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Apr 15 14

Hokule’a Log: Voyage to Rapa Nui Part 3

by vrecinto


In preparation for the start of the Worldwide Voyage in May 2014, we are pleased to re-post Sam Low’s stories about the Hokulea’a.

Hokule’a Log: Voyage to Rapa Nui – Part Three
By Sam Low

In 1999 Hokule’a – a replica of an ancient Polynesian voyaging canoe – set out from Mangareva to voyage to Rapa Nui (Easter Island).  Her Navigator, Nainoa Thompson, would find his way as his ancestors once did – without charts, compass or instruments of any kind. This is part three of a multipart series. Please feel free to share this. Aloha.

The Weather Guru

The navigators are getting to know Guy Raoulx pretty well. He is French/Tahitian, short (about five foot six) and wiry – a man of intense energy. Guy is the Chef Meterologiste of the weather station and as such is entitled to a home overlooking the lagoon and a limitless expanse of ocean. Today we can only imagine his view because the front continues stalled over Mangareva and where the lagoon should be we can see only rain and cloud. Guy has served in the meteorological service (the French call it the Meteo) for about 25 years, spending time, to his great delight, at almost every station in French Polynesia. Thinking about Guy’s travels and his rent-free house overlooking the lagoon causes Chad Baybayan to proclaim, “I could do this.”

Every day, at about 11 AM, Guy launches a weather balloon from a hanger the size of a one-car garage perched above the harbor on the slopes of Mount Duff. Today we watch him as he squats in the hanger’s open door, the balloon in his left hand tugging for release. “I am waiting for a lull in the wind,” he explains. A few moments later he sprints out the open door and – with a ballet dancer’s pirouette – launches his balloon. He returns to the hanger, grinning, apparently as delighted with his performance as we are.

“That was a good one,” he announces, “but you should see what happens when the wind comes from there (pointing out toward the sea). No matter how far I run before launching – bam – it goes into the trees. And sometimes it takes off quite unpredictably. I have had it crash into the instrument tower more than once, wrapping itself around all the antennas. What a mess.” Guy’s monologue is accompanied by expansive pumping and waving of arms, a repertoire of gestures expressive of his Gaelic genes.

The news posted by radio signals from Guy’s balloon as it ascends though the atmosphere at 200 meters a minute, is not good. Just as Nainoa feared, the weak low pressure system forming to the northeast of Mangareva has, if anything, intensified – stalling the passage of the front – pushing it back even. The forecast is for continued unsettled weather. By Saturday, the front may pass to the east bringing favorable winds from the northeast but also continued clouds and rain. Nainoa, staring out the door of the Meteo says, “I look out here and I can’t even see the islands a mile away. There is no way we can navigate in this stuff.”

Guy’s weather maps show a trough of low pressure pushing down across the island like the impression of a giant thumb. The thumb is predicted to move east by mid-day on Saturday, allowing the winds to begin to haul around to the west, southwest, and south – all favorable for a direct run across to Pitcairn Island. But will the prediction hold? And, if it does, how long will the winds remain in a favorable direction before continuing to round about and begin to blow in our face?

Sunday, September 19, Rikitea

On Friday, the town had a party for the crew to say goodbye so that we would be free to depart at short notice. On Saturday night the crew and our hosts enjoyed a special dinner at a local restaurant.

The crew has been working aboard Hokule’a for the last few days. Sails are rigged, the gear stowed away, emergency drills have been performed and the new crewmembers have blended with those already here. Kama Hele is provisioned and fueled.

Sunday dawns with a partly cloudy sky and a light wind from the northeast. The crews of Kama Hele and Hokule’a have moved their personal gear aboard to be ready to sail at short notice. At about four PM, we receive word that we should be ready to depart for Rapa Nui tomorrow at first light. All of us are excited by the prospect ahead – to participate in one of the most important of voyages in Hokule’a's nearly twenty-five years of sailing.

Monday, September 20, Rikitea

Monday dawns with slack winds. The surface of the ocean is like a lake. The sky is almost totally overcast. The hoped-for favorable winds and clear skies do not materialize and so departure is cancelled. The crew stands down and, after breakfast at the beach house, go about various chores. On Hokule’a, Bruce Blankenfeld briefs the crew on procedures for safety at sea.

Ever since the unfortunate loss of Eddy Aikau during the 1978 voyage, safety has been paramount aboard both Hokule’a and her escort. Each crewmember is issued their own personal flotation device, safety harness, whistle and strobe light. If anyone falls overboard, the waterproof strobe will assist in finding them at night. Both Hokule’a and Kama Hele are also equipped with a man overboard device that contains a life ring for flotation, an extra whistle, and two strobe lights – one on top and one on the bottom of a long pole designed to float upright. Should anyone fall overboard, the device is tossed into the water. The strobe on the bottom will begin blinking automatically to assist in spotting it. The person in the water will swim to the light, grab the life ring and flip a switch to illuminate the top strobe. The ring is attached to the canoe by a long line which a crewmember will pull in when they see the top light illuminated. In the meantime, the crew of the canoe will maneuver to stop the vessel.

