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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Hokule'a reaches Kure, end of voyage

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Science Writer

KURE ATOLL, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands — The voyaging canoe Hokule'a anchored yesterday inside the lagoon at Kure Atoll, the northernmost island of the Hawaiian archipelago.

Nainoa Thompson

The event marked the end of a historic 1,200-mile journey from Kaua'i in which the vessel was the first Hawaiian canoe in modern times to follow the rocky islands and atolls up the island chain.

Along the way, crew members employed high-tech methods to keep in touch with schoolchildren in dozens of classrooms and to update Web sites, while using only their hands and the most basic of tools to improve the environments of the islands they visited, hauling marine debris off beaches, planting native species and carrying in the canoe's twin hulls small plants from one island to be established on another.

The canoe was to hoist anchor at sunset yesterday for a sail back toward Midway Atoll, where another crew was waiting to return the Hokule'a to Kaua'i.

Captain Nainoa Thompson said the final day of the voyage north was particularly difficult, but the destination worth the effort.

"The day to get here was rough. ... The winds were shifting and steering was difficult, but we were able to tuck into this little anchorage and were able to anchor on this perfect sandpit," he said.

The crew could look down into crystal-clear waters and see details of the reef 40 to 50 feet below. "This is not just a healthy but a wealthy habitat. This is one special jewel on the planet Earth," Thompson said.

While the rest of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands is under federal control, the most remote, Kure, is a state wildlife sanctuary. Hokule'a crew members were able to visit Green Island, the larger of Kure's two sandy islands, where a two-person National Marine Fisheries monk seal team and a three-member state crew are spending the summer.

It is colder here than in the main islands. Not only is Kure more than 1,000 miles west of the main islands, it is nearly 400 miles farther north from the equator.

One effect is that corals don't grow well, said marine biologist Randy Kosaki, and some of the fish species are related to cold-water species from Japan.