Almost three months following the launching of Hōkūle’a on March 8, 1975, a Hawaiian crew member from Kalapana, Hawai'i experienced a vivid premonition of Hōkūle’a swamping in Hawai'i waters. His details were explicit. Despite intense vigilance by myself and dedicated crew members, on the morning of October 5, 1975, the incident came to fruition, and in exact detail as was described.
Within weeks of the crew member's dream I, too, experienced an early warning premonition. I was told, that at all costs, I had to make Hōkūle’a ready to sail the following morning. We would have to carefully maneuver through the narrow Kaimana Beach channel.
Familiar with the conditions on this south side of O'ahu, that event the weather started to change for the worst. In a deep sleep, I envisaged a familiar vessel floundering in rough seas offshore from this channel. I write about the details of this early warning.
In April of 1976l, after completing the rebuilding of Hōkūle’a, my farther, too, had an early warning, a premonition of how the voyage to Tahiti would likely play out. His mana'o, his thoughts, were tape recorded and were accurate and is included in this writing.
Within weeks of my father sharing his mana'o, I was faced with two shocking situations which brought me to have a premonition of Hōkūle’a in violent seas and the canoe capsizing. It was clear that the navigator, Mau, would not be onboard.
Hōkūle’a successfully sailed to and from Tahiti in 1976, however, in 1977, a good friend had a dream of Hōkūle’a capsizing in storm seas, and he was sure that there would be a loss of life. It came to fruition in 1978 with the loss of crew member Eddie Aikau.
About 30 years prior to the Hōkūle’a project, my mother experienced a profound and significant early warning of an event which would impact Hawai’i resulting in catastrophic consequences.
In Chapter One I share other premonitions, early warnings, as a lead-in to the details and outcomes of the early warnings by the Hōkūle’a crew member, myself, my father, and my friend and how these experiences played a significant role in the saga of the Hōkūle’a, and a phenomenon which I believed allowed the ancestors to be successful in their long distance voyage planning, hundreds of years ago.
Speaking with my father of my concern about these early warnings, he explained that this gift is with everyone, and one would have to be vigilant and careful and especially refrain from being ho'olo, to show off, conceited about having such a gift. He also said that the situation could possibly be prevented.
If you liked “Gone With The Wind,” don’t miss “Voyage of The Hokule’a.”
The National Geographic-WQED/Pittsburgh television documentary is, in a word, Hawaiian epic. More than the 3,000-mile cruise of Hokule’a to Tahiti, it’s a gripping sociological statement. It’s been distilled from 70 hours of filming down to a manageable 90-minute presentation.
The Polynesian Voyaging Society, sponsor of the voyage, scheduled island-wide neighborhood theater showings.
Film Producer Dale Bell chose to tell the crew’s story. He spent more than a year on and around the canoe with camera and mike, getting an on-the-spot candid record.
Except for 17 minutes devoted to the actual voyage, it’s the story which onetime Hokule’a crew chief Kimo Hugho tried to tell before the troubled canoe left for Tahiti.
For his pains, Hugho suddenly was off the canoe, the subject of disciplinary action. After a dramatic decision-making scene on the beach, Hokule’a sails without Hugho.
But, the narrator forecasts, “Like a ghost, his presence will walk Hokule’a’s decks in the days to come.”
The story starts long before that emotion-wrenched departure.
During a year of living with the canoe-training, sailing, and rebuilding Hokule’a after she swamped off Kauai in the fall of 1975 - Hugho and his crew mates rediscovered their spiritual home as Polynesians.
The Film narrator put it this way: “The canoe received the 'mana’ (Hawaiian spiritual power) of each contributor. They in turn became the ‘ohana,’ the family of the canoe.
PVS leaders had said they hoped Hokule’a would re-generate racial pride among the Hawaiians. They did not anticipate what became probably the strongest manifestation of ‘mana’ that has occurred in modern Hawaii.
The late anthropologist Peter Buck, who was half Polynesian, thought it could not be regenerated in these times.
In his book, “Vikings of the Sunrise,” Buck wrote: “I felt a profound regret... for some living spirit. It was something we Polynesians have lost and cannot find, something we yearn for and cannot recreate.”
The Hokule’a working crew, left to themselves on the canoe for a year, discovered, recognized and nurtured this spirit. To them, it was a reality whose time had come - or, more accurately, had returned.
Such a spiritual unity undoubtedly had fueled the ancient Polynesian voyages which the PVS was trying to recreate.
The tragedy of the Hokule’a story was that this ethnic phenomenon was scarcely recognized outside the canoe family.
Sponsors talked of studying canoe performance, traditional navigation, food experiments, transporting plants and animals. But not the latter-day manifestation of ‘mana,’ one of their most unique assets.
