Canoe Building


Canoe Life

Polynesian Migrations

Hawai'i to Tahiti and Return: 1980

Photo Below: Nainoa Thompson




Spr 1995

Sum 1995

"Culturally, the 1976 voyage was ... a great success. Hawaiians and Tahitians regarded the voyage as tangible proof of the nautical abilities of their ancestors, and saw the canoe as a symbol of their heritage as an exploring, pioneering people. However, despite the fact that the canoe had been designed, captained and largely crewed by Hawaiians, many Hawaiians felt that a crucial element had been missing in the venture: a Hawaiian had not navigated the canoe along the seaway between Hawai'i and Tahiti as their ancestors had once done" (Ben Finney; see the 1980 voyage to Tahiti below). Nainoa Thompson, a young Hawaiian on the crew of the 1976 voyage home, set out to learn how to navigate as his ancestors had. In 1980, he successfully guided Hokule'a to Tahiti and back. (See "Finding a Way: 1974-1980" and "The Wayfinder" below.) "In replicating Mau's feat of navigating the canoe to Tahiti, and then guiding it back to Hawai'i, Nainoa was able to validate and extend the results of the 1976 navigational experiment" (Finney).

Nainoa Thompson: "Finding a Way: 1974-1980" (learning to navigate without instruments from navigator Mau Piailug; the 1980 voyage from Hawai'i to Tahiti).

Nainoa Thompson: "The Wayfinder" (navigating from Tahiti to Hawai'i in 1980; this account was originally published in Will Kyselka's Ocean in Mind (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i, 1987).

Ben Finney: the 1980 voyage to Tahiti, originally published in "Voyaging into Polynesia's Past" in From Sea to Space (Palmerston North: Massey University, 1992. 5-65).

Maps: (1) the 1980 voyage to Tahiti and back (color); (2) the 1980 voyage to Tahiti (black and white).

More on the 1980 voyage to Tahiti and back can be found in Will Kyselka's "Ocean in Mind" (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i, 1987) and in David Lewis's "We, the Navigators: The Ancient Art of Landfinding in the Pacific," 2nd Edition (Honolulu: Univ. of Hawai'i Press, 1994, pp. 312-341).

CREW MEMBERS: HAWAI`I-TAHITI, 1980: Nainoa Thompson-Navigator. Pat Aiu, Chad Baybayan, Shorty Bertelmann, Harry Ho, Sam Ka`ai, Buddy McGuire, Marion Lyman-Mersereau, Mau Piailug, Gordon Pi`ianai`a, Steve Somsen, Jo-Anne Sterling. Leon Sterling, Tava Taupu

CREW MEMBERS: TAHITI-HAWAI`I, 1980: Nainoa Thompson-Navigator, Snake Ah Hee, Wedemeyer Au, Chad Baybayan, Bruce Blankenfeld, John Kruse, Kainoa Lee, Kimo Lyman, Gordon Pi`ianai`a, Mau Piailug, Steve Somsen, Leon Sterling, Michael Tongg, Nathan Wong.