“Safety is our most important consideration at sea,” Bruce tells the crew. “We must always be on guard against any kind of accident. Always watch out for everyone on the canoe. Overlook nothing. Be vigilant at all times.”

Both Hokule’a and Kama Hele are now ready for sea, waiting only for favorable winds and clear skies. The first leg of the journey to Rapa Nui will be to Pitcairn Island, a little over 300 miles away. Once having found Pitcairn, the navigators will begin the voyage to Rapa Nui from a known point in the ocean.

“Getting to Pitcairn is very important,” Nainoa told us in a recent crew briefing, “so I want to leave Mangareva with both favorable winds and a clear sky so that we can navigate. We will just have to be patient and wait until the conditions are right. But, as soon as they are, we will jump off.”

Author Sam Low has recently published a book about Hokule’a called Hawaiki Rising – Hokule’a, Nainoa Thompson and the Hawaiian Renaissance.

This is a logbook and Sam takes all responsibility for errors in spelling and any other kind.

Apr 3 14

Tea Chats with JoAnn Aguirre

by vrecinto

tea 5

JoAnn Aguirre, owner of Teaching Tea, will cover various tea topics over the next few months, and in honor of Merrie Monarch, she will kick off our series with A Tea Tribute to the Hula Dancer. Her first presentation, which includes a discussion as well as tasting of tea and freshly baked goods, will be available free to the public on Thursday, April 10th from 2 to 3pm.

It was Aguirre’s grandmother who introduced her to the pleasures of tea at a very early age. This was the beginning of her lifelong love for tea and has become the foundation of her own cherished tea rituals and traditions. Once a school teacher and university professor she parlayed her career in teaching into sharing her passion for tea. In 2008, Aguirre was diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer and underwent sixteen months of chemotherapy. At that difficult time in her life she turned to her daily tea ritual for relief from the debilitating effects of chemotherapy.

She discovered then that tea goes a long way in providing individuals with their own private sanctuary, a time for reflection and reaffirmation of one’s innermost emotional well being.

Today, Aquirre finds joy in sharing her passion with others. What was once a hobby is now a full time business as she is the owner of the charming Hilo tea shop called Teaching Tea.

Upcoming Tea Talks will be held on the second Thursday of the month at 2pm.

Mark your calendars for Thursday, May 8: Medical Benefits of Tea for Women, as well as Thursday, June 12: Real Men Do Drink Tea.

Mar 28 14

Domingo Los Banos Presents His Filipino Story

by vrecinto


As part of the Smithsonian traveling exhibition “I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story,” ‘Imiloa invites you to join Hawaii born lecturer Domingo Los Baños for an inspiring talk about the experience of Filipino troops in World War II on Thursday, April 17, at 4 pm. a viewing of the PBS documentary that he was a part of putting together will also be shown.

Born on O’ahu in 1925, but raised in Kalaheo, Kaua’i, the son of Filipino immigrants, Domingo Los Baños attended Kaua’i High School and studied at the University of Hawai’i before enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1944 during WWII. While in the Army, Los Baños served as an infantryman with the 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment, comprised almost entirely of Filipino-Americans, in action against enemy Japanese soldiers on Samar, Philippine Islands in 1945.

Los Baños vowed that if he survived the war he would teach the next generation the need for peace and understanding among people, the antithesis of conflict and war.

Following his military discharge, Los Baños prepared himself to fulfill his pledge by earning a B.S. in physical education from Springfield College and a M.S. in physical education at Teacher’s College, Columbia University.

During his many years as a teacher, coach, principal and school superintendent in Hawai’i, and thereafter, he kept his promise.

View the documentary produced for PBS by Stephanie Castillo entitled “An Untold Triumph: The Story of the 1st & 2nd Filipino Infantry Regiments, U.S. Army“. More than 150,000 Filipinos immigrated to the United States from the Philippines between 1906 and 1935, in search of the American Dream. Facing discrimination and hard times in California and all along the west coast, thousands of Filipinos worked in agricultural fields, in the service industry, and in other low paying jobs. The war provided the opportunity for Filipinos to fight for the United States and prove their loyalty as Americans. At top strength the Regiments, known as “California’s Own,” numbered 7,000 strong. Please join us and view the heroic story of these unsung heroes as revealed through interviews and never before seen archival footage, narrated by acclaimed Filipino American actor Lou Diamond Phillips.

Cost is $8 for members, $10 general admission. Pre-purchase tickets at the ‘Imiloa front desk or by phone at 969-9703.



Mar 28 14

PISCES Talk on “Living Off the Land”

by vrecinto

Rover Capital Flyer Picture LO RES with Logo

Next Maunakea Skies Talk April 18, 2014

Speakers:  Rob Kelso and Rodrigo Romo of the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES)

Topic: Living Off The Land

Time: Friday April 18, 2014 at 7 p.m. in the ‘Imiloa Planetarium

Join Rob Kelso and Rodrigo Romo for their Maunakea Skies talk about how the lunar rover and the Robotic Village will play a role in “Living Off The Land”  – a concept that Hawaiians have been experts at for centuries and one that is vital to Earth’s next chapter in space exploration.