During voyage preparation and training, the working crew moved and thought and functioned as a single unit, accepting privation, discomfort, and prodigious work without complaint.
Having gotten a taste of the glory of their heritage, many sacrificed material belongings and security to follow their dream.
As the sailing date drew near, and PVS problems relating to time and money multiplied, a succession of alien values was superimposed on the ‘mana’-kindled crew.
To them, it was an intrusion. Their awakened sense of Polynesian identity and fulfillment was scrambled. They felt a bitter sense of loss which continued on the voyage.
Focusing on Mau Piailug, the Micronesian navigator who achieved the stunning feat of guiding Hokule’a to Tahiti only by the sun, stars and currents, the narrator reports: “Mau has the serenity of a man whose world is whole. His voyages are guided only by the computer of his mind. The crew has a unique respect for Mau, the living incarnation of what they’re trying to recover.”
One gathers from the film that our Hawaiian brothers are trying to tell us something. They’re feeling crowded in their own homeland. They want recognition and respect for their values.
Producer Dale Bell got the message. His film is billed as “a journey across time, a journey into the geography of human courage and human pride.”
Plans for writing The Untold Story of Hōkūle’a were seriously being discussed with Advertiser writer Mary Cooke immediately following the first voyage to Tahiti in 196. In lengthy discussions with Mary, I provided my perspective of the project, our commitment to the navigator Mau Piailug, and especially experiences of intuition, premonitions and dreams; early warnings.
Mary perused my logs, notes, tape recordings, and photographs and agreed we had sufficient data for a novel which she believed we should publish.
However, the saga of the Hōkūle’a project continued to have an ongoing life of its own, especially when, on January 17, 1977, National Geographic released its film documentary, The Voyage of the Hōkūle’a to local and national audiences.
National Geographic dared to break with their traditional format and took the side of a people soon to lose their culture to that of a science and corporate mindset. There would be no loss of subject matter.
Within a year of the release of the documentary, which was continuously shown to worldwide audiences, new managers of Hōkūle’a were careless for the preventable loss of a Hawaiian crew member and lifesaving icon, Eddie Aikau, in their attempt to do another fast track voyage to Tahiti despite a Coast Guard request to cancel the departure due to what would be considered the most violent of weather fronts due to hit the islands.
Cavalier posturing prevailed as they had the audacity to not see a need to have an escort boat for safety purposes.
As much as I had strong desires to write, and with guidelines from Mary, depression would set in from what the owners of Hōkūle’a saw fit to discuss via books and lectures.
As the years passed, I frequently drafted significant moments of my canoe experience and would stop, not realizing that I, like local members of the first crew were experiencing symptoms later to be understood to be post-traumatic stress.
If and when I was inspired to continue my draft, I did so, but there was a long time between these moments.
Then came horrific details which led up to the Challenger space shuttle disaster. This brought me to look into what brought about the tragic results in which an unspoken contract existed with management allowing for an erosion of safety culture.
Such irreverent posturing to put Challenger into orbit despite obvious warning signs inspired me to continue where I left off. I researched the investigation into this tragedy and was not surprised that the hurried execution of both sailing voyage attempts in 1976 and 1978 by the Polynesian Voyaging Society, and that of the Challenger project, were similar.
Dr. Richard Reynman’s quest for the truth of what caused the explosion inspired me to consider my writing as my own appendix and independent analysis on the problems encountered with the two voyage attempts. The mantra by NASA and the PVS was, We have to go!
On a local level, I was shocked in reading the publication, Wayfinding through the Storm, by Gavan Daws about the intimidation to faculty and students of the Kamehameha Schools by their state appointed leaders, trustees, who recruited the services of local cohorts who were deviant, demanding, insensitive and disrespectful.
The trustees displayed the worst of behavior, intentionally pitting Hawaiians against each other, an exactness of the management style by the legal owners of Hōkūle’a. This merciless treatment of many good people and their families brought me to realize my years of note taking was worthwhile.
For the many years leading up to this publication, I believed it would be an impossible task to write about my voyaging experiences knowing that we of the local crew were few in numbers, but to read about the many from Kamehameha Highway Schools having been equally mistreated by those who claimed to be of and for the Hawaiian culture, I knew I was ready.
I began to be further inspired to write after reading an article by Patricia Ellsberg.
She began with a summary of how her husband, Daniel Ellsberg, was indicted on 12 felony counts for espionage, theft, and conspiracy which carried a possible sentence of 115 years for his release of the Pentagon Papers, a set of top-secret documents which revealed how the US Congress and the American public had been lied to about the Vietnam War by four presidents from Truman to Johnson.
I kept re-reading the last part of her statement and my mind went to the local crew member military veterans who cared for Hōkūle’a and who experienced a therapeutic re-sensitizing through their kuleana, an extreme opposite from what they had to face while in Vietnam and when they returned home. This new breath for these crew members was sabotaged by the same type of management styles that Daniel Ellsberg revealed. He felt Americans needed to know the truth.
