The Cook Islands' vaka (canoe) set sail from New Zealand in April alongside several other vakas representing other Polynesian nations. The journey was to honor Polynesian culture and revive traditional respect for the ocean by using celestial navigation propelled by the wind, sun and solar electrified motors. Although the voyage was epic, the message was simple: "The Pacific Ocean is our breath -- our life, our future."
Cook Islands' Honorable Prime Minister Henry Puna was in San Francisco speaking about his country's commitment to environmental protection through a plethora of programs they have established -- from renewable energy to whale sanctuaries. Mr. Puna stated that by 2020, Cook Islands will be using 100% renewable energy sources.
The Cook Islands Vaka was docked at Pier 39 on August 10, and departed down the coast of California, making stops in Monterey, Santa Monica and San Diego. The journey is organized through the Pacific Voyagers Network, which aims to develop awareness and preservation of the ocean environment and marine life.
Brown, one of the crewmembers talked about the amount of garbage that is polluting the Pacific Ocean, "We only saw a few pieces of plastic floating in the ocean when we first set sail from New Zealand. We would try and pick it up, but then we got close to Hawaii and there was just too much for us to carry on the canoe. It is really sad how much trash is floating in the middle of our beautiful ocean."
The nautical journey included a pan-Pacific network of Voyageurs from Aotearoa (New Zealand), Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti, Papua, New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Vanautu and Tonga.
Some of their journey has been captured in the inspiring trailer The Blue Canoe.
For those who do not want to take the three-month journey on a canoe to Cook Islands, you can take a 9.5 hour non-stop flight from Los Angeles. It is only a 3-hour time difference from San Francisco.