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Aug 12 14

The Little Telescope that Could

by vrecinto

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Next Maunakea Skies Talk August 15, 2014

Speaker: Michael Connelley, Support Astronomer at the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF)

Topic:  The Little Telescope that Could: Supporting NASA’s Planetary Exploration for 35 Years.

Time: Friday August 15, 2014 at 7 p.m. in the ‘Imiloa Planetarium

Have you ever wondered what astronomers really see when using a telescope? Join support Astronomer Michael Connelley for ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center’s next Maunakea Skies Talk on Friday, August 15, at 7 p.m. as we eavesdrop on live observations at the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF).

The IRTF has been supporting NASA’s planetary exploration missions with ground-based observations for 35 years.

This talk will discuss the science done at the IRTF with an emphasis on observations within the Solar System. Infrared observations, while very powerful, present many challenges. Connelley will address those challenges and how they are overcome by the way the telescope was built, as well as how the instruments are used and designed. Finally, weather permitting the audience will remotely eavesdrop on observations being conducted at the IRTF with a live feed directly to the ‘Imiloa planetarium. See what it’s like to use a world class observatory, learn how the astronomers conduct the observations, and watch the data being taken in real time.

Michael Connelley is a Staff Astronomer with the NASA Infrared Telescope, a hotwheels_4156 crop3-meter infrared telescope on Maunakea. He grew up on O‘ahu, where he started in amateur astronomy in 8th grade. While in high school, he became interested in building telescopes, which continues to be a passion for him. After earning a degree in physics from Santa Clara University, he returned to Hawai‘i for graduate school in astronomy at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. In 2007, after having researched the formation and evolution of young binary stars, Connelley received his Ph.D in astronomy, and continued this research at NASA Ames Research Center for 3 years. In 2010, he was hired into his current position, where his responsibilities include supporting visiting observers, improving the image quality of the telescope, assisting instrument development efforts, and continuing his research into young stars. He has remained an avid amateur astronomer and telescope builder; at any given moment he has at least one telescope in construction. On moonless Saturday nights, he can be often found at the Onizuka Visitor Information Center with his homemade telescope. While he has long been interested in photography, he has recently started to try his hand at astrophotography

Maunakea Skies program will be hosted by Cam Wipper, ‘Imiloa planetarium staff. He 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 www.imiloahawaii.org, or call (808) 969-9703.

 

Jul 31 14

‘Imiloa After Dark: Kanani Enos

by vrecinto

Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award Nominee Kanani Enos

Live at ‘Imiloa!

 cd cover aloha I Ho'okena

Nominated for Nā Hōk Hanohano’s 2014 Most Promising Artist of the Year Award, Kanani Enos is a rising star who will be featured with her band and dancers in a live performance in ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center’s Planetarium on Friday, August 29, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.

Born and raised in Ho ̒okena, South Kona, Kanani Enos grew up around music and dance all of her life. She hails from a talented family of musicians; her father was a slack key guitarist and her grandmother, Myra Koai Enos was a well-known performer. Although Enos never actually knew her grandmother (she passed away before she was born), many say she sounds a lot like her. Enos’ childhood was rich with Hawaiian music and she started dancing hula from the time she was five-years-old. As a young student of Aunty Mahealani Perez (a student of Uncle George Na ̒ope), she continued dancing hula through her teens with different Kona-based kumu hula such as Sheraine Kamakau, Ulalia Berman and Keoni Atkinson. She went on to dance for the Lim Family and competed in the Merrie Monarch competition at age thirteen.

Enos attended Kamehameha Schools’ Kapalama campus on O ̒ahu, and that is where her love for singing grew. Her experiences singing in the Concert Glee Club and studying the Hawaiian language opened her heart to haku mele (songwriting), and it is from these experiences, combined with her first return home from school, that she wrote and composed the mele that is now the title track of her debut CD, Aloha I Ho ̒okena. A multi-talented performer who is a dancer, singer, musician and composer, Enos feels her strengths lie in writing and composing music.