This 726-pound robotic space vehicle just arrived in March. It is the size of a golf cart, and comes from Canada via an extended loan agreement with Ontario Drive Gear.

The rover is the heart of PISCES’s “Robotic Village” – an In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) research facility. ISRU involves the development of technologies that can manipulate raw materials on other planets into resources needed for human survival in space. This rover, for example, can search the Moon for water and ice, which can not only be used to drink, but can also be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen – both of which are used to make rocket propellant.  On top of ISRU research, the rover will also play a central role in STEM education activities and tests.

The Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) is a Hawaii State Government Aerospace Agency located in Hilo. The Center is part of the State Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT) and conducts environmentally safe field demonstrations on Hawaii’s volcanic terrain to test and validate advanced space technologies under the jurisdiction of the State Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).

On top of planetary analogue testing, PISCES’ projects also include robotics, advanced manufacturing, and advanced communications, all of which involve dual-use technologies: they have applications both in space and here at home. They can potentially advance planetary surface systems technology, as well as stimulate the growth of Hawaii’s economy, create jobs locally, educate keiki astronauts-to-be, and improve our State’s sustainability.

Rob HeadShot 2PISCES’s Executive Director Rob Kelso is a former NASA Shuttle Flight Director who served in NASA’s famed Mission Control Center, directing 25 Space Shuttle missions. His role was the same as that of Gene Kranz (“Failure is not an option”) in the movie “Apollo 13” starring Tom Hanks.Rodrigo

PISCES’s Project Manager Rodrigo Romo joined the team in January to lead the Center’s “Robotic Village”

For more information about PISCES, visit the website at

Phillips, ‘Imiloa planetarium staff,  will provide observational highlights of the current night sky over Hawai‘i, pointing out prominent constellations and stars one can see during this time of year.

The monthly Maunakea Skies planetarium presentations are held on the third Friday of each month. Cost is $8 for Individual, Dual, Kupuna and Family Members; $6 for Patron Members; Free for Silver, Gold and Corporate Members. Non-member rate is $10. Pre-purchase tickets at the ‘Imiloa front desk or by phone at 969-9703.

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‘i is located at 600 ‘Imiloa Place in Hilo, off Komohana and Nowelo Streets at the UH Hilo Science and Technology Park. For more information, go to, or call (808) 969-9703.

Mar 28 14

Hokule’a Log: Voyage to Rapa Nui Part Two

by vrecinto

Photo Courtesy of Sam Low

Photo Courtesy of Sam Low

Hokule’a Log: Voyage to Rapa Nui – Part Two

By Sam Low

In 1999 Hokule’a – a replica of an ancient Polynesian voyaging canoe – set out from Mangareva to voyage to Rapa Nui (Easter Island).  Her Navigator, Nainoa Thompson, would find his way as his ancestors once did – without charts, compass or instruments of any kind. This is part two of a multipart series. Please feel free to share this. Aloha.

Part Two

Tuesday, September 14 – Rikitea, Mangareva, Gambier Islands, French Polynesia.

The Air Tahiti STOL aircraft sweeps in over Mangareva’s outer reef, flies low over a frothy turquoise sea stubbled with coral heads, and touches down on a cement strip laid like concrete frosting over the barrier reef. We disembark and collect 72 pieces of luggage shipped as cargo, 23 as baggage and 14 as hand carry – essential supplies for the voyage to Rapa Nui. After a short ride on the ferry, a forty foot converted fishing boat, we arrive in the harbor of Rikitea and moor alongside Hokule’a.

Expedition headquarters ashore is in a converted furniture workshop owned by our host Bruno Schmidt. As we unload our gear, heavy clouds scud across the mountain peaks above the village, bringing rain. We rig tarpaulins to shelter the crates of food and other supplies we have brought in from Tahiti. That night, after a Terry Hee dinner of soup, fish stew, teriyaki meat and rice, Chad Baybayan welcomes us to Mangareva. “I’m glad you are all here safely,” he tells us. “Once we have accomplished a few chores we will be ready to jump off for Rapa Nui.”

A lot had already been done. On the wall behind Chad, written on a large sheet of paper, is the work list:

Unload canoe and wash galley utensils, tupperware, water bottles

Clean foul weather gear

Wash compartments and air out

Inventory supplies and equipment from Tahiti

Repack and reload food

Fill water bottles and load

Many of the items have already been checked off.

After Chad’s welcome, it is Nainoa’s turn to speak. “I’m not going to kid you,” he tells us, “this is going to be a tough trip. But looking around at all the folks assembled here, I know that we are going to make it and do it well and safely. I’m not saying that we will find Rapa Nui because that would be arrogant, but I am sure that if anyone can do it, we as a group can do it.”

On the wall behind Nainoa are a series of weather maps from the French meteorological station on the hill overlooking the harbor. The maps show a succession of low-pressure systems that have moved in an orderly procession over the South Pacific in the last week. Today’s chart shows a long front has formed between a low to the south of the island and a high to the northeast. As he talks, Nainoa runs his finger along the front.

“Today, we flew into this weather on the way down from Tahiti,” he explains, “and we had turbulence and clouds most of the way. This front is causing the weather we are experiencing now.”

Nainoa pauses to examine the maps for the previous two days, mentally calculating the front’s direction and speed of motion.

