Q. What are some of the dangers you face at sea? Also, how does the captain navigate by stars if the sky is overcast and stars are unvisible?
A. The dangers are innumerable. On our voyage, the doctor treated severe bruises, stitched a gash, treated jellyfish stings, handled seasickness and more. There are man-overboard drills for handling that potential. There is always the danger the canoe will swamp or be shipwrecked on a reef.
The navigators use a range of clues, including the stars, but when it's entirely overcast, they can use the wind direction, ocean swells, even a dim indication of the moon's location behind the clouds, and a great deal more.
Q. Can you tell us more about Laysan's lake? How big? How deep? What dymanics create or affect the lake? Does or did it support any life? How was the lake affected by the island's history of environmental degradation? Are there efforts or ideas to renew it? If so, what?
A. Laysan's lake covers about 100 acres. It was once said to have been 40 or more feet deep, but after the island was denuded by rabbits, a great deal of sand blew in, and it may now only be a dozen or more feet deep. Much of it is quite shallow. Its level is higher than that of the ocean outside the island and it is very salty. One suggestion is that it is the remnant of the old inside of an atoll that is now entirely surrounded by sand dunes. There are small shrimp living in the lake, and it supports a healthy fly population that provides food for Laysan ducks. I didn't hear of any plans to dredge or otherwise change it. Interestingly, neighboring Lisianski Island also once had an interior lake, but it was entirely filled by blowing sand after rabbits and mice overran that island and ate off most of the vegetation.
Q. Please tell us how you are able to send out text and photos back to your paper. Explain about the technology used in this process how long does it take each day to send? Could you send video clips to this Web site? Mahalo,
A. I brought two laptop computers, two digital cameras with a card reader that allowed me to transfer images from both to either laptop, and a Motorola 9505 Iridium satellite phone with a data kit that allowed it to hook up to either computer. I use Microsoft Word to write the stories, paste them into e-mails on Outlook Express. I process photos, adding captions and shrinking the images down to about 100 kilobyte on Photoshop Elements and attach them to e-mails. One story or one photo per email.
Text goes quickly over the Iridium phone a couple of minutes for an average news story. But photos can take anywhere from 8 to 20 minutes, depending on the connection and how often the phone loses the signal and must redial. Fortunately, the software provided with the phone by supplier Outfitter Satellite will pick up e-mails where it left off when there's a lost signal, so I don't have to entirely resend each image each time. I would need a much faster system to send video clips.
As it was, the crew on Hokule'a got used to seeing me standing motionless at the rail for long periods of time, often holding the satphone in the air when signals were iffy. The decision to bring backup equipment was fortunate. A splash of salt water killed the most of the keyboard of one brand new computer three hours into the voyage, coming right through the canvas flap opening as I was working under cover in my bunk. The other computer, an ancient IBM ThinkPad, continues to work fine, but its only USB port broke, so I couldn't get new images into it. I was able to use the original computer to minimally process pictures using the touchpad and the three numbers and nine letters that still worked. I continued to use the ThinkPad for word processing.
Q. This question is for the novice crewmembers: Has this experience met or exceeded your expectations of sailing on Hokule'a? And, what does this trip mean to you?
A. "Exceeded beyond my dreams," said ship's doctor Cherie Shehata. "The people and the places we're seeing are special and unique. It's a privilege to go the places we're going aboard Hokule'a. And the message we're conveying to the kids and the public is an important one."
Q. I have been following your journey from Day 1. I was sorry it took so long to get going. My question: Will the Hokule'a stop at any of the islands for any sightseeing? Godspeed from Virginia. Wish I was out there on the open water with you all. Mahalo,
A. We have stopped to anchor for the night at Nihoa, for a visit ashore at Tern Island, for a dive at La Perouse Pinnacle and are currently anchored off a white sand beach at Laysan. Stops at Kure and Midway are also planned.
Q. I am really enjoying the coverage of the Hokule'a. It's a wonderful affirmation of the ancient Hawaiian culture and also exciting from an educational point of view. I don't know if I missed it in the coverage but I am wondering, has the Hokule'a crew made landfall on any of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands? If not, do they plan to? If they do, what will they be doing? Research, traditional ceremonies, etc.? Last question: Is anyone documenting the trip and are there any plans for a television documentary? Thank you very much and please keep up the great coverage and if possible give it even more coverage.
