The PCC’s New Floating Classroom

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - June 18, 2008
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The Iosepa, under sail here, will be at home in Laie
The Iosepa, under sail here, will be at home in Laie

The migration of Polynesian voyagers to Hawaii is a story that is often told but never gets old. Long journeys across the Pacific Ocean in sailing canoes are considered one of the most remarkable achievements made by humans. The latest chapter of this great story will soon be shared at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie.

On June 28, the newly completed Halau Wa’a O Iosepa will be unveiled to the public at the PCC’s Hawaiian Village. At center stage will be the Iosepa, an all-wood, double-hulled Hawaiian voyaging canoe.

“We are so excited to share our contribution to history,” says Keali’i Haverly, sales manager at PCC. “This halau will protect the Iosepa from the elements and allow us to share it story with the rest of the world,” says Haverly.

In 2001, master canoe carvers Kawika Eskaran and Sione Tui’one Pulotu provided their knowledge and guidance in the delicate process of building the Iosepa.


“Unlike most other contemporary canoes, which are built out of fiberglass with modern technology, the Iosepa is hand-carved out of the dakua wood transported from Fiji,” says Polynesian Cultural Center President Von Orgill. “This will be the first time many of our visitors will see a modern, authentic replication of a traditional voyaging canoe up close,”

The Iosepa sails every spring semester for about four to six weeks. It is a floating classroom that offers students opportunities to learn about the ocean and the Hawaiian culture while participating as crew members.

“The Iosepa was built with full community support and that includes students from BYU-Hawaii,” says Haverly. “This is a powerful educational tool and we’re happy to have this partnership with them.”

Center officials say the when the 57-foot Iosepa is not out on the ocean, it will be housed in the halau wa’a. Construction of the canoe house started last November at a cost of $2.65 million.

“It’s a very large building and we tried as much as possible to maintain a level of authenticity,” says Haverly. “At the same time, we wanted to provide an area where crews can make repairs and prepare for sails.”


For 45 years, millions of visitors and kamaaina have enjoyed the culture, arts and crafts of Polynesia at the PCC. This new exhibit will offer daily interactive activities, including the chance to learn to navigate using a star compass, knot tying and a guided tour around the Iosepa.

“Through hands-on activities and presentations, the Hawaiian and Polynesian voyaging ways of old will be kept alive here at the halau wa’a,” says Alfred Grace, senior vice president of marketing and sales for the PCC. “This new guest experience is completely different from any other experience currently being offered at the center.”

To celebrate the grand opening of the Halau Wa’a O Iosepa, the PCC is hosting family day Saturday, June 28. Kamaaina with a Hawaii picture ID will receive free general admission after 3 p.m. along with a free concert featuring Willie K.

“My hope is we remain true to the cultural integrity of our history,” says Haverly.

“The information we are receiving needs to be authentic and accurate because that’s what the local community is expecting. We want it to be pono - we want to do this right.”

 

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