“I think the system is moving east-southeast along the line defined by the front at about 16 knots,” he explains, “so that if it continues in that direction it might pass in about two or three days and be replaced by another low pressure system which may bring in westerly winds, just what we want. I’ve only been here two days, so I can’t be sure, but if that happens I think that we had better be ready to go on Friday. It’s too early to predict the weather accurately, but I can tell you one thing, when the wind is right, we’re going to leave.”

As the meeting breaks up, the crew who will sleep in the workshop lay out sleeping mats in nests they have created among crates, coolers and folded sails. The rest depart to bunks aboard Hokule’a or Kama Hele. A south wind sweeps in over the harbor of Rikitea stirring whitecaps. Rain slants across arc lights bathing the canoe and the escort boat as they pull against their mooring lines, bobbing and yawing in the choppy water of the harbor.

Thursday, September 16, Rikitea

In the last two days, the crew has been busy checking and packing gear and going over safety procedures aboard the canoe and the escort boat, preparing for possible heavy weather. Star maps have been laid out and the navigators – Shantell Ching, Nainoa, Bruce and Chad – have been rehearsing the star alignments they will use for determining the latitude of Rapa Nui.

Today, Hokule’a is brought alongside the pier so that gear can be loaded and Kama Hele, our escort boat, takes on water and fuel. Tonight, most of the crews will sleep aboard Kama Hele and Hokule’a to be ready for departure at short notice.

Today is also “Hokule’a Day” for the students of the Centre d’Education au Developpement – a vocational/technical school established by The Brothers of the Sacred Heart, a religious order from Canada. Chad conducts class for the sixty students at the school, after which Tava Taupu leads a tour of the canoe. The students, eighteen from Rikitea and the rest from the outer islands, learn the basics of steering by the stars and what life will be like aboard the canoe on the voyage to Rapa Nui.

The most frequently asked questions: “Where do you sleep?” “Where do you go to the bathroom?” “How do you steer the canoe?” And, “How does the man overboard beacon work?

Nainoa, Chad and Bruce have been making regular trips up to the weather station to analyze the daily weather maps. We have experienced fairly steady southern winds, heavy clouds and occasional torrential rain. The prediction for yesterday was that the rain would stop today (which seems to be happening) and the wind will begin to back around to the east, then northeast – beginning its journey around the compass to the west, just what we want, perhaps by Friday or Saturday. But no one can be sure. It’s also possible that a high-pressure system may join with a stationary high over Rapa Nui, establishing trade winds over the entire route to the island, which will mean constant tacking. And there is a weak low-pressure system forming to the east, in the path of the front, which may cause it to stall over Mangareva. This might delay the wind shift that we need to sail to Rapa Nui without tacking. The situation remains uncertain.

“So, what else is new,” says Nainoa, who has seen this kind of uncertainty dozens of times before.

The Story of Anua-Motua

Later in the day, our island host – Bruno Schmidt – arrives to take us to the other side of the island to speak with a man who knows many ancient Mangarevan legends. We find Teakarotu Barthelemy at his home amidst a grove of orange trees near the beach. A man of ample girth and impressive dignity, he sits on his lanai overlooking the ocean and tells the story of a great Mangarevan navigator who set out to find Rapa Nui, just as we will do when the weather clears.

“Anua-Motua chose his crew and set out,” Teakarotu explains. “He arrived at an island that is called Makatea and gave it the name of Pua Pua Moku and he left his daughter and her husband there along with some of his crew and sailed on to the island now called Elizabeth and also gave it the name of Pua Pua Moku. After that they sailed on to Pitcairn Island, which he gave the name of He Rangi. During the voyage they searched for Rapa Nui but they passed it by mistake and found themselves in a cold place which they called Tai Koko. This place is called Cape Horn today. They realized that they were not at a good place so they turned back and sailed by the stars in the direction they came to try and find Rapa Nui.

“Te Angi Angi was now the navigator and captain. When they finally arrived at Rapa Nui they gave the island the name of Mata Ki Te Rangi which means “the eyes look at the heavens,” and another name of Kairangi which means “eating the sky’” and they also called the island Pourangi which means “pole eating the sky.”

“To understand the reason for the names,” Bruno explains, “you must think what the island looked like to them as they approached from the sea. They saw a tall mountain thrusting up into the sky as if it were eating the sky and their eyes, following the mountain, were looking at the heavens.”

Teakarotu learned the legend from his grandmother Toaatakiore Karara who was a famous singer and kahu of ancient traditions. Toaatakiore helped Sir Peter Buck, when the famous anthropologist visited the islands in the 1930s with a Bishop Museum expedition, by singing over 160 songs for him.

Oral traditions are subject to a great deal of change over the years and it is probable that the legend, as told by Teakarotu, is not as accurate today as it was in the days of his grandmother. The islands listed, for example, cannot be identified today. According to Bruno, Maka Tea means “elevated atoll,” and Tai Koko, which Teakarotu identified as Cape Horn means “place of heavy seas.” But the legend is interesting because it suggests the great difficulty that even the ancient navigators experienced when trying to find Rapa Nui. It also suggests that at least one canoe may have strayed past Rapa Nui and discovered the great continent of South America.