A. See the answer above for information on stops. We are doing some conservation work on our stops. We greet each island with the blowing of a pair of traditional shell horns, or pu, and chants by cultural specialist Keoni Kuoha. Videographer Na'alehu Anthony was with us for the first few days, and his stuff has been on television news shows. No television documentary is planned as far as I know at this time.
Q. Besides fish that you catch, what other food do you eat?
A. Much of it is pretty simple. We have cereal (with unrefrigerated soy milk) or eggs for breakfast, and there were banana pancakes one morning using up the last of our bananas, which were pretty soft. We miss some lunches and just have crackers and snacks. Non-fish dinners have been really good, most of them cooked by either Russell Amimoto or Bruce Blankenfeld, and have included heavy-duty saimin with lots of extras including furikake and spam, a chicken curry with rice, good chili, spaghetti and salmon patties.
Q. Did Tava find his malo?
A. I don't know the story behind this question, but watch captain Tava Taupu says yes, he did.
Q. Dear Jan,
Officially one hears of only five names comprising the Hawaiian Island group, i.e., Hawai'i, Kaua'i, Maui, Moloka'i and O'ahu. But then there are other islands like Lana'i, Kaho'olawe, etc. Exactly how many islands comprise the Hawaiian Island group and what are their names? Best wishes,
A. This could be a very long answer, depending on how small an island you wanted to establish as a minimum. The main Hawaiian Islands normally include eight islands: From southeast to northwest they are Hawai'i, Maui, Kaho'olawe, Lana'i, Moloka'i, O'ahu, Kaua'i and Ni'ihau. There are also lots of smaller islands around these islands. And the canoe is now voyaging in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, which are all part of either state or federal wildlife refuges, and are generally considered to have 10 islands or atolls. A good atlas should provide you with the details you need.
Q. I lived in the islands from 1968-1997. I worked with Nainoa in the early '80s with Hawaii Pilots. I was invited to sail on one of the training runs off Waikiki and was always very interested and proud in how far Nainoa has gone with Hokule'a. My question after watching Survivor on TV is: Since you are navigating by the ancient ways, do you also use hand-made hooks for fishing and hand-made utensils for eating?
A. Captain Nainoa Thompson said, "We have in the past, but not on this voyage."
Q. Back in the '70s, my parents, siblings and I were a part of escorting the Hokule'a. We were given T-shirts and one of the original paddles. What, if any, value does the paddle have? Is it frequent that the paddles are given to people?
A. Out here on the ocean, we have no real way to calculate the value of a display paddle. You might try an online auction site and see whether items such as these are being offered. The Polynesian Voyaging Society recently held a fundraiser at which Hokule'a memorabilia was offered for auction, but whatever amount those items drew could have been inflated by the buyers' desire to help the society support Hokule'a's operations. I asked the canoe's sailing master, Bruce Blankenfeld. He said, "Priceless."
Q. When do you think you will be reaching Midway Island?
A. As of the evening of May 30, when I'm sitting on deck at sunset with the canoe at anchor at Tern Island, French Frigate Shoals, our estimated arrival date at Midway is June 9. But that could change.
Q. What do you find at Midway? What is the condition of the island, the historic sites and the memorial?
A. Midway is at the end of our voyage, but I was there a few years ago for a story. Midway is an atoll with two major islands, both of which were massively modified for military and other purposes over the years. At the time I was there, many of the buildings, runways and other features of its military past were present, but I'm not qualified to render an opinion on their condition.
Q. Is Ka'iulani the youngest person and first woman to navigate the Hokule'a? Isn't the crew mostly men and, ahem, older? She must have a maturity beyond her years to command respect and bear the weight of the responsibility.
A. Ka'iulani Murphy said she is not the first woman to navigate, and quickly listed three other women who have. However, Nainoa Thompson said that at 25 she is easily the youngest person to have navigated. Thompson himself was 27 when he first navigated in a traditional way.
The crew is indeed mostly male, but it has several women: Murphy, physician Cherie Murphy, Fish and Wildlife Service educator Ann Bell, marine biologist Kana Uchino and voyaging educator Leimomi Dierks. There are crew members aboard in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. See more about the crew.
Q. Will you be aboard Hokule'a for the June 8 transit of Venus?
A. We will be aboard, and we're hoping for at least a brief view of the celestial event. If the sun is not hidden behind clouds, the start of the transit should be visible to us just before sunset.
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