Discovering Hawaii

Hawaiian Sailing Canoes

Polynesians Made Long Ocean Voyages With Only The Stars as Their Guide

Across the vast ocean sailed a stalwart people into the pillars of the rising sun. They ventured forth towards the untouchable horizon until they entered the realm known today as Polynesia.

These journeys were on large sailing canoes that were specifically designed for these long voyages. Soon these people settled virtually every habitable island and atoll within the Central Pacific Ocean. The earliest migrations to Hawaii, which originated from the Marquesas Islands, are said to date back over two thousand years. Subsequent migrations to this archipelago, from Raiatea in the Society Islands, flourished during the 11th and 12th centuries.

At this time, we shall voyage into new horizons with some of those early kanaka maoli (Native Hawaiians) who settled the Hawaiian Islands.

The homelands were inundated with ‘newcomers’ whose imposing customs, philosophies, and religious rituals were contrary to the teachings of the ancient ones. Warring between island districts escalated and threatened to envelop the isolated community. The elders of the village gathered together to contemplate the impending dangers. At this council meeting, an eminent seer brought forth her message. She had ventured in her spirit form and was shown new lands located many nautical miles beyond the horizon. It was unanimously decided by all in the council to send a contingent to resettle in this archipelago. The leaders of the village assigned the necessary tasks in order to hasten the expedition.

Hawaiian Sailing Canoe

While modernized, the Hawaiian sailing canoe is still used and enjoyed today

Finally, the day arrived for the four large sailing canoes to depart. Venturing into unexplored waters, the navigator plotted his course by the heavenly signs that were previously charted by the seer of the village. The steersmen helped to keep the vessels on course, and the canoe bailers always remained alert in order to keep the vessels afloat.

Signs of certain sea birds, varied coloration in the clouds, debris floating on the ocean waters, and a particular scent in the air foretold of land nearby. Sure enough, the course of the sailing fleet headed straight for these dark features that suddenly appeared on the horizon.

Now, a safe landing area or sheltered bay was sought as the canoes encircled the island for the first time. The ocean waters along the reefs and shoreline sparkled with hues of turquoise and aqua-blue. Water cascading down the cliffs could be seen in the interiors of the island. Lush velvet green terrain enveloped the valleys and mountain sides. Amongst the reefs, silvery-colored schools of fish could be seen shimmering in the sunlight.

Landfall was safely made! Still, many tasks lay ahead for these voyagers as they began their new journey on these “lands of the rainbows.”

© 1997-2011 Aloha from Hawaii