson, who understood that voyaging is a process in which we are guided by values that are universal. ‘Before our ancestors set out to find a new island,’ my father told me, ‘they had to have a vision of that island over the horizon. They made a plan for achieving that vision. They prepared themselves physically and mentally and were willing to experiment, to try new things. They took risks. And on the voyage they bound each other with aloha so they could together overcome those risks and achieve their vision. You find these same values throughout the world,’ he said, ‘seeking, planning, experimenting, taking risks and caring for each other. The same principles that we used in the past, are the ones that we use today and that we will use into the future. No matter what race we are or what culture we carry, these are values that work for us all.’"
Hawaiki Rising is the story of an astonishing revival of Hawaiian culture by voyagers who sailed deep into their ancestral past to bring seram – the light – back home to their island community.
THE BOOK IS AT THE PUBLISHERS - LOOK FOR MAY 2013 RELEASE.
Growing up in Hawaii - a world of two competing cultures, ancient and modern -
a young man finds his way by voyaging in the paths of his ancestors.
The stars circled Earth before there were eyes to see them. When the planet cooled, human beings followed them across unblemished desert, tundra and ocean. As the walls of Troy were falling to the Greeks, Polynesian explorers sailed star paths across the world’s greatest ocean to settle one third of Earths’ surface. They voyaged aboard powerful double canoes, some more than a hundred feet long, against prevailing winds and currents. And they did this when Greek mariners still hugged the coast of an inland sea and Europe was populated by stone age farmers. Yet by the turn of the twentieth century, this story had been lost and Polynesians had become a destitute minority in their own land. Ask mainland people today about this ancient sea people and you will be told of Kon Tiki, a false tale of raft-bourn drifters at the mercy of wind and wave.
Yet the ancient story lived among Hawaiian families who guarded their ancestral lore – the language, hula, curing practices and the traditional rituals. It was the gospel of their culture and it did not die, it went underground – a guttering flame waiting to be reborn. Then, in 1973, three men – a scientist, an artist and a famous waterman – joined to recreate a Hawaiian voyaging canoe, Hokule’a, and sail her on the epic voyages celebrated in oli and mele.
Hawaiki Rising tells this story in the words of the men and women who voyaged aboard Hokule’a. They speak of growing up at a time when their Hawaiian culture was in danger of extinction and their future in their own land was uncertain. We join Ben Finney, Tommy Holmes and Herb Kane as their vision of a sleek voyaging canoe takes shape in a Honolulu shipyard. We meet Nainoa Thompson, a young man of twenty-two when Hokule’a is launched. We follow him as he looks skyward with eyes unfettered by preconceptions to see ancient and holistic patterns ignored by Western astronomers and navigators. With Mau Piailug, a pwo navigator from Satawal, we embark on a voyage from Hawaii to Tahiti and learn how he finds his way by subtle signs in nature. We experience the heartbreaking loss of Eddie Aikau – Hawaii’s most famous waterman – when Hokule’a capsized after an ill conceived voyage in 1978. And we are present as new leaders vow to continue voyaging to both honor Eddie’ life and to seek a renewal of their traditional values. Overcoming fear by trusting in the vision of islands rising from the sea, Nainoa and his crew make landfall in the Tuamotus in 1980 – the first Hawaiians to navigate the Pacific without charts or instruments in a thousand years.
The book’s title - Hawaiki Rising – contains the kaona, the hidden meaning, that animates this story. It refers to the Hawaiian homeland; to an ancient image of newly discovered islands rising from the sea; to the mythic story of Maui who fished up land with his magic hook; and to the resurgent pride of all Hawaiians as Eddie Aikau’s dream of seeing Tahitian mountains rise over the horizon is finally realized.
When Hokule’a crew member Sam Ka’ai carved the ki’i that adorn the canoe’s twin sterns, a dream came to him of a blind man reaching to the heavens. “This is an effigy of how we are after so many years of oppression,” Sam tells us. “Blind to our past, we reach up to grasp heaven one more time. The same stars are rising as they did for our fathers for many, many generations. So if you lose your way - remember that you once sailed on your mother’s lap and you were never lost. The stars turned minute by minute, hour by hour, dawn and dusk and you always came home or your kind wouldn't be here. This is an effigy of the Hokule’a experience – the ohana wa’a, the family of the canoe. He is reaching above himself, beyond himself, to the story that has not changed, the forever and ever story. He is showing that we are taking hold of the old story once again.”
By Nainoa Thompson
Growing up in Hawaii in the nineteen sixties, I found my Hawaiian culture ebbing away. I had never seen an authentic hula, attended a traditional ceremony and seldom heard our language spoken. It was a confusing time for me and I felt lost between worlds that seemed in conflict. All that changed one night when Herb Kane introduced me to the stars and explained how my ancestors had used them to find their way across a vast ocean to settle all of Polynesia. At that moment, my vision of my ancestry became timeless and alive in those same stars.
