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Nainoa Thompson - Biography

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Charles Nainoa Thompson is currently the Executive Director of the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS). Since 1976, he played an integral part in the design, construction, sailing, and navigatin of the Hawai'i Maritime Center's double-hulled voyaging canoe, Hokule'a. Also, under Thompson's supervision, PVS completed the construction of a new Hawaiian voayaging canoe out of traditional materials in 1994. The canoe, named Hawai'iloa, took its maiden voyage in 1995 across the Pacific from Hawai'i to Tahiti to Ra`iatea and back via Nuku Hiva, from where it is believed early settlers to Hawai'i came.

Thompson studied non-instrument navigation, or wayfinding, under master navigator Mau Piailug of Satawal, Micronesia. Thompson is the first Hawaiian to practice the art of wayfinding on long distance ocean voyages since such voyaging ended around the 14th centry. His first long voayage took place in 1980, when he navigated Hokule'a from Hawai'i to Tahiti and back. In 1985-87, he navigated Hokule'a without instruments across Polynesia from Hawai'i to New Zealand and back, stopping at islands along the way while covering more than 16,000 ocean miles. Thompson has trained other Hawaiians and Polynesians in the art of wayfinding and led a revival of traditional arts associated with voyaging in Hawai'i and Polynesia. In 1992, Thompson again took Hokule'a to Rarotonga for the Sixth Pacific Arts Festival celebrating the revival of traditional canoe building and back to Hawai'i. Most recently in 1995, Thompson directed a voyage entitled "Na 'Ohana Holo Moana - The Voyaging Families of the Vast Ocean,'' that took three Hawaiian canoes - Hokule'a, Hawai'iloa, and Makali'i to Tahiti, being joined by five other Polynesian canoes from the Cook Islands (2), New Zealand (1), and Tahiti (2). These, with the exception of the Tahitian canoes, then sailed to the Marquesas, to Hawai'i, and back to their homeland.

Thompson's current interest is to develop an educational program for the schoolchildren of Hawai'i to teach them about Polynesian voyaging traditions and instill them with pride in their ancient seafaring heritage. The program will emphasize not just knowledge about ancient traditions, but also modern scientific knowledge about the ocan and sky and environmental principles based on traditional values for insuring the conservation of resources and a safe, healthy, sustainable future for Hawai'i.


Visits since 10/99. Last Updated on December 15, 2001
Karen. Meech, Institute for Astronomy, UH
meech@ifa.hawaii.edu