Pacific Islanders have a deeply rooted connection to the land, to the ocean and to the environment. They do not make a distinction between the environment and culture – both are one and the same. The ocean connects families across the Pacific and for hundreds of years one tradition has laid the foundation for the cultures and lives on the islands: Ocean Voyaging.
United as Pacific Voyagers we wanted to help revive the practice of traditional sailing and navigation, but take it one step further by adding the latest solar technology. We envisioned the evolution of Ocean Voyaging combining ancient wisdom with modern alternative energy, making sailing canoes not only practical for current conditions, but also independent and fossil-fuel-free. The vision became a reality when seven new canoes, called “Vaka Moana”(boat of the ocean), were built in 2010 in Aotearoa (New Zealand) to set sail on a maiden voyage across the Pacific.
The aim of this voyage, known as ‘Te Mana O Te Moana’ (The Spirit of the Ocean), was to reconnect with the traditions, with Pacific communities and with the ocean. Many of the island nations of the Pacific including Fiji, the Cook Islands, Samoa, French Polynesia and Aotearoa were represented by one vaka, each with their own sailors. Two other vaka had crews composed of sailors coming from other island nations stretching from Papua New Guinea to Easter Island.
In 2011 these seven Vaka Moana sailed from Aotearoa to Hawai’i, then to the West Coast of the United States. In Hawai’i, the first and one of the most important destinations of the voyage, the sailors participated in the Kava Bowl Ocean Summit, together with scientists and other experts from all over the world and different areas of expertise, in order to discuss the latest findings about the state of the ocean. After visiting San Diego, Cocos Islands, Galapagos, Tahiti, Cook Islands, Samoa, Fiji and Vanuatu the vaka and their crew joined theFestival of Pacific Arts in the Solomon Islands in July 2012. The festival marked the end of ‘Te Mana O Te Moana’ and was one of the highlights of the journey. This grand voyage demonstrated the effectiveness and art of traditional sailing, guided only by the stars. And it re awakened in the Pacific sailors a pride and new confidence in voyaging techniques.
During this journey the sailors were deeply affected by the unity of the vaka family, by sailing over thousands of miles of ocean through many challenges and hardship, to arrive together at the end, forever connected in friendship. The seven Vaka Moana sailed a combined 200,000 nautical miles of open ocean on the ‘Te Mana o Te Moana’ voyage. People throughout the Pacific were inspired and the demand for vaka throughout the Pacific began to gain momentum.
After the successful return of all vaka and their sailors, local NGOs were established to utilize the vaka for different purposes. Education, training and reconnection with tradition and the ocean were given particular importance. At the same time Pacific Voyagers Charitable Trustwas established to gain and transfer knowledge and experience and to advance the projects that resulted from the work and findings of the ‘Kava Bowl Summit’. These projects are summarized in a holistic plan for the future that we have called ‘The Blue Canoe Project’.