Elisha McCord Witt
Elisha McCord Witt passed away on September 8, 2010. He served as a crew member and Communications Officer on the Hōkūle’a on the March 2009 Voyage to Palmyra.
Born on November 17, 1979, Eli was raised in Niu Valley on O‘ahu from age three, attended the Honolulu Waldorf School, and graduated from ‘Iolani School in 1998. He attained his marine sciences degree from Purdue University and Masters of Science from UH Manoa, which included highly regarded research at Coconut Island. He served in the Peace Corps in Western Samoa. Eli taught Oceanography and coordinated Marine Education at the Myron B. Thompson Academy, an online public charter school.
On the worldwide voyage website, Eli wrote concerning the voyage to Palmyra:
Sailing to Palmyra aboard Hōkūle’a will allow students enrolled at Thompson Academy virtual access to the atoll. During the week long stay at Palmyra, a real-time marine science curriculum will augment an accelerated oceanography course, which explores reef biodiversity and other threats to the marine environment, both of which are key issues. Field exercises performed on Coconut Island at the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology on O‘ahu will be performed on Palmyra, empowering students to compare and contrast the two ecosystems, and reflect on the ecological balance of the two environments.
This pilot educational program on Palmyra will probe whether similar activities can be effectively incorporated into the upcoming worldwide voyage. Since educational transformation is a clear goal of the Hōkūle’a sail, it is important that Hawai‘i’s youth are invested in the voyage. Teaching marine biology from remote global locations is one way to connect to classrooms throughout Hawai‘i.
When Eli sailed into Palmyra, Hōkūle’a was escorted by manta rays, 400 melon-headed whales, and 500 to 1,000 bottle-nosed dolphins dancing off the bow. As a crew member blew a conch shell, Eli was even more impressed by the thousands of tropical birds that took flight and began squawking. During his first break, he jumped into one of Palmyra's lagoons and found himself directly above a clam about the size of a football.
"I grew up in Maunalua Bay, where I used to see coral reef rubble and lack of fish," Eli said via a computer telephone hook-up. "Here, it's just beautiful. It's breathtaking. I've never, ever seen a giant clam in Hawai'i. That's an indicator that you need pristine water to have a species like a giant clam. Hawai'i doesn't have clean enough water because of all of the run-off.
"You just look at the reef and it's so delicate. It hasn't been damaged by direct human impact. It's so encouraging to see this here."
Getting young crew members aboard Hokule'a to experience a pristine ecosystem firsthand is part of the PVS dream for its worldwide voyage – spreading the message that everyone needs to get involved to save the world's oceans.