Mau Piailug was not yet five years old when he first felt the pull of the Pacific Ocean: he was splashing in one of the rocky tide pools, of which there were so many on Satawal. Yet Satawal was only a tiny coral island among many others in Micronesia. His grandfather Raangipi, later his father Orranipui, taught him the art of traditional navigation, which was almost extinct in much of Oceania. Mau, whose name means “the strong one,” went through the Pwo ceremony at eighteen, where he was initiated as a master navigator, held in the highest esteem in Polynesian culture.
On 1. In May 1976, Mau boarded the Hōkule’a in the small harbor of Honolua, Hawaii, for its maiden voyage, a 19-meter-long two-masted sailing canoe of traditional Polynesian design. The crew had no charts, no compass, and no other technical aids on board for navigation; they had only mau. A master navigator needed no aids, for he understood the language of the ocean.
The shapes of the clouds and the peculiarities of the swell that could be seen in the distance and felt in the hull of the boat were enough for him and at night the stars showed him the way. Day and night, through heat and storms, Mau navigated the open sea. On the 4. June, after 35 days at sea, they arrived at the destination port of Pape’ete – in 4.Tahiti, 200 km away. Half the population had gathered there, 17.000 people welcomed the crew to the Hōkule’a-and with it, the resurrection of a great cultural heritage. For it was voyaging canoes like this one that people used in the 11. The first thing he knew was that in the sixteenth century they must have left Tahiti to colonize Hawaii.