Education Bullet
Education and Outreach

Cultural Feature: Waʻa, Traditional Double-Hulled Sailing Canoes

Terracing on Nihoa, including agricultural terraces, house foundations, and heiau.
Hōkūle'a sailing in front of Nihoa. Photo Credit: Naʻalehu Anthony

In the 1970's the traditional Polynesian art of wayfinding was revived in the Hawaiian Archipelago and a replica of a traditional waʻa, or Hawaiian double-hulled sailing canoe, was constructed and sailed to Tahiti in 1976. This waʻa is the famed Hōkūleʻa, named after the star Arcturus. Arcturus is the zenith star for Hawaiʻi and voyagers knew they were home when the star was directly overhead and this would bring gladness, so another meaning for Hōkūleʻa is "star of gladness." In 2004 Hōkūleʻa re-connected all the islands in the Hawaiian archipelago by sailing from the Island of Hawaiʻi to Kure Atoll. Today, the tiny island of Nihoa, easternmost island in the Monument, is used as a training waypoint for young navigators learning the traditional art of wayfinding. It is far enough from the main Hawaiian Islands, and small enough, to provide a challenge and allow young navigators to test their skill in non-instrument navigation and thus perpetuate this traditional art.

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