Voyaging for the Future: Great Barrier Reef

“My name is Haunani Kane, I’m from Kailua, Oʻahu. I am currently at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and I just finished the first year of my Ph.D., which focuses on island environments, learning about the coastal zone how it has changed in the past and how it may change in the future due to climate change,” said Haunani.

“Haunani Kane was actually selected to sail Hikianalia back from Tahiti to Hawaiʻi. She was on the crew. I pulled her off and said you need to go to the Great Barrier Reef,” said master navigator Nainoa Thompson.

“We’re here in beautiful Townsville. We arrived yesterday morning, and we are docked outside of Reef HQ, which is the center for education for the Great Barrier Reef. And we’re going to be working with the folks at Reef HQ and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to learn more about the work that they’re doing to conserve the Great Barrier Reef,” said Haunani.

“What we’re doing here ties in really perfectly with the mission of Hōkūleʻa: engaging people and communicating the importance of our oceans and the need for its protection,” said Fred Nucifora, the director of Reef HQ.

“It’s really great to be here for the first part of our voyage. We got to meet with the community and really see their excitement about learning about the reef as we learned about the reef at the same time. We got to learn about the specific area we’re going to visit as well as what we might anticipate seeing on the dives Reef HQ set up for us,” said Haunani.


“The Great Barrier Reef is one of those spotlights that we shine onto the importance of the ocean because it’s the biggest and oldest ecological system living on the earth. It becomes our school, so we intentionally and strategically took the mission under water,” said Nainoa.

“Ever since I was younger, I’ve wanted to dive the Great Barrier Reef. I’ve wanted to see all the different coral, see the fish. And to be able to do that with Ruth, who is a well known coral researcher back home, as well as with Nainoa who is somebody I’ve always looked up to as far as learning in the ocean – it was a dream come true. I got paired with my dive buddies – I was with Ruth first. It was cool to be with her just because I knew she spent so much time on the reef that her perspective is so sharp, so she was pointing out things that I think many of us probably overlooked,” said Haunani.

“I think for many of the crew, it was the first time being exposed to a reef as diverse as the one we were on,” said Dr. Ruth Gates, a researcher at the Hawaiʻi Institute for Marine Biology.

“To see these healthy reefs, it was just mind blowing. And then there’s the other side of me that sees this from a geologic standpoint. So I saw these tall reefs and I was thinking how much sand those reefs could make, how that sand could be transported to shore for beaches and off-shore islands,” said Haunani.

“The dive itself was fun, but in having fun, it created the opportunity to have a much broader and perhaps a more impactful discussion: what the reef is and why it’s important to people; what the threats to the reef are and the type of solutions that are out there in terms of protecting the reef. As we’re burning off fossil fuels, we are increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – that reflects in the increasing parts per thousand [of carbon dioxide] in the atmosphere that we’re detecting,” said Ruth.

“Spending time with Ruth was really special. And one of the amazing things about her as a researcher is she sees the importance of engaging a community and working with the community to reaching a common goal,” said Haunani.

“We’re asking the question: if we can understand why [coral] individuals are doing so well, can we harness that knowledge then breed corals that are better able to withstand future climate change?” said Ruth.

“By visiting a lot of these different islands and places, they have really helped me to see the broader impacts of my research and it has really pushed myself to see the bigger meaning and the value of the work we do. This experience in Australia and being around the Great Barrier Reef, it has impacted me personally in so many ways. We’ve done just about everything from going to the top research stations and how they’re understanding the world through that perspective, then engaging with the native communities and seeing how they view the world and how they use their understanding of the reef and its resources and to understand themselves personally.

“From this experience, what I’ve learned is, if I can impact the world in any way, I hope it’s by being part of this movement; to integrate two different mindsets, and hopefully somewhere along the line, we’ll get to a place where we no longer have to have this discussion about western knowledge or this discussion about indigenous knowledge because our children, or the future generations, they’ll get it. Eventually, we’ll get to a point where it won’t be one or the other, it’ll just be science,” said Haunani.

“Haunani becomes not just a geoscientist, she becomes a leader of tomorrow. And Haunani pulled Tahiti out of the sea last year. How many people on the planet can have that kind of resumé. She at the core has the kinds of values that in the end we to make the connection of their professionalism in their work to communities, and to environment, and to place. That’s probably the most important part of this voyage, it is the people who are going to be able to realize real dreams that we never believed could happen. And that will change the world,” said Nainoa.

Please help keep us sailing for future generations. All contributions make a difference for our voyage. Mahalo nui loa!

Crew Blog | Bryson Hoe: Amed Salt Farming

We are welcomed by village members with a simple ceremony and offered small rice snacks before exploring the reefs that have made this once isolated community an increasingly popular destination for tourists. Upon returning to shore, we are given more food – a common occurrence during our visit in Bali that reflects the warmth and generosity of the people – before engaging in conversation around shared issues such as tourism, environmental stewardship, and cultural preservation.  

On the back of a moped driven by one of the village leaders, I am fortunate to visit the nearby salt beds. Surrounded by traditional homes with a clear view of Mount Agung rising in the distance, the ocean-front site is unassuming when first approached. The only clear indication of the salt beds are structures that resemble giant coffee filters at the center of four quadrants, quietly tended to by several families.

