While most of the U.S. mainland celebrates Columbus Day, that Italian who sailed for Spain has no relevance out here in the Pacific. We celebrate Discoverers Day in Hawaii – and you get to pick your discoverer. Some celebrate Captain Cook’s “discovery” of the Sandwich Islands in 1778. Still others plump for a European discovery of Hawaii by Spanish seamen and merchants.
Most of us celebrate the arrival of Polynesians in earlier centuries, the “true” discoverers of Hawaii. The exact timing and their origins depend on which scholars you speak with, but it seems likely they came in successive waves of voyaging canoes from the Marquesas or Tahiti, a thousand years or more ago. This was the culmination of a millennia-long migration of peoples from southern China, south through the Philippines and South East Asia, then eastward through Indonesia and further into the Polynesian Triangle. It was the voyaging canoe that made the latter part of this migration possible, a technology that we are bringing back today.I serve on the board of the Pacific Voyagers Foundation, dedicated to designing and building modern voyaging canoes to move passengers and cargoes to and from underserved islands. We have already built nine vakas, seven of which have completed a voyage from New Zealand to Hawaii to California, back to the Galapagos and eventually to the Solomon Islands. And a round-the-world voyage is in the works.
Watch for our feature-length film, Our Blue Canoe, coming out next year. Check out the trailers. Chicken skin, as we say out here.
Speaking of canoes, and business beyond the reef, the men’s version of the annual Molokai-to-Oahu race, the Molokai Hoe, was run yesterday. The race was in beastly conditions, dead flat or close to it, with a merciless sun beating down. A long tough slog. Kona winds filled in during the last part of the race, bringing little relief and thickening the volcanic smog (vog). There were 100 finishers, led by the incomparable Shell Va’a team from Tahiti. Shell Va’a has won Molokai for seven consecutive years. Two more Tahitian crews were second and third, the first Hawaii crew coming in fourth. Shell Va’a finished the 41-mile course in about 5 1/4 hours, 45 minutes off their record. The 100th finisher, a Hawaii crew composed of paddlers 55 or older, took 8 1/4 hours. Teams were entered from both coasts of the United States, Tahiti, Australia, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, France and Canada. Winners all.