ARCHIVE SERIES #0002: THE FLIGHT OF THE KŌLEA

Posted in Updates on January 23rd, 2020 by FITTED

KOLEA

ʻAu I ke kai me he manu ala
“Cross the sea as a bird.”

When it comes to the delicately fine art and science of nautical navigation, Polynesians—Hawaiians in particular—are revered as absolute master seamen. Their methods have been refined for over six centuries without the use of modern technology thatʻs widely available today. Thatʻs not to say that the concept of technology never existed. On the contrary, “ʻIkepāpālua” is an uncommonly used Hawaiian phrase that could be a sit-in for the idea of technology as we know it today. On its own, the word “ʻike” can be translated as “know,” “feel,” “perceive,” or “experience,” while “pāpālua” is loosely defined as “double up.” Coupled together, the two words can mean “to have the gift of second sight.” Hawaiians had the uncanny prescience and foresight to apply certain ancient techniques into practice, which at the time would have been considered an achievement in technological advancement.

Most, if not all of their inspiration flowed from nature, employing the use of makana, hoku, ka lā, and observing the migrational routes of the diminutive but brilliant and resourceful kōlea bird (Pacific Golden Plover). Every year, this species of plover would make the exhausting journey from their home territory in Hawaiʻi, northward to the Arctic to mate and nest their offspring. It is thought that Polynesians would spot flocks of these kōlea, and would follow their flight paths to shore.

The migrations prove even more difficult for the kōlea, as they arenʻt capable of soaring as most migratory birds are able to, nor are they able-bodied swimmers like most shorebirds. This disadvantage mirrors the arduous journeys the Hawaiians made while seafaring, who lacked the modern tools to navigate the vast open seas.

Ancient Hawaiian mythology tells the tale of a mysterious, spiritual piece of land called Kahiki. An exhibit called No Kahiki , He ʻĀina Mamao explores the mythology of Kahiki—a “place where Gods, nobility, people, and material goods were brought to Hawaiʻi”—traditionally known today as Tahiti. It is believed that the kōlea migrate from Hawaiʻi, then return to Kahiki in the summer. Some scholars believe Hawaiians may have found their way here by way of Tahiti by “following the spring migration of the kōlea.”

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