Subaru Telescope Helps UH Hilo's Canoe Project

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
Paula Thomas, (808) 933-3112
Interim Director of Development
Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 974-7642
Director of Media Relations
Posted: Aug 13, 2003

Astronomers from Subaru Telescope last month donated $8,200, the equivalent of one million Japanese yen, to the Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikolani College of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo for the outfitting of a navigational canoe -- part of the College‘s Hōkū Alakaʻi voyaging program.

The donation was offered during a ceremony at the University on Thursday, July 31. Dr. Hiroshi Karoji, director of Subaru Telescope, presented the check to Chancellor Rose Tseng. Also present were Dr. William (Pila) Wilson, chair and professor of Hawaiian Studies, Chad (Kalepa) Baybayan, Hōkū Alakaʻi project coordinator, and Paula Thomas, interim director of development at UH Hilo.

"The Hōkū Alakaʻi voyaging program is developing a curriculum strong in math, science and Hawaiian culture that focuses on the traditions of maritime culture," Tseng explained. Drawing from astronomy, geography, history, marine science, mathematics, meteorology, and language and culture, the curriculum will provide students with a broad understanding and practical skills necessary to navigate an ocean-faring canoe. Part of the program involves building the vessel, a 57-foot double-hulled canoe now being built on Oʻahu that can accommodate roughly 30 people on coastal sails and a dozen for extended deep sea voyages.

"At this point in time, there is a need to invest in curriculum materials and instructional tools, such as a portable planetarium, to bring the science of astronomy and the art of navigation onto the canoe," Thomas noted. "This equipment is expensive and takes time to accumulate. The support from Subaru Telescope will enable us to outfit the canoe in a much shorter time."

"The ultimate goal of the program is to give students an understanding of how to build healthy communities by providing them the basic skills and self-confidence to become contributing stewards and quiet leaders, while attending to issues of sustainability and self-sufficiency, issues that all explorers, past and present, are faced with," Baybayan said.

"The gift from Subaru will help us acquire some tools for learning the sky," Wilson added. "There is much to learn.

"For example, the ancient Hawaiians had their own names for the constellations that they used to navigate the Pacific. And while the Hawaiians today are rediscovering how their ancestors navigated, one of things they do not know is what name went with what constellation."

"I am excited to see the canoe when it sails to the Big Island after its completion," said Karoji. "Simply learning the Hawaiian, older traditional names of stars gives you perspective on how people understood and used the sky over past centuries. This program is designed to allow students to explore the connections between traditional and contemporary knowledge. It is a pleasure to be able to contribute, in a small way, to the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo for the training of students who have the potential to navigate in this way."

This is the third donation that Subaru Telescope has made to UH Hilo. Last year, the Japanese astronomers provided a gift of equipment for the University‘s Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The Subaru gift comes from the Japanese Foundation for the Promotion of Astronomy, an independent organization that supports the outreach efforts of the astronomy community in Japan. The current administrative director of the foundation is Keiichi Kodaira, former director of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.