Today Enos strives to find balance in juggling her music career and family, as she kanani and two soulsraises three young children. She released her debut album Aloha I Ho ̒okena in October of 2013 with the help of well-known musician Bulla Kailiwai; who is the main musician on her CD; Uncle Sonny Lim, who recorded the album; and her cousin Jeremiah Augustine, who mastered it. The album features eleven songs, eight of which are originals and honors her home and the people of Ho ̒okena and Kealia.

‘Imiloa After Dark enjoys spotlighting local artists from Hawai‘i Island and is proud to have Kanani Enos perform “under the stars” in the Planetarium. Tickets for this event are $20 for general admission and $15 for members. Seats are limited and can be pre-purchased at the ‘Imiloa front desk or by calling (808) 969-9703 during regular business hours.  Tickets are non-refundable.

‘IMILOA AFTER DARK is ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center’s evening social entertainment series featuring an eclectic array of events. ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‘i is a world-class informal science education center located on the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo campus. ‘Imiloa is a place of life-long learning where the power of Hawai‘i’s cultural traditions, its legacy of exploration and the wonders of astronomy come together to provide inspiration and hope for generations. The Center’s interactive exhibits, 3D full dome planetarium, native landscape, and programs and events engage children, families, visitors and the local community in the wonders of science and technology found in Hawai‘i. It is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday (closed Mondays). For more information, visit the website at www.imiloahawaii.org. ‘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 www.imiloahawaii.org.

Jul 15 14

The Diagram That Spawned a Galaxy

by vrecinto
Milky Way Night Sky Black Rock Desert Nevada

Attribution: “Milky Way Night Sky Black Rock Desert Nevada” by Steve Jurvetson Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons http:// commons.wikimedia.org

Next Maunakea Skies Talk July 18, 2014

Speaker: Gregory D. Wirth, Support Astronomer at the W. M. Keck Observatory

Topic: The Diagram That Spawned a Galaxy

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

Gaze into the sky on any clear Hawaiian summer night and we see the Milky Way, a band of faint light that spans the heavens and that we now know traces the disk of our Galaxy. Dr. Wirth will share the fascinating story of how scientists used careful observations of stars to develop the most important diagram in modern astronomy, Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram, and used it as a “Rosetta Stone” to unlock the secrets of how stars are born, live, and die, ultimately leading to the present understanding of the true shape and size of the Milky Way we inhabit.

Dr. Gregory D. Wirth is a Support Astronomer at the W. M. Keck Observatory. Growing up Michigan, Greg shares a story how he successfully begged his parents for a telescope but was thoroughly disappointed by his first view of a galaxy through it. Undaunted by this failure, he persevered to study physics and astronomy in college and was one of the lucky first students to complete a doctoral thesis using data from the brand new Keck telescope. Greg joined Keck’s staff in 1998 and has served as the primary support scientist on the LRIS, DEIMOS, ESI, and KCWI instruments. Greg specializes in studying the evolution of galaxies in rich clusters.

Chris 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 www.imiloahawaii.org, or call (808) 969-9703.

Jul 12 14

Sexy Science: The Adventures of gAstronomy

by vrecinto

Listen to Chef Yosses with DC Friday morning on B93/97

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center in partnership with Gemini Observatory presents Sexy Science: The Adventures of gAstronomy on Saturday, July 19, 2014, 7:00 p.m. at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center’s Planetarium. Discover the allure of science with former White House Executive Pastry Chef, Bill Yosses, and NASA Project Scientist for the Kepler Mission, Steve Howell.  Together, they will explore the physical conditions thought to exist on exoplanets, show how the same properties exist on Earth, and relate them to the modern art of cooking. Their presentation promises to arouse your appetite for science in an evening you won’t want to miss!  Prepare for an “out of this world” adventure and sample some culinary delights along the way.