IMG_3933 -lowresDuring the salt-producing season that runs from July to December, the shallow fields are first smoothed then filled with salt water. Over three days, the water evaporates leaving behind salt-laden soil. This soil is then broken up and put in the large cone structure that acts as a filter. Additional sea water is added to the soil, and an underground reservoir collects the extremely salty water. The water is then scooped into coconut logs to dry out for an additional ten days, leaving behind large salt granules. This labor-intensive process is rotated across the four fields each day. The salt is then stored in a warehouse for 6 months before being sold.

The village elder explains that salt has been farmed the same way in Amed and other communities for hundreds of years. Unfortunately, like other parts of Bali, development and higher wages in the tourism industry threaten this traditional practice that fewer families continue.

IMG_3946 -lowresEach coconut log can last up to 30 years if properly maintained. However, buying new logs is prohibitively expensive, and farmers have turned to drying out the salt in shallow beds lined with plastic. All of the farmers agree that this non-traditional alternative compromises the quality of the salt and would rather use the coconut logs.

To protect this practice, the village has sought to create a trademark for salt produced in the region that emphasizes its high quality. Additionally, an information center is being created that will educate visitors about the unique salt-farming history of the region.

As we depart, we are gifted with several bags of sea salt that will be put to good use on board Hokulea so that we may remember our time here.

Please help keep us sailing for future generations. All contributions make a difference for our voyage. Mahalo nui loa!

Crew Blog | Miki Tomita: Borobudur Temple, An Ancient Ship brought to Life

IMG_4802 -lowresSlowly, the sky lightened, heavy with mist and volcanic fog. The temple remained shrouded in mist, barely visible but powerful and peaceful in its presence.  Built from over 2 million stone blocks, Borobudur sits aligned with four stairways at each main compass point (East, South, West, and North), and consists of three major vertical levels – Kamadhatu (the foot of the temple, representing the lowest sphere and the realm of ordinary humans), Rapadhatu (the body of the temple, representing the realm between earthly desire and the realm of the gods, and Arupadhatu (the top of the temple, representing the place of the gods).

The entire temple tells the story of the teachings and life of the Buddha, and of the environment and culture of Java at the time the temple was constructed conveyed through carvings etched in the stones called relief panels.  The are almost 3,000 relief panels distributed over the 2 million stone blocks. The temple has been under restoration since the 1970s since becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with broken or shattered stones replaced by new ones in a continuous rebuilding process to maintain structural integrity for the 58,000 visitors the site sees daily during peak season.  As part of the archaeological protocol, the new stones are not carved to match the old ones; over time, as stones are replaced to maintain the structure and safety of the temple, the stories etched by the 8th century craftsmen are slowly erased, and with it the voice of the ancestors.

IMG_4471 -lowresOne of the ways that the Indonesian community has prevented this erasing of the record is through the building of the Borobudur Ship.  Touring the temple and its relief carvings, you can find several panels that depict ships that crossed to Indonesia through the Indian Ocean, bringing followers of the Buddha in search of enlightenment. One of the relief carvings is the inspiration for the Borobudur Ship, which was built based on the details of the stone carvings.  Similar to Hōkūleʻa, this ship was brought into existence based on a record without words, one that lay sleeping in the stones until the moment when it could be awakened by those who could answer the call. The ship sailed successfully from Indonesia to Madagascar to Africa, retracing the Cinnamon Route, with crewmembers from local communities practicing traditional wayfinding standing beside scientists searching for evidence of migration patterns and seafaring traditions, before coming home to rest in the Samudra Raksa Museum on the temple grounds.

IMG_4721 -lowresWe visited the museum, and were delighted and awed to find information about our voyaging canoes included in the displays.  We presented the Conservatory and Museum with a plaque made from a piece of the original iako from Hōkūleʻa, which will join the museum display.

After the visit to the temple, our crewmembers presented information about our voyage to the Conservatory scientists and researchers, and they presented information about theirs – the voyage to restore the temple, to revitalize pride in their people through the building and sailing of the ship, and the struggle to balance tourism as an industry with protection of environmental and cultural resources. We discussed ways in which Hōkūleʻa has helped to build pride and confidence in Hawaiʻi, and has been part of the movement that inspired the revitalization of language, culture, and environment.  Our Indonesian friends observed that all of us in this world are searching for connections – between our past, present and future; between people around the world –  and finding that we are at once both the same and vastly different in beautiful ways.  

We have sailed Hōkūleʻa across the Pacific in the wake of our ancestors, and launched into the Indian Ocean looking for a new horizon.  What we have found is that the sun rises and sets as it has since the beginning of time, guiding us towards a deeper ancestral past than we have yet encountered in Hōkūleʻa’s 40 years.  Thank you to the Borobudur Conservatory for sharing with us your story of hope, and for celebrating with us the wisdom of our ancestors in crossing deep oceans together.   

Please help keep us sailing for future generations. All contributions make a difference for our voyage. Mahalo nui loa!