HOKULE'A: The Way to Tahiti by Ben R. Finney

HOKULE'A: The Way to Tahiti

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Some time ago anthropologist Finney took issue with the theories of Thor Heyerdahl and Andrew Sharp about how the Polynesian islands were first settled. Their idea generally was that the settlers were not seamen enough to have sailed against the winds from Indonesia to the thousand islands of Polynesia, but rather must have come with the winds from South America. Finney and others thought that the weight of evidence derived from artifacts on the Polynesian islands could only underscore Indonesia as their source. He decided to build a big canoe along historical lines and sail it from Hawaii to Tahiti and back again, a distance of almost 6,000 miles, just to prove that Polynesian seamanship and shipbuilding were equal to the task. Since the art of shipbuilding in the mode of 5,000 years ago is long lost, the hull was coated with fiberglass; but there were no other compromises in the ship itself, and all navigational devices were abandoned in favor of dead reckoning by their Tahitian pilot. The big canoe, called Hokule'a (""Star of Joy""), was beset with problems from the start, mainly crew problems. The native Hawaiians latched onto the very expensive ship and demanded that it be used to revive the sagging spirit of the Hawaiian peoples, hard-pressed in the modern world. The departure date was nearly blown when Hawaiian crewmen staged a strike for absolute power. At sea, many crewmen slunk into dissidence or fell into doldrums from potsmoking; interfering filmmakers on board added to the despair. (Finney's saga has plenty of uplift but the militant Hawaiians come off poorly indeed.) After ructions on Tahiti, the return voyage--all Hawaiian--was apolitical and peaceful. This illustrates more about society than about seamanship, but the voyage has its wonders.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1979
Publisher: Dodd, Mead