In November 2018, the MIT Media Lab’s Open Ocean Initiative invited Master Navigator Nainoa Thompson of the Polynesian Voyaging Society to speak at the 2018 National Ocean Exploration Forum: All Hands on Deck. Co-hosted with the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration, the goal of All Hands was to imagine new, creative ways to broaden participation in ocean exploration. Little did we know that the relationship between the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) and MIT would grow into a fruitful collaboration between scientific innovation and traditional sailing.
On February 1 , 2020, four members of Open Ocean travelled to Hawai'i to undergo training and intense physical trials for a chance to become “cleared to sail” aboard Hokule’a, the society’s flagship wa’a, a traditional deep-ocean voyaging canoe. Working closely in hand with Nainoa, Media Lab Director's Fellow Lehua Kamalu, and a seasoned crew of adventurers and instructors from Hawai'i and around Polynesia, the MIT team set out to meet the challenge before them.