Bill in White house garden 2012Accomplished pastry chef, Bill Yosses, held the prestigious title of White House Executive Pastry Chef from 2007 to 2014, serving under both President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush.  He worked closely on Mrs. Obama’s Let’s Move initiative, which aims to reduce childhood health problems related to diet. Yosses was also instrumental in building a youth program at Harvard University in conjunction with Chop Chop Magazine to introduce scientific concepts to fourth and fifth graders via healthy foods and innovative exercise.  Yosses’ impressive resume includes assisting in the opening of Paul Newman’s Westport, Connecticut restaurant, Dressing Room, in addition to working at Tavern on the Green and Bouley Bakery/Restaurant in New York City, and the famed Fauchon, La Maison du Chocolat and LeNôtre in France.  Yosses is a recipient of the James Beard Who’s Who Award and is the author of The Perfect Finish, Special Desserts for Every Occasion and Desserts for Dummies 1997.

Astrophysicist, Steve B. Howell is a Project Scientist for the NASA Kepler Mission and the NASA K2 Mission. The Kepler Space Telescope was launched in howell2009 and its greatest discoveries proved most stars are orbited by exoplanets (mostly small planets), and these small planets are everywhere throughout the universe. To date, Kepler has discovered over 3500 exoplanet candidates and; confirmed nearly 1000 exoplanets, hundreds of which are the size of Earth. The K2 Mission has just begun and will continue the search for exoplanets around the closest and brightest stars.  This mission is expected to provide the best scientific datasets ever obtained for many of the famous star clusters and well-known stars along the zodiac.  Howell has written over 700 scientific publications and is the author of eight astronomy and astronomical instrumentation books.  He has also penned his first science fiction book, A Kepler’s Dozen (I had a Dream). He is currently in collaboration on a molecular gAstronomy cook book with Bill Yosses. While in Hawaii this month, Howell will be installing a powerful visiting instrument on Gemini’s telescope.

Tickets for this event are $35 for general admission and $30 for members, and will include sample tastings from Chef Yosses. Seats are limited and can be pre-purchased at the ‘Imiloa front desk or by calling (808) 969-9703 during regular business hours.  Tickets are non-refundable.

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‘i is a world-class informal science education center located on the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo campus. ‘Imiloa is a place of life-long learning where the power of Hawai‘i’s cultural traditions, its legacy of exploration and the wonders of astronomy come together to provide inspiration and hope for generations. The Center’s interactive exhibits, 3D full dome planetarium, native landscape, and programs and events engage children, families, visitors and the local community in the wonders of science and technology found in Hawai‘i. It is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday (closed Mondays).  For more information, visit the website at www.imiloahawaii.org.

The Gemini Observatory is an international collaboration with two identical 8-meter telescopes. Its mission is to advance our knowledge of the Universe by providing the international Gemini Community with forefront access to the entire sky. The Frederick C. Gillett Gemini Telescope is located on Mauna Kea, Hawai’i (Gemini North) and the other telescope on Cerro Pachón in central Chile (Gemini South); together the twin telescopes provide full coverage over both hemispheres of the sky. The telescopes incorporate technologies that allow large, relatively thin mirrors, under active control, to collect and focus both visible and infrared radiation from space.

The Gemini Observatory provides the astronomical communities in six partner countries with state-of-the-art astronomical facilities that allocate observing time in proportion to each country’s contribution. In addition to financial support, each country also contributes significant scientific and technical resources. The national research agencies that form the Gemini partnership include: the US National Science Foundation (NSF), the Canadian National Research Council (NRC), the Chilean Comisión Nacional de Investigación Cientifica y Tecnológica (CONICYT), the Australian Research Council (ARC), the Argentinean Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación Productiva, and the Brazilian Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação. The observatory is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the NSF. The NSF also serves as the executive agency for the international partnership.

