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Hawai‘i and the voyaging canoe

Hōkūle‘a by Herb Kawainui Kane
Hōkūle'a by Herb Kawainui Kane Courtesy Herb Kane Heritage Trust

Native Hawaiians owe their existence to the voyaging canoe. Long before the “discovery” of Hawai‘i by Captain Cook and other European explorers, the Natives of Polynesia traveled between island groups in voyaging canoes. The sturdy twin hulls made them particularly well suited to long ocean voyages in uncertain seas and weather. The ancestors of Native Hawaiians sailed in search of more hospitable and healthier lands to settle, to avoid conflict with more powerful rival tribal groups, or to explore the open ocean. Traditional navigators relied on acute powers of observation to set their course by ocean swell patterns, star paths across the sky, the flight of various bird species, and even the smell of the breeze or telltale tastes of seawater.