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The Honolulu Advertiser
Updated at 4:16 p.m., Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hokulea gets dolphin, manta ray escort into Palmyra

Advertiser Staff

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Hokulea launched from the Marine Education and Training Center on Sand Island on March 9 to begin its 1,000-mile voyage to Palmyra Atoll.

ANDREW SHIMABUKU | The Honolulu Advertiser

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The voyaging canoe Hokulea arrived at Palmyra Atoll this morning, nine days and 1,000 miles after setting sail from Honolulu.

Hokulea's crew reported being surrounded by about 400 melon headed whales as it approached the atoll and escorted into the atoll's main channel by a pod of dolphins and a school of manta rays.

This voyage was intended to help train a new generation of non-instrument navigators.

Polynesian Voyaging Society lead navigator Nainoa Thompson shared his delight in the crew's success.

"This is an amazing day," Thompson said in a news rlease. "These young people have done wonderfully under really difficult conditions.

"This experience is truly transformational and I know that we are seeing the future not only of PVS, but of our island home."

As the first long distance training mission for Hokulea's scheduled worldwide voyage in 2012, the crew sailed to one of the world's most pristine marine and land environments.

As a part of this training they experienced the true fatigue of open ocean voyaging, the complexity of finding a small speck of land in an endless ocean and the rare chance to visit an environment that holds many lessons about how to better care for the places in which we live.

"One of the most valuable aspects of this training is the actual time on sea," said Palmyra voyage captain and navigator Bruce Blankenfeld. "To put deep-sea mileage days, even weeks on the canoe living and functioning as an ocean person in an everyday real setting. Its benefits are incalculable."

"There's been a heightening of our senses and awareness of what's going on around us," said Nahaku Kalei, one of the young voyagers. "From learning about the star lines to sail manipulation and understanding weather and ocean patters, we've learned to adjust."

Meeting the crew on Palmyra will be a second training crew which will navigate a return trip to Hawaii.