Our canoe, Hokule’a, and our dreams have now carried us over one hundred and fifty thousand miles of ocean, following in the wake of our ancestors who discovered and settled Polynesia. It has been a process of finding ourselves not only as Hawaiians, as ku ‘aina, native to these islands, but also as native to planet Earth. On all of our voyages, we have been guided by the wisdom of our elders, our kupuna. Among them is my father, Myron “Pinky” Thompson, who understood that voyaging is a process in which we are guided by values that are universal. "Before our ancestors set out to find a new island," my father told me, "they had to have a vision of that island over the horizon. They made a plan for achieving that vision. They prepared themselves physically and mentally and were willing to experiment, to try new things. They took risks. And on the voyage they bound each other with aloha so they could together overcome those risks and achieve their vision. You find these same values throughout the world,” he said, “seeking, planning, experimenting, taking risks and caring for each other. The same principles that we used in the past, are the ones that we use today and that we will use into the future. No matter what race we are or what culture we carry, these are values that work for us all."
Hokule’a embodies the mana, the spiritual power and wisdom, of all who have sailed aboard her or laid their caring hands on her. Our great teacher, Mau Piailug, taught is to travel always with seram, with the light. He taught us that voyaging aboard Hokule’a was a kuleana, both a privilege and a responsibility: that a voyager sets out to discover new worlds and new values and to bring them home to nourish the spirit of his people. As we continue to explore new sea-paths, we celebrate the founders of our voyaging society, Herb Kane, Ben Finney and Tommy Holmes, whose tenacious pursuit of their vision of an ancient canoe traveling ancestral sea paths gave birth to Hokule’a. We follow the guiding stars that Will Kyselka helped us discover by his constant encouragement and support. As we raise new islands and new lands from the sea, we realize the dream of Eddie Aikau, who gave his life for his vision of seeing Tahitian mountains rising from the distant horizon. And we are inspired by the wisdom given to us by astronaut Lacy Veach who, from his vantage point in space, taught us to see our world holistically so that we might know that we are all one and that we might malama, care for, our planet so that Earth may sustain all human life. As we sail on into the future all these people and many, many more - our kupuna - sail with us.
The vision of Hokule’a was conceived in 1973, so the publishing of this book marks the 40th anniversary of her conception. Sam Low, the author, has sailed with us. He has been a documenter on three voyages, written numerous articles and now, after ten years of work, has finished Hawai’iki Rising. This book is an important part of our olelo, our history, and it contains the mana of all those who helped create and sail Hokule’a.
Excerpts from the book
Christina Thompson - author of the Come On shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All published by Bloomsbury (and now working on a major book for Harper Collins on Polynesia) has this to say:
“I adore the portraits of the various players, including minor ones – this is a huge strength of the book: your intimate knowledge of the people, the details of their own personal histories, how they came together to make this happen, what it meant to each of them. I think that is FANTASTIC and I haven’t seen it anywhere else....
Also the pacing is great. A good read. Fast, interesting...
I have got to tell you that I think this book is a classic. Really. There are a handful of books on this subject and every one of them is important, We the Navigators, East is a Big Bird, Kyselka’s book, etc., but your book is absolutely one of this group of four or five. It’s amazing.”
Michael J. Ambrosino, creator of the PBS series - Nova, Odyssey and The Ring of Truth, read the book when it was a pdf file manuscript:
"It is a wonderful book; graceful, exciting, informative, well paced with lively action. You succeeded in the most difficult task. You put me right on the canoe.
The education of Nainoa, with all its complications was a delight. I am with him in his doubts and worries and follow him in joy as he learns to trust himself. Mau comes across as a fully developed character and the difference and similarities with Nainoa made for an interesting story.
All in all, a really fine job. I raced along, ran upstairs and printed out 50 pages at a time and ran back downstairs to "get back to sea...”
Sam Low has sailed aboard Hokule’a on three voyages – from Mangareva to Rapa Nui in 1999, Tahiti to Hawaii in 2000 and from Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia to Satawal in 2007. He also accompanied the canoe aboard an escort vessel from Tahiti to the Marquesas and on to Hawaii in 1995. The story of Polynesian voyaging has fascinated him most of his life. In 1983, after traveling throughout Polynesia, Sam produced his award winning film, The Navigators – Pathfinders of the Pacific, shown nationally on PBS and internationally on television venues throughout the world. Sam is the author of many articles on Hokule’a and her meaning to Polynesians. He served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific from 1964 to 1966 and earned a Ph.D. degree from Harvard (in anthropology) in 1975. He is one-quarter Hawaiian. Nainoa Thompson is his cousin, a relationship which has provided unparalleled access to the main protagonist of this story. (www.samlow.com)