Hokule’a is a replica of the vessels used by Polynesians to settle the Pacific Ocean, a third of our planet, a thousand years before the arrival of Europeans. Launched in 1975, she has sailed 150,000 miles, following the routes taken by these intrepid Polynesian explorers, navigated always as they would have done — without instruments or charts — by relying instead on signs of direction in the stars, waves and flight of birds. In July of 2016, Hokule’a will visit Martha’s Vineyard on a voyage around the world. This is the first of a multipart series on the canoe’s history and her present mission to malama honua— care for planet Earth.

On this Christmas Day, Hokule’a is at sea. Having departed Cape Town, South Africa, she is almost exactly halfway around the world from her Honolulu home port, bound for the coast of South America. In her wake, she is weaving a lei of hope by visiting and bringing attention to places where scientists, activists and ordinary people are working to find positive solutions to our global environmental problems. One of her most ardent supporters is Dr. Sylvia Earle, famous oceanographer and environmentalist who premiered her award-winning film, Mission Blue (directed by Bob Nixon of Chilmark) on the beach at Menemsha in 2014).

“When I was a young scientist, we thought that the ocean was too big to fail,” says Dr. Earle. “Now we know that because of what we human beings are doing to the planet, not only is the ocean in trouble but so are we. As Hokule’a circles the world, I love the idea that her voyage will be like a living lei surrounding the planet and bringing hope to all of us.”

To draw attention to solving our grave environmental problems, Dr. Earle has mapped many hope spots — places where solutions to problems like global warming are being discovered. One of these, recently visited by Hokule’a, is at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in Townsville, Australia. Here, scientists are working to understand the importance of coral to the health of our oceans and the potential harm they may receive as the earth warms. One solution they have discovered is to breed corals to withstand both warmer temperatures and the acidification of the earth’s oceans.

Among other places where progress is being made, Hokule’a’s crew visited:

• The Reef Guardian Schools Program, encompassing 310 schools and more than 127,000 students and 8,218 teachers throughout the Great Barrier Reef who are all committed to being stewards of the reef.

• American Samoa, where the Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument has recently been created to protect coral reefs in perpetuity from commercial fishing and deep-water mining.

• Serengan Island in Bali, home to a traditional fishing village where a turtle conservation program and community gardens have been established.

• The Green School in Bali, named the greenest school on earth in 2012 for its program to provide students with a natural, holistic and student-centered education.

• Kopernik, also in Bali, an organization dedicated to help impoverished rural communities by making inexpensive technology easily available to them.

• The Small Islands Developing States conference in American Samoa where they met representatives from around the world and spoke about the Malama Honua voyage and studied such topics as green energy, environmental leadership and food security. There, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon sailed aboard Hokule’a and pledged his support for her mission.

• False Bay, one of six areas in South Africa designated a Mission Blue Hope Spot where Craig Foster, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, is working to preserve one of the most ecologically rich coastlines in the world.

• iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa, a UNESCO World Heritage site comprising 820,400 acres of diverse ecosystems where Zulu tribal elders accompanied the crew on a tour of the park and invited them to share in their culture.

• Reef Conservation Mauritius, a local marine environmental NGO working to protect endangered coral reefs by educating local residents and businesses, and establishing a snorkeling trail to encourage ecotourism and stewardship of the reef.

Hokule’a’s voyage, Dr. Earle says, “is bringing attention to all those who are inspired by the positive message that we can achieve great things if we do what we can — and we do it together.”

Once Hokule’a crosses the Atlantic, she will sail north, arriving off the East Coast of the United States some time in April to visit many more Hope Spots as she moves up the coast.

Hokule’a’s exact itinerary is tentative but there is one fixed date on her schedule — June 8, when she will be in New York to commemorate World Oceans Day with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

“I am honored to be a part of Hokule’a’s Worldwide Voyage,” said the Secretary General when he sailed aboard Hokule’a. “I am inspired by its global mission. As you tour the globe, I will work and rally more leaders to our common cause of ushering in a more sustainable future, and a life of dignity for all.”

Early in July of next year, Hokule’a will visit Martha’s Vineyard. Ralph Packer has offered her a berth at his pier, Tisbury Wharf in Vineyard Haven — the same dock used by the whaleship Morgan on her visit last year. Plans are now being made for a special welcome by the Island’s first people, the Wampanoag tribe, and a tour of Island organizations dedicated to a sustainable way of life here.

“I am very excited about our visit to Martha’s Vineyard,” says Hokule’a’s Master navigator Nainoa Thompson. “I look forward to exchanging with the Wampanoag people and learning from Islanders who are on the forefront of the effort to live sustainably by conserving thousands of acres from development, practicing sustainable agriculture and aquaculture, harnessing alternative energy resources, and educating their children to malama [care for] our planet.”

Sam Low is the author of Hawaiki Rising — Hokule’a, Nainoa Thompson and the Hawaiian Renaissance. He has made three voyages aboard Hokule’a and is arranging her visit to Martha’s Vineyard. His email is samfilm2@gmail.com. To follow Hokule’a’s voyage visit: hokulea.com.