Author Sam Low has recently published a book about Hokule’a called Hawaiki Rising – Hokule’a, Nainoa Thompson and the Hawaiian Renaissance.




This is a logbook and Sam takes all responsibility for errors in spelling and any other kind.

Mar 27 14

Hokule’a Log: Voyage to Rapa Nui Part 1

by vrecinto


In preparation for the start of the Worldwide Voyage in May 2014, we are pleased to re-posting Sam Low’s stories about the Hokulea’a.


Hokule’a Log: Voyage to Rapa Nui – Part One By Sam Low

In 1999 Hokule’a – a replica of an ancient Polynesian voyaging canoe – set out from Mangareva to voyage to Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Her Navigator, Nainoa Thompson, would find his way as his ancestors once did – without charts, compass or instruments of any kind. This is part one of a multipart series. Please feel free to share this. Aloha. Nainoa Thompson: “We cannot just be talking about and reading about our cultural revival we have to live it. We have to practice it. As we voyage we are creating new stories within the tradition of the old stories, we are literally creating a new culture out of the old.” The Challenge By 1995, Hokule’a had sailed almost eighty five thousand miles since her launching twenty years earlier. She had voyaged between Hawaii and Tahiti five times, between Tahiti and New Zealand twice, and she had visited the Marquesas, Tuamotus, Cooks, the Australs and Samoa – all the corners of an immense tract of ocean that geographers call the Polynesian Triangle – except one, the eastern corner, which is occupied by a tiny island in an immense and empty sea. Europeans know it as Easter Island, but throughout Polynesia it is called Rapa Nui. “We have never sailed to Rapa Nui before not because we didn’t want to,” Nainoa once said of the voyage, “but because we didn’t think we could do it.” In 1999, he decided to try. The trip Nainoa envisioned would be made in five segments – Hawaii to the Marquesas, the Marquesas to Mangareva, then on to Rapa Nui and back to Hawaii with a stop in Tahiti. Every one of those passages would be difficult – but none more than the third segment – the one to Rapa Nui. Setting out for Rapa Nui from Mangareva, Nainoa expected to tack into almost constant headwinds, extending the distance Hokule’a must travel from 1500 seagull flying miles to more than 4000 zigzagging ones. Every mile would be cold and wet. The constant head winds would try the crew’s endurance. Adding to the difficulty was the fact that Rapa Nui is a tiny target, only 14 miles wide. Navigating without instruments or charts, Nainoa and his crew would have to find the island by using only a world of natural signs – stars, waves and flight of birds. As an example of the exactitude required, an error of only a degree of latitude, calculated by the flickering light of a distant star, would cause Hokule’a to sail past the island. The next landfall would be South America – two thousand miles away. The voyage, as Nainoa envisioned it, would be the ultimate test of the skills of ancient navigators and explorers, it would be a journey deep into the past – into the heart and soul of a people many consider the world’s greatest ocean explorers, and it would be an opportunity to reunite the people of Rapa Nui, long a colony of distant Chile, with their Polynesian family to the west. “We do not explore because it’s easy,” Nainoa told his crew as they prepared for the voyage, “we explore because it’s a great challenge. We go to Rapa Nui in great humility and respect for our ancestors, we go to rekindle the pride and dignity of our people and to reunite our ancient seafaring family.” The canoe set off on June 15th from Hilo and traveled to the Marquesas where she made stops at Nuku Hiva, Ua Pou, Ua Huka, Tahuata, Fatu Hiva, and Hiva Oa – each island seemingly more beautiful than the last. Going ashore, the crew saw ancient temples, wild horses, deep crenellated valleys rich with vegetation, and mountains arching into the sky – landscapes so perfect in their effect they appeared almost Hollywood stage sets. Here, they experienced moments of deep human connection. Enroute to Mangareva, Hokule’a anchored in Bounty Bay, Pitcairn Island, an isolated land of steep chocolate roads, fields rich with fruit and vegetables, and peopled by a large extended family – the descendants of the Bounty Mutineers. A few days later, the canoe docked at the government pier in Rikitea, Mangareva Island. On September 11, the crew that would sail the Rapa Nui leg set out from Hawaii for Mangareva. Preparations On September 11, 1999, on the Hawaiian Air flight to Tahiti, Nainoa is leaning over his seat, talking with crewmembers Shantell Ching and Mike Tongg. “We are going to the land of the people who I think were the greatest explorers of all time,” Nainoa says. “The Polynesians were the colonizers of the largest nation on earth, but this particular leg to Rapa Nui had to be the most difficult one of them all. We go there in great honor of the people who found this tiny island.” They discuss the weather – a series of low and high pressure systems are migrating from west to east along the track they will take from Mangareva to Rapa Nui – and they assess the possibility of riding one of the lows to the east. “It takes about 40 hours for a low to pass and it will bring winds from the west,” Nainoa says, “so if we jump off and sail with it, we can extend our time in the low to about 60 hours. At six knots that gives us 360 miles. Getting east may not be as much of a problem as we think, but finding the island, that will be a problem. Rapa Nui is tiny and there will be few if any birds to help us find it. This is going to be a very mentally demanding trip.” Everyone in the crew knows the voyage will be unlike any they have made before and they have all prepared themselves for it in unique ways. Aaron Young, for example, stays awake for 20 hours at a time, sleeping three or four, then practices what he calls “keeping busy.” “One thing you don’t want to do is let yourself get in a rut on the canoe,” he says. “You have to find something to do, be helpful, vigilant, look around to see what needs to be done. And to prepare mentally for that, I don’t allow myself any sloppy land habits, putting things off, for example. So before I leave on a voyage I get real busy doing chores – it gets my mind in shape for the discipline needed to be on the canoe.” Aaron also takes cold showers and increases his already strenuous level of physical exercise. “It’s hard to go from a comfortable life on land where you sleep in a warm bed to being aboard the canoe where you are often cold and wet and you take baths in seawater and go to the bathroom over the side,” he says. Farther back in the aircraft’s cabin, Doctor Ben Tamura, the medical officer, is reading an article entitled, “Preventive and Empiric Treatment of Traveler’s Diarrhea,” which was written by a colleague, Dr. Vernon Ansdell of Kaiser Hospital, a specialist in travel medicine. How has he prepared himself personally for the voyage? “I tend to get tendinitis when hauling on lines,” he explains, “so a few months before leaving I carry a tennis ball in my car. On the way to the hospital in the morning, I squeeze it with my left hand and coming back home at night, I squeeze it with my right to strengthen my arm and wrist muscles.” As on his last two voyages, Ben rewrote his will and spent a lot of time “cleaning house” as he puts it – tidying up his office work, sweeping out the garage, mowing the lawn – so he can focus totally on the voyage when it’s time to leave. He also conducted mental dry runs of what each day aboard Hokule’a might be like and counted up the number of tee shirts, shorts, towels and underwear he might need. “That helped me pack just what