Jul 10 14

‘Imiloa hosts Pacific Astronomy Engineering Summit

by vrecinto

PAES_Sprout Logo stacked clear

The second annual Pacific Astronomy and Engineering Summit (PAES),hosted by ʻImiloa Astronomy Center, coordinated by the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Conference Center and sponsored by the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), County of Hawaiʻi Department of Research and Development and Mauna Kea Astronomy Outreach Committee (MKAOC) which is hosted by ʻImiloa Astronomy Center, will gather high school students and educators from the TMT partner countries: Japan, China, India, Canada and the United States (Hawai‘i). Held from July 21-25, 2014 at ‘Imiloa, located on the upper campus of the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, the summit will be an intensive five-day forum focused on astronomy and engineering.

This year’s theme, “He Lani Ko Luna, He Honua Ko Lalo: the sky above, the earth (and the sea) below and all that is encompassed therein,” is derived from a Hawaiian proverb that speaks about the synergistic relationship among the sky, earth, ocean and all forms of life. Each day will feature a different facet of the overarching theme. Participants will explore Hawai‘i’s culture and various areas of science in order to understand how the atmosphere above Hawaiʻi interacts with the land and sea below to create the world’s best place for conducting observational astronomy. Most importantly, the summit will highlight some of the exciting discoveries being made from Maunakea, the world’s premiere site for astronomy, as scientists look to advance humanity’s quest in space exploration.

Using the models of the acclaimed Ritsumeikan Japan Super Science Fair and the International Student Science Fair, students will have an opportunity to TMT_Pac2013-0246 rzinteract with professionals and experts within the science fields, especially those associated with astronomy and engineering on Maunakea, and to exchange ideas and solutions which advance their interest in science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) disciplines. Participants will also experience the natural wonders of Hawai‘i through field trips to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park and to the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy at Halepōhaku on Maunakea.

The Thirty Meter Telescope partner countries are represented by Ritsumeikan High School (Japan), Ritsumeikan Keisho High School (Japan), Kalani High School (Hawai‘i), Modern High School for Girls (India), Shawnigan Lake School (Canada), Beijing Planetarium (China), ‘Iolani High School (Hawai‘i), Moloka‘i High School (Hawai‘i) and the Revealing Individual Strengths for Excellence (RISE) youth program (Hawai‘i).

For further information on the 2014 Pacific Astronomy and Engineering Summit, visit http://www.paes.hawaii-conference.com, or contact PAES Coordinator, Celeste Haʻo at paes@imiloahawaii.org.

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‘i is a cultural science center located on the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo campus. ‘Imiloa is a place of life-long learning where the power of Hawai‘i’s cultural traditions, our legacy of exploration and the wonders of astronomy come together to provide inspiration for generations. The Center’s interactive exhibits, 3D full dome planetarium, native landscape, programs and events engage families, and visitors in the wonders of science and technology found in Hawai‘i. It is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday (closed Mondays). For more information, visit the website at www.imiloahawaii.org.

Jun 7 14

VolcanoScapes in the ‘Imiloa Planetarium

by vrecinto

DWG-Photo-9

‘Imiloa Astronomy Center presents the film “VolcanoScapes… Dancing with the Goddess” from Emmy Award-winning videographer Mick Kalber in the planetarium on Friday, July 11 at 7 pm. This presentation is not in the full dome format but in letterbox on the dome.

The two hour documentary takes a look into the lives of those who work, study,DWG-Photo-7 worship, take inspiration from, or simply visit Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano. The program explores what being near an active volcano means to a variety of people, whether it is those who perform hula depicting it, or others who study it, write about it, capture images of it in various forms, guide others to see its wonders up close, or create artwork inspired by Pele’s handiwork.

The film will take you behind the scenes of thirty years of the producer’s amazing volcanography: high fountaining eruptions, the devastation of Kalapana, the ash DWG-Photo-10eruption deep inside Halemaumau crater, littoral explosions, lava flows, tubes, a variety of spectacular ocean entries and more. It’s the awe-inspiring beauty of the world’s most active volcano… told through the eyes and voices of those who are most intimate with the goddess, Pele.

Tickets for this event are $15 for non-members and $12 for members. Seats are limited and can be pre-purchased at the ‘Imiloa front desk or by calling (808) 969-9703 during regular business hours. Tickets are non-refundable.

