Traditional sailing canoe greeted at Nihoa by cultural practitioners


Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners greeted the double hulled sailing canoe, Hikianalia, as it concluded its maiden voyage to Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Sept. 9.

It was the last day of the cultural practitioners’ journey to the island of Nihoa when the unplanned meeting occurred. Those on land greeted the navigators with the sound of the pu, or conch shell, and oli, or chant, to which the Hikianalia crew reciprocated.

“To be on island and to greet her (Hikianalia) — Hawaii to Hawaii — was special,” said Pelika Bertlemann, one of the founders of the nonprofit Na Maka o Papahanaumokuakea, which led the Nihoa trip. “When was the last time a native Hawaiian was on Nihoa and a waa came around the corner? We don’t even know.”

The ship was under the direction of six apprentice navigators and four of Hawaii’s five pwo, or master, navigators.

The Polynesian Voyaging Society began its worldwide voyage May 29 with a sail around the Hawaiian Archipelago, and Nihoa was one of the last stops on the voyage. Hikianalia set sail from Kauai en route to Nihoa to undertake its first deep-sea leg of the voyage.

Hikianalia captain Nainoa Thompson said the passage from Kauai to Niihau to Nihoa is the perfect training ground for apprentice navigators to prepare for their ultimate test to find Tahiti and then voyage around the world, as the island has no artificial light and is not within view of other islands.