The celebrations for the grand send-off of a four-year-long global canoe voyage launching in Juneau and set to circumnavigate 43,000 nautical miles of the Pacific Ocean will begin this Saturday at Auke Bay.
The Hōkūle‘a, a double-hulled and wind-powered traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe, is expected to arrive in Juneau Saturday afternoon along with members of the Polynesian Voyaging Society for a welcoming ceremony of the canoe as it prepares for its voyage.
The voyage, called the Moananuiākea, is expected to last 47 months — ending in 2027 — and will be the 15th major voyage the canoe has accomplished in its 50 years of life. The mission of the voyage is to unite the hundreds of Indigenous communities that are connected by the Pacific Ocean, and amplify the importance of oceans and Indigenous knowledge.
It will have its grand launch from Auke Bay the afternoon of Thursday, June 15. Currently, the crew and Hōkūle‘a are finishing a short “Alaska Heritage Sail” trip around Southeast Alaska to pay homage to Alaska Native people and communities before the Moananuiākea launch.
Of the anticipated 400 crew members set to participate in the voyage — all of which are volunteers — is Chris Blake.
Blake, who is currently back home in Hawaii after crewing the “Alaska Heritage Sail” in recent weeks, said he will be flying back to Juneau for the celebrations and launch. As a teacher, Blake took time off of work to volunteer during the trip and will do so again for the beginning of the Moananuiākea voyage.
He said the time “sacrificed” to volunteer on the voyage is “a huge honor.”
“Our legs last anywhere between three to five weeks, which we spend away from our work, away from our families — but the sacrifices that our families are making, as well as ourselves, are important for the greater good of our Island Earth,” he said. “Anytime that you get to spend in support of this great mission, whether you’re actually on the vessel or supporting it, is time well spent.”
During his time crewing the “Alaska Heritage Sail,” Blake said the purpose of the mission of the voyage was already made clear to him when he met the Alaska Native people of Southeast Alaska.
“You know, we were strangers, but the thing that was really amazing was you know you’re friends with people and you don’t see each other for a long period of time, but when you get back together it’s like you never left? That’s what it felt like — it felt like we were coming home,” he said. “There are so many similarities between our Indigenous cultures — it’s really powerful.”
He said choosing Juneau to be the launching point of the voyage is significant and on purpose.
“We could have started our voyage anywhere, and we purposely wanted to connect to our Alaska Native family in order to start this, because it anchors us in our purpose as Native people that the Pacific Ocean connects us,” he said. “Every time that we sail or navigate these pathways of our ancestors we strengthen these connections and the connection that we have with our Alaska Native families.”
He continued: “The beauties of the Juneau area, especially, but all of Alaska, is so different from our home — so the amount that the community has to share, and how much we can learn from everybody in these areas is a great opportunity.”
According to the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s website, after the canoe launches from Juneau, crew members will navigate it through Alaska, British Columbia and Seattle during the summer months of 2023 before heading along the West Coast of the U.S. from September through November. At the start of 2024, the canoe will navigate along Mexico, Central America and South America before heading to Polynesia between March and December of 2024.
It will then head to New Zealand in the first half of 2025; Melanesia Micronesia and Palau in March 2026; then to the West Pacific and Japan by September. For its final leg it will spend September through December of 2026 being shipped from Japan to Los Angeles before navigating to its home in Hawaii.
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (651)-528-1807.
Know & Go
What: Hōkūle‘a welcoming ceremony.
Where: Auke Rec. Raven Shelter. Parking at University of Alaska Southeast, and buses will shuttle people to and from Auke Recreation Picnic Area. The road to Auke Rec will be closed to traffic.
When: Approach at 3 p.m., arrival at 4 p.m. and tribal welcome ceremony at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, June 10.
What: Moananuiākea voyage launch.
Where: Auke Rec. Raven Shelter. Parking at UAS, and buses will shuttle people to and from Auke Recreation Picnic Area. The road to Auke Rec will be closed to traffic. The Hōkūleʻa will be anchored in front of the Auke beach.
When: 2-6 p.m. Thursday, June 15.