Hokule'a Voyages Through Hawaiian Islands NWR
Historic trip links remote islands to public
When the twin-hulled canoe Hokule'a sailed out of Hanalei Bay on the Island of Kauai, HI, May 23, Outdoor Recreation Planner Ann Bell from the USFWS Honolulu office was onboard, acting as the education and environmental protocol officer for "Navigating Change," the Polynesian Voyaging Society's unique environmental and cultural mission.
By Susan Saul
The 2,400-mile, two-month voyage is the first time in centuries that a Polynesian canoe cruised Hawaii's most leeward islands, which have been the Hawaiian Islands NWR since 1909. The Polynesian Voyaging Society navigated the replica canoe by traditional, noninstrument seafaring techniques from Kauai to Kure Atoll and back, following the traditional route of ancient Hawaiians.
More than 60 classrooms and about 1,600 students in Hawaii, Louisiana and American Samoa were linked to the vessel by daily satellite telephone calls. Teachers used a curriculum guide, video and Web site to prepare the students for the calls.
|Hokule'a arrived at Midway Atoll NWR, HI, June 9 after completing an 18-day trip that took the Polynesian voyaging canoe and its crew 1,200 miles from Kauai to the far end of the Hawaiian Islands NWR.|
Photo: Tim Bodeen/USFWS
"Navigating Change" brought public attention to the biological wonders of the rarely seen ecosystem of coral reefs, atolls, small islands, seamounts, banks and shoals that compose the refuge. It also challenged Hawaii's residents to conserve the unspoiled condition of the refuge islands.
"It's important that the people of Hawaii understand the leeward islands," said Bell. "The refuge islands are part of their history and environment."
Some of the World's Most Pristine Habitat
Scientists describe the 10 refuge islands and the surrounding reefs as some of the most pristine habitats on earth, home to millions of seabirds and thousands of sea turtles as well as pupping habitat for Hawaiian monk seals. The reefs are essential habitat for sharks and countless indigenous and endemic species. Many refuge species exist nowhere else.
Hokule'a stopped at each of the islands and atolls. The USFWS allowed the crew to go ashore at Tern and Laysan islands and Midway and Kure atolls.
|Ann Bell, outdoor recreation planner in the Pacific Islands External Affairs Office, takes a turn on the sweep of the replica Polynesian vooyaging canoe Holule'a during its recent 18-day trip through the Hawaiian Islands NWR. Keoni Kuhoa, cultural specialist on the crew, helps Ann keep the canoe on course.
At Laysan Island, the crew helped haul away hundreds of pounds of washed-up nets and ropes that could have entangled endangered monk seals and sea turtles. They planted native vegetation from the USFWS' nursery on the island, and helped collect native sedge makaloa for transplanting to Midway Atoll, where refuge managers hope to restore a wetland.
Laysan is a prime example of environmental degradation and restoration. A century ago, guano miners, feather poachers and an ill-conceived rabbit-canning business converted the tropical forest of flowering plants and sandalwood trees to a desert. When the canning business failed, the rabbits were released and ate nearly all the vegetation. Endemic land birds became extinct.
The USFWS is restoring the island. "Laysan shows what can be done to restore the environments of the main Hawaiian islands," Bell says.
Hokule'a sailed to Kure Atoll, the end of the Hawaiian Archipelago, before returning to Midway Atoll NWR on June 9. There, the outbound crew was replaced by another, who took the canoe on a non-stop trip back to Kauai.
In addition to its classroom outreach, Hokule'a brought its stewardship message to Hawaii residents via daily newspaper and television coverage. A reporter from one of Honolulu's daily newspapers was a crew member. A videographer traveled onboard for a few days to get footage for television stations.
Navigating Change partners included the USFWS, Polynesian Voyaging Society, Bishop Museum, NOAA, State of Hawaii, Hawaii Maritime Center, University of Hawaii, Coastal Zone Management Hawaii and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Susan Saul works in External Affairs in the Pacific Regional Office as outreach specialist for refuges.