Review of Hawaiki Rising

by editor

 by Lance Robinson Lee

You find the same values throughout the world,” my father told me, “seeking, planning, experimenting, taking risks, and caring for each other.”

~ Nainoa Thompson

Sam Low’s Hawaiki Rising, tenders us a grand work on two levels.

First: In the world of maritime experience, seamanship and navigation, this is a rare tale in the great tradition of the saga, undertakings such as Homer tackled in the Odyssey. Here is a vision of navigating the Pacific as ancient Polynesians once did – without charts or instruments. They encounter strife, calamity, racial disharmony and near violence but by book’s end their navigator – the famous Mau Piailug – has led them through the troughs of disaffection and anger to the peaks of tolerance and harmony.

But second: Here is a strong, timely parable. In our “Age of Information,” virtual intoxication and digital undertow, here’s a circle of venturers led by a man who finds his way by stars, birds, a darkened sector of cloud – by trust in his sixth sense.  They traverse the ocean aboard Hōkūle’a, a replica of an ancient Polynesian vessel, without a compass or sextant – let alone a console bristling with electronics. We’ve grown enamored of high technology and often sidestep eternal truths – earth, air, fire and water. Our libraries, seventh grade classes and the disciples of Walden revere Thoreau. These voyagers lived Henry’s “Simplify, Simplify, Simplify.” Hōkūle’a’s timber is from the earth, air from the four winds, fire on which they cooked and water to the four horizons.

Today many such sailing canoes work the Pacific. Their navigators, trained by Mau, guide them. After he initiates them into the ancient secrets of pwo or “master navigator,” Mau tells them that their sacred duty is to sail from their islands and return with ‘something of value’ for their people. This is Joseph Campbell’s universal three-phase monomyth which has informed every global and historical expedition: Leave hearth and home - become empowered by the Unknown – and return enabled to afford “boon-bestowal” to one’s people.

Mau Piailug closes the ancient circle and makes Hawaiki Rising the modern tale for which I urge a good armchair and a winter evening.

*Hawaiki Rising is available at

*Please listen to our interview with author Sam Low on our previous post in November 2013.

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