VIMS Launches Science Program on PVS Moananuiākea Voyage

Today the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) announced a new partnership to monitor phytoplankton and water quality as the PVS double-hulled canoe Hōkūleʻa circumnavigates the Pacific. Savannah Mapes, a VIMS PhD student, was on site with the Hōkūleʻa crew in Seattle last week to train them in using the Planktoscope’s modular, open-source hardware and software for imaging plankton samples and a YSI water quality monitoring device. Through this partnership, PVS and VIMS will pair indigenous knowledge, science, and student engagement to better understand and help amplify the importance of the oceans to a healthy earth. VIMS and William & Mary students will have the opportunity to be involved in the Moananuiākea Voyage and learn from the many Indigenous and coastal communities visited by the Hōkūleʻa.

VIMS is also sponsoring a “companion car” or “land canoe” that is traveling down the west coast to provide land transportation for the crew at Hōkūleʻa’s ports of call from Seattle to San Diego. The crew have named the car ʻElepaio after the small, lively Hawaiian bird that was once considered the guardian spirit of canoe builders. According to one legend, if an ʻElepaio pecked at a koa tree, it meant the tree was infested with insects and not suitable for carving into a canoe. If, however, the ʻElepaio lands on the tree and sings “ono-ka-ia” (translation: ‘sweet the fish’), it indicates that the wood is sound for canoe building. The Oʻahu ʻElepaio was abundant and widespread in forest habitats throughout the island in the early 20th century, but it has declined steadily and is listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and by the State of Hawaiʻi.

Hōkūleʻa has been sailing from Southeast Alaska since the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) held its global launch of Moananuiākea, the four-year circumnavigation of the Pacific, in Juneau, Alaska on June 15, 2023. The canoe and her crews sailed south through British Columbia engaging with First Nations communities, before arriving in Seattle.

Video: VIMS and PVS

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