was really necessary,” he says, “and allowed me to simplify, to lighten up on what I brought.” But perhaps the most important preparation was what Ben calls “tolerance training,” getting his mind ready for the kind of caring – of aloha – that the voyage will require. Tolerance training is partly a matter of daily meditation in which Ben visualizes life on the canoe, and partly a matter of daily “anger control exercises.” “I took the last ten days off from work,” he explains, “and spent a lot of time surfing. I practiced letting other surfers take a wave, even though I was in position for it, and not getting pissed off when a surfer dropped in on me. Another thing I did,” he continues, “was even more difficult – practicing tolerance in commuter traffic.” “Voyaging aboard Hokule’a has really taught me a lot about the word love,” Ben goes on, “it’s a word that is really misunderstood. People think that you can only have real love between a man and a woman. That’s not what I’m talking about. My other trips have given me a feeling of what love is in an altruistic sense that I can’t put into words easily. It’s different than how classic literature portrays love. It’s like the word “aloha.” How can you define that? There are so many different meanings.” Sitting next to Ben on the Hawaiian Airlines flight to Tahiti is Mike Tongg. “I began to prepare about three months before going to Mangareva,” he says. “Every voyage is special. I feel like I am a servant of the canoe and, given my age (55 years old) I need to get in shape to handle the sails, the steering, and being in a difficult environment for so long. I also get ready mentally. I need to disassociate myself from the land and prepare my mind for the ocean and I do that by spending more time on boats. I begin to study the clouds and pay attention to the tides, be aware of sunrise and sunset. I try to get back in tune with nature.” Mike also reads his old diaries, written on the six previous voyages he has made. He exercises physically and he gets in touch with members of the crew to rekindle, as he puts it, “that bond of ‘ohana with the family I will sail with.” “The spiritual side of life is real important to me,” Mike continues. “The Lord has given me this opportunity for a purpose. In the past voyages, He has taught me that the strength to deal with hardships comes from within. I also look to the leaders of the voyage to learn from them. I see what I call a spiritual intellect in Bruce Blankenfeld and Nainoa, for example. They are dedicated and focused so that is an ethic that I try to emulate. In the past, in order to survive, the navigators had to focus and they needed inner strength. I need the same thing as a crew member, so I try to work hard on that.” The crew also needs to practice the philosophy of malama – of caring for the natural environment – of helping to create what Nainoa calls a sense of pono – of balance between all living things and the natural resources of the planet. As Nainoa explained in a recent interview, “The Polynesian genius is the ability to find sustainable ways to only take only as much from nature as nature can provide.” “The concept of malama,” explains Tongg, “may have evolved from our heritage of long distance voyaging. Our ancestors learned they had to take care of the canoe and that if they did, the canoe would take care of them; they also learned that they had to take care of each other.” The malama philosophy is part of the life of every member of the crew. “When I was younger,” says Mike Tongg, “voyaging was an adventure – a test – I just wanted to go, I didn’t think about much else, just getting on the canoe. But now I think about a lot of other things before I go. I think about my family and being sure they are comfortable with my sailing. I think about my larger ‘ohana, my community, and that all of us on the canoe represent our islands and our people – maybe hopefully even the aspirations of all people on planet earth. I think about what values the voyage has for all of us – both those aboard the canoe and those at home – the values of aloha, malama, of team work, self discipline, and of always having a larger vision of why we sail which will carry us through the hardships ahead.” “This voyage will test us,” says Nainoa. “There is no question about it. Each person aboard Hokule’a and our escort boat, Kama Hele, is totally committed to this voyage spiritually, mentally and physically.” Pausing for a moment, Nainoa peers out the window. He sees empty ocean below, a route he has sailed perhaps a dozen times. But the voyage to Rapa Nui will be across another part of this ocean – one that is totally new for him and his crew. “In the past, when only I was navigating, nobody else really understood the system,” Nainoa says, “it was just myself, and I would hallucinate, I would get very near collapse. But this time it would be foolish to do that, and there is no need because we have good navigators. We will have a top navigator on each watch. The navigator will double as a watch captain. Plus, frankly, at my age, I feel not as physically strong as I was twenty years ago. Just not. And being wise about that issue it is good to bring two experienced navigators, Bruce Blankenfeld and Chad Baybayan. While they are on watch, I can sleep and they can steer a course and when I get up they will tell me exactly where we have gone and I will recalibrate my own mental map. I think that’s what it’s going to take.” Bruce Blankenfeld and Nainoa are old friends, they fished together in a small commercial enterprise back in the seventies and Bruce is married to Lita, Nainoa’s sister. “Bruce is the most natural ocean person I think I have ever met,” says Nainoa. “Natural – everything is easy for him immediately. No adjustment time. No nothing. He is fine. Bruce changes from land stuff to ocean stuff by becoming extremely relaxed, extremely comfortable.” In appearance, Bruce is raffishly handsome. He has curly black hair, deep set eyes under prominent ridges, broad shoulders and thick canoe paddler’s forearms. He exudes a quiet self-confidence, a man who has answers to things. “Bruce is the kind of person that without the ocean you would take away half of his life. Nothing in his life would have the kind of importance and value without him having a connection to the sea, he is so innately inclined to the ocean.” The other watch captain is Chad Baybayan. Chad stands about five feet ten. A man whose physical center of gravity appears low to the ground, Chad has a swimmer’s body, suggesting a capability of delivering powerful strokes and a strong finishing kick. He is dark by genetic makeup (he is part Hawaiian, part Filipino) and because he spends so much time in the sun – running, swimming, physically preparing for long ocean voyages. Chad will readily tell you that sailing aboard Hokule’a has been the seminal experience of his life – accounting for his inner sense of confidence, for his happy marriage and fatherhood. “Chad is the academic,” says Nainoa. “He will study and train incredibly hard and he will get out here and he will force that training, he will force that information, he will mentally, academically, try to figure it out. He has an intensity, but if Chad gets too intense he gets tired. He needs that intensity but has got to find a way so that it doesn’t exhaust him.” “The reason why we could not do this trip before but we can now is because these guys command so much respect that there are absolutely no questions on the canoe. No debates. Authority has been totally earned by Chad and Bruce so it’s easy for anybody to get on board and serve them. That’s why it will work. But without that kind of 100% commitment by the crew to this kind of earned leadership this would be, oh man, a tough job.”

