Maui Training Sail
During our recent training sail to Maui, students from the University Lab School were able to virtually visit us aboard in a live Skype video call. In the calm waters off Lahaina, two very inspiring high school groups, actively involved in global initiatives, joined us from afar and provided an ideal scenario to pilot the Worldwide Voyage Education at Sea Program.
Our first group of students are part of the Global Leadership elective at University Lab School. Currently, the students are researching organizations at each of the ports for year one of the voyage that Hokule’a and Hikianalia will soon embark on. They are highlighting and connecting with groups engaged in the core themes of the Worldwide Voyage, which include Culture, Leadership, Ocean, Voyaging, and Education (CLOVE), on both local and global levels. At the moment, they are researching Kiribati and how the local community is responding to threats associated with climate change, such as sea level rise.
Our second group of students are involved in an environmental stewardship and service learning program titled “Project Pono”. They have started a project called Ma Ka ‘Aina Ka ‘Ike which fosters awareness and appreciating of our land and ocean through community restoration. They are also part of the International School Peace Garden Network, and are seeking to create a WWV peace garden mission on project N.O.A.H. Sponsored by National Geographic, project N.O.A.H (insert link http://www.projectnoah.org) is an online forum where people can post images of plants and animals in a unique from of global citizen science to document, explore and share wildlife sightings around the world. UH Lab students have created an online profile, documenting images of native and non-native species found in their school peace garden. They are sharing mo’olelo or stories of these organisms to highlight their relationship to Hawaii’s environment and culture. These students are inviting other Peace Garden schools around the world to create a Project N.O.A.H account as a platform to share native and culturally important species, as well as ways to promote peace and sustainability. Focusing on the ports Hokule’a and Hikianalia will visit, they are inviting students in these areas to become Peace Garden schools so that they can become a part of the Worldwide Voyage and the over-arching mission of Malama Honua, or care for the Earth. This is their vision:
Our dream is that schools around the world will do the same – start a Project N.O.A.H. mission for their school peace gardens, document and share about the organisms in their local environment, and help all of us learn more about the world we all live in. We are all part of this “island Earth”, and information is part of the key to our efforts toward living peacefully and sustainably as a global community.
These students are doing incredible work with far-reaching impacts and it was truly a privilege to bring them on board with us virtually!
Prior to our sail, the UH Laboratory students researched a variety of topics about humpback whales. They watched a moving video about people disentangling a humpback whale, listened to whale song, engaged in an interactive activity simulating what it is like to be entangled and how difficult it can be to extricate oneself, and investigated whale behavior, migration patterns, and the current challenges facing humpback whales as an endangered species.
As a part of our education at sea, we also reached out to local whale experts, and interviewed Ka’au Abraham the Maui, Moloka’i, and Lanai Island Coordinator for the National Marine Humpback Whale Sanctuary. He shared with us the encouraging news that the population of North Pacific Humpback whales is on the increase, from an estimated 18,000 – 20,000 in 2004 – 2006 to an estimated 21,000 in 2011. He spoke about scientist theories about the behavior of breaching as a way of sloughing off skin to remove parasites, as a form of communication, or simply for play, or as one insightful student pointed out, “because they can.” He also discussed theories about whale song, which predominantly, have been thought to be a means of attracting females. More recent research has shown males singing in waters where females are not present, suggesting that it could also be a way to share information amongst male whales. Interestingly, males never sing the same song as it changes each season and can even be influenced by visits with other sub populations. Ka’au highlighted the fact that so much remains unknown, and that perhaps some of our local keiki might be inspired to become researchers themselves and help to uncover some of the mysteries surrounding humpback whales!
On board, we were able to give the students a tour of the canoe and share our daily activities, such as raising sails, steering the canoe, and preparing lunch. The students were able to see our sleeping and cooking areas, how we tether ourselves to the canoe in rough weather, and the sophisticated solar powered motors on Hikianalia that allow us to capture the energy of the sun through solar panels and power a small, quiet engine without harming the environment or generating fossil fuel emissions. We were able to share life on the canoe in a very immediate way and how the values of voyaging such as cooperation, aloha, kindness, and caring for our limited resources exist in parallel on the canoe and on land, informing life on our island Earth.
One student, inspired by seeing crew member Kealoha Hoe dressed in a malo, raised an interesting question about the cultural protocols on board. Kealoha shared his feelings about being on board as an opportunity to sail in the wake of our ancestors and connect with their experience. For Kealoha, the Worldwide Voyage is an opportunity to share Hawaiian culture with the world, but also to recognize that we are all one people, dependent on one ocean to sustain us. He spoke about proper protocol as originating from the heart, embodying what we feel.
Our ‘virtual video’ also provided us with an opportunity to share our science at sea, and one particular device we are testing called the plankton tow. The word ‘plankton’ is Greek for “drifter”, organisms that drift with the ocean currents, including plants (phytoplankton) and animals (zooplankton) that are the base of the food chain and are critical to marine food webs. A mesh net is attached to a collection chamber and trailed through the water.
We experimented with attaching the net to the canoe and also trailing it behind a snorkeler to see what we can find.
Both the mesh size of the net and the depth of sampling will determine the species collected. Anyone can search for plankton in both near and offshore waters. Homemade nets can even be home made from nylon stockings and metal coat hangers!
The exercise showed us that the ocean is full of life, from majestic whales to minute life forms invisible to the naked eye. Various forms of zooplankton and jellies are visible in the collection container and even more amplified under the microscope.
During the Worldwide Voyage, Hokule’a will represent our culture, heritage, and connection to our ancestors. She will be navigated using ancestral knowledge of star patterns, ocean movement, marine life, weather patterns, and other signs from nature. Hikianalia, her sister vessel will be a modern platform for science. As they sail together, merging the best of modern technology and ancestral wisdom, they will share stories from around the world as a catalyst for positive change. To connect with the inspiring students of the UH Laboratory school in our home islands, and learn how they are networking with global communities, was an exciting window into what awaits. The dreams of our youth are a vision of change for today and for a future of sustainability and peace for generations to come.
Posted by Karen Holman; Photos by Karen Holman and Keli Takenaga