Native Hawaiian Navigator Receives Benchley Oceans Award for Excellence in Exploration

Master navigator, Nainoa Thompson

Master navigator Nainoa Thompson has just been honored in Washington D.C. for “Excellence in Exploration” at the 2015 Peter Benchley Ocean Awards. He is one of a handful of indigenous navigators left on earth that can find tiny islands in the open ocean without instruments, using wayfinding techniques passed down over a thousand years.

Master navigator, Nainoa Thompson

Thompson, mentored for decades by master navigator Mau Piailug, became the first Native Hawaiian in 700 years to practice long-distance wayfinding. As president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, Thompson has overseen the 150,000 miles sailed over a span of 40 years by the traditional voyaging canoe, Hōkūleʻa.

Thompson and the captains and crew of the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage are nearly 10,000 nautical miles into their current voyage around the world to explore solutions and stories of hope for our oceans and environment.

Here is what Thompson had to say about the award, the connection between finding islands and finding a sustainable future, and why he is feeling hopeful about our ability to mālama honua—care for Island Earth.

Photo by Kaipo Kiaha © 2014 Polynesian Voyaging Society ʻŌiwi TV.

What does this award mean to you and the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage?

The award is not for me, because Hōkūleʻa is the one that has carried all of us. I just hold it and carry it for Hōkūleʻa and for Mau, the true explorers.

If voyaging matters, you have to be able to acknowledge the thousands of people that sailed Hōkūleʻa, that cared for Hōkūleʻa, that made sure that she would be safe at sea, and the thousands of people that supported her.

At the core of that would be the great Mau Piailug that pulled Tahiti out of the sea and gave pride and dignity to the whole Pacific. He then came back for —> Read More