‘IMILOA AFTER DARK is ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center’s evening social entertainment series featuring an eclectic array of events.

‘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 www.imiloahawaii.org.

Jun 7 14

‘Imiloa After Dark: Kris Fuchigami

by vrecinto

Untouchable Cover

Kris Fuchigami To Take ‘Imiloa’s Planetarium Stage By Storm!

Local boy and accomplished ukulele artist, Kris Fuchigami to take ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center’s Planetarium stage on Friday, June 27, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. Fuchigami will be joined by special guest Brittni Paiva for a fun evening “under the stars!”

Born and raised in Kea‘au, the 24-year-old Fuchigami began his musical journey atKris poster age thirteen. The self taught player started with a beat up old ukulele and a strong desire to master the instrument. To prove to his father he deserved a new ukulele, he practiced and quickly proved himself by mastering some of Jake Shimabukuro’s songs. The young artist further developed under the guidance of Hilo Guitars & Ukuleles’ Joe Marquand and went on to win the Hamakua Music Festival Scholarship, release four CDs and headline various ukulele festivals around the world.

With an undeniable command of the instrument, Fuchigami plays with lightning fast fingers and is often compared to his idol, Jake Shimabukuro. Not only is Fuchigami a talented player but he also writes his own music. He says he is inspired by many, but names Bruno Mars and Tupac Shakur in particular.

Tickets for this event are $20 for non-members and $15 for members. Seats are limited and can be pre-purchased at the ‘Imiloa front desk or by calling (808) 969-9703 during regular business hours. Tickets are non-refundable.

‘IMILOA AFTER DARK is ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center’s evening social entertainment series featuring an eclectic array of events.

‘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 www.imiloahawaii.org.

May 27 14

Witnessing the Birth of Stars

by vrecinto

Carl Salji and the Gould Belt Legacy Survey

The dust lanes in Orion are detected in emission at sub-millimeter wavelengths by the JCMT (red) but appear as dark features blocking the optical starlight observed by the Hubble Space Telescope map (blue). [Figure Credit: Carl Salji and the Gould Belt Legacy Survey.]

Next Maunakea Skies Talk June 20, 2014

Speaker:  Dr. Doug Johnstone, Associate Director of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope

Topic:
Peering Into the Darkness with the JCMT: Witnessing the Birth of Stars

Time: Friday June 20, 2014 at 7 p.m. in the ‘Imiloa Planetarium

The birth of stars remains shrouded in mystery. They form inside thick puddles of gas and dust located primarily along the spiral arms of the Galaxy. Astronomers use infrared and radio telescopes to peer into and through these murky puddles to witness the birth of stars. For over 25 years the JCMT has been leading investigations to uncover the formation of stars in the Galaxy. In collaboration with the Spitzer Space Telescope, the Herschel Space Observatory, and the soon to be completed ALMA Observatory in Chile, the JCMT has transformed our understanding of stellar birth. Join Dr. Johnston on an adventure to uncover nearby stellar nurseries.

Dr. Doug Johnstone is the Associate Director of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, a 15-m telescope on Maunakea devoted to observations of the Drsky at sub-millimeter wavelengths. Doug’s main research interests follow the formation of stars and planetary systems. He began his professional life as a theorist at the University of California, Berkeley, working on the evolution of circumstellar disks around young stars, back before extra-solar planet detections were common. He has spent time at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, the University of Toronto, and the National Research Council of Canada, in Victoria, BC. Today, Dr. Johnstone’s research focuses on the formation and evolution of structure in molecular clouds, attempting to disentangle the physical processes through which a molecular cloud sheds into individual stars.

Chris 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 www.imiloahawaii.org, or call (808) 969-9703.

May 24 14

Pacific Pwo Navigators

by vrecinto

 

Pwo navigators photo by Staycie Saiki

Pwo Navigators: Nainoa Thompson, Bruce Blankenfeld, Kalepa Baybayan, Tearutua Pttman, Tekapene Thatcher, Onohi Paishon, and Shorty Bertelmann.

