Seeing a 600-Year-Old Voyaging Canoe Up Close

Hōkūleʻa crew members visit an ancient carved waka in South Island, Aotearoa.   A controlled scientific process called wet organic conservation, is being used to preserve the wood. Photo by ʻĀina Paikia.

By Captain and Pwo Navigator, Kālepa Baybayan

Tucked away along a hillside in Porohara, South Island, New Zealand, is Onetahua Marae.

Onetahua means the “Gathering Sands,” and is named for the spit of land that juts out into the Tasman Sea at the northwestern edge of South Island. Here sperm whales annually beach themselves, and the iwi (bones) of the whales are cultural property of the three iwi (tribes) that reside in Mohua Bay.

Our voyaging canoe, Hōkūleʻa, taking a break from the long journeys involved in our multi-year worldwide voyage, is berthed on a floating pier nearby in a very small marina.

On the other side of the harbor is a warehouse that holds the remains of a 600-year-old waka hourua (voyaging canoe) that have been suspended in a solution to preserve them since they were rediscovered in 2012. We couldn’t pass up this opportunity to be connected to the navigators, voyagers, and artisans who went so long before us and made the journey we are making now possible.

Hōkūleʻa crew members visit an ancient carved waka in South Island, Aotearoa. A controlled scientific process called wet organic conservation is being used to preserve the wood. (Photo by ʻĀina Paikia)

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