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The Expedition | The Latest Dispatch | Expedition Resources

SpaceRapa Nui
Rapa Nui. Photo by Sonny Ahuna.

From June 1999 to January 2000, the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) is planning to culminate the last 25 years of voyaging -- a generation of voyaging -- with a voyage to Rapa Nui. Since Hokule'a was launched in 1975, it has touched every major island or island group in Polynesia except Rapa Nui.

Join the Rapa Nui wayfinders on their journey by reading their latest dispatches, which are sent straight from the decks of Hokule'a.

Check out the map of the expedition to see just where Hokule'a is headed.

The Voyage to Rapa Nui

To get from Hawai'i to Rapa Nui, Hokule'a must travel to the 2820 nautical miles south (from 20 degrees N to 27 degrees S) and 2760 nautical miles east (from 155 degrees W to 109 degrees). The first three destinations (Nukuhiva, Mangareva, and Rapa Nui) lie upwind of the departure points, so the canoe will have to struggle to get east against the prevailing winds.

Rapa Nui is a small, isolated island, making it a difficult target for the non-instrument navigator. Traditional non-instrument navigation, or wayfinding, cannot achieve the pinpoint accuracy of satellite navigation. The wayfinder sails into the vicinity of his destination and begins looking for the island. He may find an island close by and re-orient the canoe to his destination. The fact that many islands in the Pacific are part of island chains, with relatively closely-spaced islands made this sort of navigation practical in ancient times. However, there are no islands close to Rapa Nui. Pitcairn, the nearest inhabited island, is 1150 miles to the west.

The voyage to Rapa Nui is the most challenging voyage undertaken by the Polynesian Voyaging Society; the results are uncertain. The probability that the wayfinders will find the island is not high. The highest priority is the safety of the crew. In searching for Rapa Nui, PVS will place a time limit on how long the crew will search for the island -- around 40 days, after which limited food and water and fatigue may become safety issues. But whether the Hokule'a reaches Rapa Nui or not, we know that the early Polynesians did so.

The Expedition Timeline

Leg 1: Honolulu - Hilo, Hawai'i (5/28 - 6/8, 1999)

Leg 2: Hilo - Nukuhiva (6/13 - 7/13, 1999; switch crews on Nukuhiva)

Leg 3: Marquesas - Mangareva (approx. 8/1 - 8/31, 1999; switch crews on Mangareva)

Leg 4: Mangareva - Rapa Nui (approx. 9/10 - 10/31, 1999; switch crews on Rapa Nui)

Leg 5: Rapa Nui - Tahiti (approx. 11/10 - 12/10, 1999; switch crews on Tahiti)

Leg 6: Tahiti - Rangiroa - Hawai'i (approx. 12/30 - 1/28, 2000)

Leg 7: Tour of Hawaiian Islands (approx. 2/1 - 3/6, 2000)