Hilo, Hawai‘i – On the eve of Hōkūle‘a and Hikianalia’s Worldwide Voyage departure ceremony on May 24, 2014, the pacific Pwo navigators gathered for a talk story session at the Palace Theater in Hilo.  The panelist spoke to a capacity crowd on their experiences and shared stories to the attentive ears.   The evening event was in partnership with the Polynesian Voyaging Society, the County of Hawai‘i, and ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center.

May 22 14

Hokule’a Log: Voyage to Rapa Nui Part 6

by vrecinto

Hokulea sunset rapa nui

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 Six
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 six of a multipart series. Please feel free to share this. Aloha

Tuesday, September 21 – Departure

At 1:45 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time, with pu blowing ashore and on Kama Hele, Hokule’a leaves Rikitea Harbor under tow. We depart under a leaden sky but by the time we pass through the reef the clouds dissipate. At 4:05 p.m. Hokule’a drops the tow and takes position ahead of Kama Hele. With its GPS turned off, the escort boat will follow the lead of the Hokule’a’s navigators for the rest of the voyage.

Stratus clouds darken the sky behind us over Mount Duff. Cumulus clouds form ahead of us, in the path of the canoe and squalls march across the horizon – nasty green splotches on Kama Hele’s radar screen. Just as the sun sets, crewmember Max Yarawamai arrives aboard a local fishing boat from the airport. He completes the canoe’s crew of 12.

The night is sheened with silver moonlight. We see Temoe island pass abeam to port, or at least we see indications of the island – a sharp ivory line of surf followed by a darker line, the beach, and a waving fringe of color that must be stands of coconut palms. The wind blows from the north-northwest at about 15 knots. The swells are heavy.

Navigator Nainoa Thompson’s Thoughts Just before Leaving

“The weather will be difficult.”

“The pattern that has established itself in this area is a day of good weather, then the approach of a low and a couple of days of rain. Today is in-between, good weather and rain. Tomorrow and Thursday we may have good weather but I bet it will go bad again. Friday I think we’ll get rain. I wanted to leave now, otherwise we will have to wait until sunrise tomorrow to get through the reefs – another eighteen hours of delay. In eighteen hours we can go eighty miles toward Rapa Nui and the farther we sail east, the longer we will stay with the good weather.”

“I’m excited. We have been preparing for this voyage all our lives, we just didn’t know it. All of our studying, the academic side of our preparation, has really just laid the foundation for what is inside us, the other ways that we understand the world. I think back on times with my family when I was a young kid, and all the time that I have spent on the ocean. All of this has prepared me for thinking about the ocean and the heavens and the environment, learning about our culture and our history and our heritage, learning about being at sea, learning about the canoes and about each other. I believe we are on the eve of tremendous growth as a crew. So I’m both excited but also apprehensive about the difficulty of the trip ahead of us. This trip is going to be very difficult navigationally because of where we’re trying to go and because of the weather. The weather is now becoming a real factor.”

“I didn’t expect tropical lows forming and then dissipating around Mangareva. I expected subtropical lows forming to the south of us and moving to the east. They are there but that is not what is affecting us now – we are getting tropical lows from the north and that brings one-hundred percent cloud cover, rain, changing winds and squalls.”

“I think that we will be able to use some swells to navigate, probably from the south, but it depends on where the lows are situated to the south of us. They are the only weather systems that will build waves. The swells will come from low-pressure areas at thirty-five or forty degrees south. As long as the fetch (the area over which the wind blows) is long enough, the lows will generate swells that we can use, but will we be able to read them? We have to go to sea to find out.”