His statement kept ringing in my mind. An all too familiar reminder that was constantly with me, that Hawaiians and the many others who came to kokua family of the canoe, also deserved to know the truth.
Mrs. Ellsberg mentioned how her husband was inspired to release the truths in the Pentagon Papers by the example of Mahatma Gandhi and his concept of satyagraha, its literal translation, holding to the truth.
Gandhi inspired people to be willing to endure suffering as they participated in acts of nonviolence resistance, and to withdraw cooperation from people and institutions that deny the truth of our oneness by oppressing or harming others. I believe all of us can tap into the power of the truth force when we stand up for the truth and act with integrity and compassion. (Patricia Ellsberg, Yoga Journal, Got To Be True, November 2009.)
Mrs. Ellsberg described what she and her husband had to endure once the Pentagon Papers were released which included harassment, intimidation, an abortive effort to physically incapacitate him totally, and subsequent attempts by the White House to cover up these actions which contributed to the impeachment proceedings against President Nixon and the ending of the Vietnam War.
Despite being portrayed as evil Americans by their own, all charges were dismissed due to gross governmental misconduct, however, I was reliving the similar doings by the business owners of a culture’s property and their efforts to incapacitate we of that culture.
I began to review my many notes, documents, photographs, and tape recordings realizing I had a monumental task, work which would take time to sort and put into a time frame and faced with the reality our local crew members were not at all healed, their story only heard amongst family and friends.
I was committed to a sincere willingness to support the anthropological intent of the project, and always in respectful collaboration with the project’s leaders, yet concerned with conservation of this cultural property, a vital cultural resource necessitating the preservation of its spiritual ambiance, its mana. Caring for this artifact generated a calming and consciousness turning for our culture, as if Hōkūle’a were a beloved family member.
Like all indigenous cultures, life and reality continues to be rooted in feelings and sensing.
The application of questionable management styles created priest-like caste to fill a social void once held by those gifted with healing and advanced early warning capabilities, the very ones who were the integral part of the voyaging feats and accomplishments of the ancestors.
We had the right to protect this historical cultural property as guardians and cultural property advocates. Concerned with heritage preservation through the cultural artifact, we remained willing to contribute documentation which would have greatly assisted the scientists with their research about the voyaging minds and processes of the ancestors.
As expected, revealing experiences would forever unfold, and well into 2013.
Hōkūle’a, Ohana Wa’a, Family of The Canoe will take you on a seemingly endless voyage of unimaginable and surreal settings, shocking and true situations, and defining moments, but more so, it will show that there is a sameness with all Pacific cultures by way of a partnership, a collaboration, with everything in nature. A type of bonding which allowed for the ancestors to find Hawaii on canoe which were biodegradable with every component of their canoe coming from their rain forests.
In compiling this impressive documentary, James Kimo Hugho is to be commended for his bold and meticulous endeavor to bring the truth to the public about the origins and intentions of the legacy of the Hokule’a project for present and future generations, who will bear the consequences and reap the benefits of the sacrifices of its visionaries and people-hands-on deck. The previously incomplete, untold stories of this historical artifact, a representation of the melding of many Polynesian cultures’ skills, intuition and fortitude, can finally be shared, thanks to more than thirty years of research, experience and reflection that Mr. Hugho has carried out on behalf of the Hawaiian people and all mankind. As we continue seeking our connection to the Earth, oceans and stars, may we not lose the perspective of our place in the Universe by becoming overly enamored of technology and material glamour. This eloquent book reminds us of humble beginnings with the Divine spark within as our source.
Your book of the early years of Hokule'a brings to mind the Ohana Wa'a's commitment to care for this waka and values which our tupuna passed on to us.
What I saw in Mau Piailug was not only about navigation, but he allowed us to be comfortable to speak and ask, and listen and share. We saw him as a living ancestor.
It was an honor to be able to do this and also to respect those elders who came to inspire me and who remain with us today.
A great leader is someone like Mau who listens and who can follow. A leader who takes ownership of decisions made, and then when asked to do something extraordinary, is willing to do so and take on that kuleana, but not without preplanning his every move and consulting with his friends of the heavens and rain forest.
John Kruse, Ohana Wa'a, First Crew on 1976 voyage to Tahiti
While attending Kamehameha I had the opportunity to serve as a guide at the Bishop Museum which excited my interests with our unique culture. I recalled how the tourists were amazed at the modern history exhibits, but they would make ugly faces and disgusting sounds when they viewed the ancient carved figures. I was bothered.
Although the carvings, the facial features, may have appeared grotesque to the foreigners, I appreciated each artifact and imagined each as a model of an ancestor.
