Cousteau, Hawaiians Set Sail to Raise Awareness

John Roach
for National Geographic News
July 21, 2003

Editor's Note: Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society is on a film expedition in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to raise awareness about the need to protect the region's unique biodiversity for future generations. This is the third National Geographic News feature to showcase the islands and the expedition.

On board a modern research vessel laden with cutting-edge scuba gear and high-definition video cameras, Jean-Michel Cousteau is documenting a 1,200-mile (2,000-kilometer) long chain of remote islands and coral reefs in the tropical Pacific Ocean to raise awareness of its uniqueness and the need for its protection.

Hot on Cousteau's trail a group of native Hawaiians will sail from Kauai in the main Hawaiian Islands to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in a traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe on a mission to restore the Hawaiian concept of malama—caring—to the land and sea to ensure a balance among all forms of life.

The native Hawaiians will rendezvous with Cousteau at Kure, the most northwestern of the islands, said Pat Duarte, President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society in Honolulu. The documentary, called Voyage to Kure, will weave the story of the two voyages around the central theme of malama.

"We share the same mission, the same vision [as Jean-Michel Cousteau]," said Duarte. "For us, the voyage to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands is about raising awareness of environmental issues in Hawaii. For Jean-Michel Cousteau it is about raising environmental issues for people throughout the world."

Voyage to Kure is scheduled to air in fall 2004 on public television. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are currently proposed to become the U.S.'s 14th National Marine Sanctuary, a designation that would help protect the region and thus help protect humankind, according to Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society.

Duarte's crew will set sail for Kure in September aboard Hokule'a. The boat will be guided by navigators who steer without instruments or charts, but rather by using the natural signs revealed in the winds, waves, and stars. This ancient Polynesian navigational technique is known as wayfinding.

Cousteau and his crew of 22 are already in the islands, exploring the mid-ocean ecosystem that native Hawaiians view as their ancestral home. The adventure can be followed via the Web site of the Ocean Futures Society (see link at the bottom of this page).

Ancestral Home

"Uninhabited by living people today, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are home to both deceased humans and their uhane (spirits)," said Edward Haleahoha Ayau, a member of the Hawaiian native group Hui Malama I Na Kupuna O Hawaii Nei (Group Caring for the Ancestors of Hawaii).

"When the islands were settled, I can't say, but it occurred in wa kahico—ancient times," said Ayau. "After they were settled [on the main islands], families continued to go up to fish there, to get away, but mainly for spiritual ceremonies."

Archaeologists have dated agricultural, habitation, and religious sites on Nihoa and Necker islands to the 7th century. Chants and oral traditions suggest native Hawaiians also visited other islands and atolls in the chain.

Continued on Next Page >>


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