“The moon is big now. It is waxing, the full moon will be on September 25th, and that will be a help. I think the skies will remain overcast, about 70 – 80 percent, but if it stays like this or improves we can navigate. We have a big moon that will rise at about 2 p.m. When the sun goes down we will have Jupiter and Venus. The moon has a ‘cut’ to it, an edge, so we can tell where north is – the horns of the moon, tip to tip, point north, especially on the equinox. So the cut of the moon will help tell us where north is when the moon gets high. And I’m hoping that tomorrow the visibility will improve because that’s the weather pattern we’re in. The weather was bad yesterday, so hopefully it will be better tomorrow, but we don’t know. But at least we’ll be 100 miles along on our voyage.”

“Learning is all about taking on a challenge, no matter what the outcome may be. When we accept the challenge we open ourselves to new insight and knowledge. In the last few days, I have just tried to be quiet and to study – that’s how I prepare. I am thinking all the time about home, about the voyage, the weather, and the crew, about what we have to do to make this work.

“I think about home a lot because that’s why we do this. We love our homes, we love our people, we love our culture and our history, and we want to strengthen them. This is our opportunity, our chance to do something to support all those who care about these things. I want to thank all the people who gave so much to allow this voyage to take place, but who are not here now. They allowed us to take the risk, to do all of this. I want to thank all the families and children involved for giving us the chance to go. This voyage is about people – it’s about all our people.”

“When I think back on my life, it’s clear that I had no way of knowing that I would be here now doing what I am doing. When I began studying in school and gaining knowledge, I sometimes doubted the importance of that effort. But it’s the knowledge that I gained with the help of so many teachers that is allowing me to do what we are about to do.”

“So I hope that all our children will keep on pursuing knowledge. None of us knows where we are going, but at some point in our lives, that knowledge will allow us to jump off into the unknown, to take on new challenges, and that’s what I consider before every one of these voyages – the challenge. Learning is all about taking on a challenge, no matter what the outcome may be. When we accept a challenge, we open ourselves to new insight and knowledge.”

“When we voyage, and I mean voyage anywhere, not just in canoes, but in our minds, new doors of knowledge will open. And that’s what this voyage is all about. It’s about taking on a challenge to learn. If we inspire even one of our children to do the same, then we will have succeeded.”

A Difficult Voyage

Any voyage without charts or instruments is, of course, extremely difficult. For a compass, Nainoa, Bruce and Chad use the rising and setting point of stars. Waves also provide clues to steer by – the southwest swell, for example, that Hokule’a encounters as soon as she departs Mangareva. Generated by storms near Australia, 4500 miles away, it is satisfyingly deep and constant.

Longitude cannot be found without a chronometer, so the navigators rely on a system called, appropriately enough, “dead reckoning.” They estimate the time and speed they steer a given direction and, on a mental map, they place themselves along an imaginary course line toward their destination. Latitude is determined by estimating the altitude of stars as they cross the meridian, their highest point of rising. In all of these calculations, errors naturally accumulate.

“We can dead reckon our distance traveled, if we are careful, with maybe a 10% error, and we can guess our latitude with an error of about plus or minus one degree,” Nainoa says.

I do the math in my head – 10% of 1500 miles (the distance east- west from Mangareva to Rapa Nui) is 150 miles. Two degrees of latitude (along a north-south line) is 120 miles. So that produces a box of accumulated error equivalent to 18,000 square miles. Finding the tiny island of Rapa Nui (12 miles wide by 7 long) in that vast space seems at best improbable – but that’s a personal opinion, which I keep to myself.

Rapa Nui’s isolation presents yet another problem. On all their previous journeys, Nainoa and his comrades have never actually tried to find a single island, but have rather aimed their canoe at a chain of them. Tahiti, for example, is part of an island chain that stretches across some 400 miles of ocean – a navigational safety net. But on this voyage, there is no safety net. Rapa Nui stands alone in an empty sea.

“One thing has always been certain,” Nainoa once told us, “if we looked at this voyage scientifically there is almost no chance of finding Rapa Nui. If we thought that way, we would not have chosen to go. But you know what? I bet we find it!”

Nainoa’s first target is Pitcairn Island, about three hundred miles away, one of the few stepping-stones along the route to Rapa Nui.

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.