With the recent completion of Hōkūle’a’s epic voyage around the world and the release of movies like MOANA, Pacific voyaging culture is receiving an unprecedented amount of popularity and interest. This is great news for all of us who have been privileged enough to experience these voyaging traditions first-hand. However, the reality of voyaging in the modern-day Pacific is quite different than the idyllic picture that Disney has painted.
Today, almost all sea travel between islands occur on large ships, where passengers are crammed like sardines for days (sometimes weeks) on end. In the Caroline Islands of Micronesia, for example, where famous navigators like Pius “Mau” Piailug are from, there is still a connection to the voyaging traditions of old. And yet, the primary mode of transport no longer requires a knowledge of the seas and the stars. Each year, more and more young people are choosing to leave their islands on the “big metal canoe” for opportunities in more developed islands. What will become of these communities, once known for being the best sailors and navigators in the world?