Author Sam Low has recently published a book about Hokule’a called Hawaiki Rising – Hokule’a, Nainoa Thompson and the Hawaiian Renaissance.

Mar 12 14

‘Imiloa hosts Exhibit on the Asian Pacific American Story

by vrecinto


I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story
Traveling Exhibit to Open March 22nd at ‘Imiloa

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center is pleased to host the exhibit “I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story,” March 22 – June 1, 2014 as part of a 13-city national tour.

As the only state with an Asian plurality, Hawai‘i lives and breathes its diverse Asian Pacific heritage every day, but a new Smithsonian exhibition opening at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center will offer perspectives on our local heritage within the broader context of the entire nation.  The ancestral roots of Asian and Pacific Americans represent more than 50% of the world’s population, extending from East Asia to Southeast Asia, and from South Asia to the Pacific Islands and Polynesia.

In this first exhibition of its kind, the Smithsonian celebrates Asian Pacific American history across a multitude of diverse cultures and explores how Asian Pacific Americans have shaped and been shaped by the course of the nation’s history. “I Want the Wide American Earth” tells the rich and complex stories of the very first Asian immigrants, including their participation in key moments in American history: Asian immigrants panned in the Gold Rush, hammered ties in the Transcontinental Railroad, fought on both sides in the Civil War and helped build the nation’s agricultural system.

Through the decades, Asian immigrants struggled against legal exclusion, manzanar_historical_site_Blue_AAcivil rights violations and unlawful detention, such as the 120,000 Japanese who were interred during World War II. Since the 1960s, vibrant new communities, pan-Asian, Pacific Islander and cross-cultural in make-up, have blossomed.

The banner exhibition is complemented by an e-book, which is a 14-page illustrated adaption of the exhibition. Produced in collaboration with SI Universe Media, creators of the first-ever Asian Pacific American comics anthology, the e-book will tell the Asian Pacific American story in graphic narrative, featuring work by seven Asian Pacific American comic artists. The e-book is free to download and viewable on all tablet devices and e-readers.

