Hopping, Polynesian Style
believed to be the first inhabitants of the Hawaiian islands,
the Polynesians migrated throughout the Pacific in sailing
canoes, ultimately forming a triangle, whose points are Aotearoa
(New Zealand) to the southwest, Rapa Nui (Easter Island) to
the east, and the Hawaiian Archipelago to the north.
The Polynesian migrations most likely began from the islands
of Fiji, Tonga and Samoa, spreading east, south, and north,
covering millions of square miles of ocean sparsely dotted
with islands. The migrations probably occurred over
a period of a thousand years, with nearly all habitable islands
settled several hundreds of years before they were "discovered"
by European sailors in the 16th century.
Archaeological evidence combined with the degree of similarity
in languages, cultural practices and transported plants indicate
that the order of migration was first to the east to the Cook
Islands, then on to Tahiti nui, the Society Islands, Tuamotus
and Hiva (Marquesas Islands), now known as French Polynesia.
The Polynesian voyagers subsequently found their way southeast
to Easter Island and north/northwest to Hawai`i, and finally
south to Aotearoa (New Zealand).
From the time of James Cook, there has been great debate as
to whether the Polynesians populated the far-flung islands
of the mid Pacific by accident or by design. The Pacific
Voyaging Society was founded more than twenty five years ago
with a primary goal of finding out if the canoes and navigational
skills were sufficient to intentionally cross the vast distances
between the islands.
The Hokulea (hokule'a) was completed in 1975 and the
following year was successfully sailed the 2400 miles from
Hawaii (Hawai'i) to Tahiti in 34 days without instruments.
This and several other voyages established that planned long-distance
voyaging was possible.
The next test in the hypothesis was to construct a replica
using only materials and tools available to the Polynesians.
The Hawaiiloa (hawai'iloa), named for the man sometimes
credited with the discovery of Hawaii (hawai'i), was
completed in 1994 and sailed to the Marquesas and back via
Tahiti and Raiatea (Ra'iatea)the following year, along
with two other canoes, the Hokulea (hokule'a) and the
most challenging voyage was undertaken in 1999, when the final
"leg" in the triangle was completed with the voyage
to Rapa Nui (Easter Island).
to: History of Hawaii