Luckily, I had the pleasure of having Dr. Donald Kilolani Mitchell spend time with me and allowing me to view and to meet the many artifact ancestors.
With appreciation for the privilege, I took time to study the craftsmanship and fine details of each, seemingly alive creation. Alone with the many sacred ki’i, hand-carved statue, I felt a sameness, as if they were family, but in solitary confinement. I was not afraid. It was a sameness I felt while with Dad’s canoe. Were these artifacts living spirits? I truly believed so.
I deeply inhaled the scent of the ki’i and ingested it into my na’au, intestines, the seat of thought, believing if one was to care for them as a family member, the spirit artifact would respond and be a conduit, allowing for intuitive thoughts and premonitions to its keepers. A partnership, a collaborative bonding of man and artifact, very much a value of our ancestors.
With the canoe not yet built, I thought about who else would be ideal as crew members even though I was not aware as to who would make the final crew selection.
I gave thought to people who loved the sea like Nappy Napoleon and his wife Anona. Included were the Makua family; wahine Vi Makua, Blue senior and junior, and our canoe club steersman, Kimo Makua. Others were Rabbit and Jamma Kekai, Blackout Whaley, Jessie Crawford, Sam Steamboat Jr., Jerome Kalama, Ilima Kalama, and wahine like Momi Keaulana, Oma Wallwork, Rosie Kalama, Keala Stibbard, Keanuenue Rochlen, Kehau Kea, and so many more.
My first top choices were a Kamehameha graduate, Army Ranger and decorated Vietnam veteran, Kala Kukea, First Responder Lifeguard deep-sea diver and friend, Clifford Ah Mow, First Responder Lifeguard, surfer, deep-sea diver, Buffalo Keaulana, and First Responder Lifeguard and surfer, Eddie Aikau. To compliment these selections, would be members of the Rescue Squad of the Honolulu Fire Department. All of these select individuals, in their occupation to save lives and having experienced traumatic emergencies, they have walked close to the ‘doorway to death’ and I believed that they would be best to sail Hokule’a.
I happened to run into a high school and college friend, John Kruse, and brought to his attention the canoe project. John and I shared the same interests of art and design but more so, the love of the sea. John was a good building contractor and was innovative in his application and always looking to improve on quality, methods, and equipment.
When John spoke of his time spent in Vietnam, I imagined what he and so many others had to deal with and how they were treated by the Washington leaders and especially by their own people. I could not imagine having to be exposed to such trauma and neglect and trying to regain normalcy. I was certain that Hokule’a would be a therapeutic resolve from the Nam pains harboring within he and his brother soldiers.
A very longstanding and persistent belief by anthropologist, Andrew Sharp, held that long distance voyaging by our ancestors was by chance and likely voyages of drift and never voyages of intent. This was Ben’s lifetime pursuit to prove Andrew Sharp and others of the same mind set wrong. Ben’s goal was for historical and scientific correctness.
I put myself in the mind of Ben and how his research had to be very valuable and significant. His results would be an extraordinary break through, a migration bench mark. His project would have to be well-organized, methodically planned and executed for his research to be successful. If this was to be the case, the project would have to be isolated, and I wondered at what point would we begin to see such an effort.
I waited for some sign of this possibility, but never got an indication of this concern., however, I knew that the voices of locals, with years of hope for their culture, would clearly state their mana’o as to who should be leading this voyage.
As often as I explained the project to friends, I had to include the fact that it would be a science-owned voyage to celebrate the 200-year anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
Hearing this brought many to squint their eyes. It was as if their short-lived excitement and dreams of cultural hope through the success of the canoe project had instantly faded away. They no longer appeared interested.
A profound statement that I would hear from Herb at informational presentations for the canoe project was, all cultures look to their objects for survival. Herb’s emphasis was to the canoe. It made me think about how it really made sense at that time for our culture.
When the completed design of the big canoe was previewed, it became clear to me that the enormity of this cultural object would bring a spark of hope to a great number of families who were previously certain that their culture had slowly begun its downward spiral. The visual impact at seeing the flowing and powerful lines of the canoe delicately and cleanly detailed was astonishing and quite surreal.
For every moment I began to spend with this embryo, still in construction, I looked to my real life and my first child that I would someday have. She would be given the same love I would give to Hokule’a. I was very serious about this, but more importantly, we all had to be care-givers to this living cultural artifact of the ancestors, albeit a replica. No one could own it. It was the ancestor’s ride.
Once our local folk would see this bigger-than-life object, what would evolve would be a pure and committed spiritual reawakening, a powerful force for cultural strengthening. But, at the same time, I gave deep thought to Ben’s research, research which would likely not include true cultural values and beliefs. We would have to wait and see, but I put my trust in him.