The exhibit also features a mobile tour app, which includes interviews with authors Maxine Hong Kingston and Monique Truong; U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta; Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center director Konrad Ng; activist Deepa Iyer; and U.S. retired major general Antonio Taguba.

Curated by Lawrence-Ming Bùi Davis, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center Initiative coordinator, “I Want the Wide American Earth” is a moving, dramatic and evocative narrative of Asian Pacific American history and culture.

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center produces programs and exhibitions about the Asian Pacific American experience and works in partnership with organizations across the Smithsonian and beyond to enrich collections and activities about the Asian Pacific American experience. It shares the challenges and stories of America’s fastest-growing communities. It connects treasures and scholars with the public, celebrates long-lived traditions and explores contemporary expressions. The stories it tells are vital to a deeper understanding of the nation and a richer appreciation of Asian Pacific cultures. Visit for more information.

The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES)has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for 60 years. SITES connects Americans to their cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play.

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. The Museum is located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W. and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Check the website for special extended summer hours.



Feb 27 14

A Night of Local Literature at UH Hilo

by vrecinto

NightOfLiteratureAre you interested in local literature?  Are you aware of the local talents we have here in literature?  UH Hilo English Department is proud to present A Night of Local Literature  with writers, Juliet Kono and Darrell Lum.  Kono is best known for her works Hilo Rain, Tsunami Years, Ho`olulu Park and the Pepsodent Smile, and Anshu.   Lum is one of the founding editors of Bamboo Ridge Press which published Pake: Writing by Chinese in Hawaii and Growing Up Local: an Anthology of Poetry and Prose in Hawaii.   He also authored the books, Sun: Short Stories and Drama  and Pass On, No Pass Back.

The public is invited to come, meet, listen and learn.  Free Admission. Wednesday, March 5th from 5pm – 7pm at University Classroom Building # 127.  Light refreshments will be served.

Feb 27 14

Hypernova – Extreme Energy Event

by vrecinto

gamma ray bursts

Next Maunakea Skies Talk March 21, 2014

Speaker: Christopher Phillips, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center

Topic: Hypernova! The Origin of Gamma Ray Bursts

Time: Friday Mar. 21, 2014 at 7 p.m. in the ‘Imiloa Planetarium

Gamma Ray Bursts are some of the most energetic and enigmatic events in the Universe. Mostly found billions of light years from Earth, they have puzzled astronomers ever since their discovery in the late 60’s. Since then observations by ground and space based telescopes have yielded amazing new discoveries about these cosmic catastrophes and introduced us to some of the most extreme physics in the cosmos. We have come to know that these violent outbursts of energy signal a new phase in the evolution of a star and the birth of some of the Universe’s most extreme and enigmatic objects. To understand the gamma ray burst we must first understand the life of a star from birth, to death and beyond. Join Chris Phillips as he journeys into the lives of some of the Universe’s most remarkable inhabitants; and discover the extreme nature of the “Hypernova.”

Christopher Phillips, originally from the United Kingdom, works both Chris Phillips jpgdomestically and internationally, as an astronomy educator and professional science communicator. He is now based at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‘i and is also the voice of Hawai‘i Public Radio’s “Stargazer” segment. As part of his post graduate research at The Open University, UK – Christopher is engaged in the study of the role of science in society and current scientific controversies in astronomy.

Phillips, ‘Imiloa planetarium staff,  will provide observational highlights of the current night sky over Hawai‘i, pointing out prominent constellations and stars one can see during this time of year.

The monthly Maunakea Skies planetarium presentations are held on the third Friday of each month. Cost is $8 for Individual, Dual, Kupuna and Family Members; $6 for Patron Members; Free for Silver, Gold and Corporate Members. Non-member rate is $10. Pre-purchase tickets at the ‘Imiloa front desk or by phone at 969-9703.

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‘i is located at 600 ‘Imiloa Place in Hilo, off Komohana and Nowelo Streets at the UH Hilo Science and Technology Park. For more information, go to, or call (808) 969-9703.

Feb 26 14

Panoramic Egg Class

by vrecinto

‘Imiloa welcomes accomplished artist and designer, Eileen Tokita. EileenTokita has been creating and teaching Faberge’ Eggs for over 40 years.  With her own unique signature design, she has garnered world acclaim from some of the most respected artists and has even been featured at the White House.  Eileen is a master at her craft and has created some of the most intricate and stunning creations from a variety of real eggs.

Eileen is a native of Seattle, Washington and currently resides in Honolulu.  In celebration of Spring, we are excited to offer a class with Eileen to make the following project from a real duck egg.
Panoramic Egg Classtokita egg

  • Saturday, April 5
  • 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the ‘Imiloa Classroom
  • Cost for class and kit: $50 members, $65 non-members
  • Please contact the front desk to enroll for the class.  808-969-9703
  • enrollment deadline is March 25.

Space is limited so sign up soon!  Supplies will be provided, however the following are optional for your convenience:  Old kitchen towel, blow dryer, small sharp scissors, cuticle scissors.

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‘i is located at 600 ‘Imiloa Place in Hilo, off Komohana and Nowelo Streets at the UH Hilo Science and Technology Park. For more information, go to, or call (808) 969-9703.