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Hinemoana II Sails for Whales and Renewal This Matariki

Hinemoana II Photo/Supplied

Mount Maunganui, Bay of Plenty – June 30, 2024 – As the Māori New Year Matariki commences, a powerful ceremony will mark the launch of the Hinemoana II tomorrow, signifying a groundbreaking voyage for science, cultural preservation, and whale protection. This all-female Pacific-crewed expedition, co-led by Tongan Captain Aunofo Havea, sets sail on a mission that embodies the spirit of Matariki: renewal, celebration, and looking towards a vibrant future.

The Hinemoana II is a collaboration between the Tonga Voyaging Society, Te Whānau ā Apanui, and Conservation International Aotearoa. This first voyage embraces the strength and resourcefulness of Pacific women throughout history, qualities exemplified by Captain Havea, Tonga’s first female commercial whale skipper, deep water navigator. Her deep knowledge of traditional sailing techniques and knowledge will be instrumental in guiding the Hinemoana II across the vast Pacific.

Fealofani Bruun & Aunofo Havea Photo/Supplied

“Matariki is a time of new beginnings,” said Captain Havea. “We are honoured to launch the Hinemoana II on this auspicious occasion. This voyage is a chance to weave together ancestral wisdom with scientific research to ensure the health of our oceans and the whales that grace them.”

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Departing Tauranga Moana in mid-July, the Hinemoana II is expected to reach Tongatapu by July 20th. Throughout the journey, the crew will conduct scientific research on whale populations and integrate traditional knowledge into their practices. This unique blend of science and cultural wisdom holds immense potential for advancing our understanding and protection of the marine environment.

Fealofani Bruun, a trailblazer as the first Sāmoan woman to qualify as a yacht master, will be adding her expertise in traditional navigation as co-Captain of the Hinemoana II.

“This expedition is groundbreaking on multiple levels,” said Bruun. “We are not only an all-female Pacific crew, but we are also forging a path for future generations of ocean guardians by combining indigenous knowledge with modern science to protect our whales. I am humbled to be a part of this historic voyage.”

Mere Takoko, Vice President of Conservation International Aotearoa, highlighted the significance of the research in supporting the movement to recognise whales as legal persons. “The data collected by the Hinemoana II will be instrumental in advocating for the legal personhood of whales, a cause championed by the Māori King Tūheitia,” Takoko said. “By understanding these magnificent creatures on a deeper level, we can build a stronger case for their protection and ensure their survival for generations to come.”

The Hinemoana II’s voyage is much more than just an expedition; it’s a powerful symbol of cultural exchange, scientific collaboration, and unwavering commitment to ocean conservation. This journey promises to bridge cultures, propel scientific understanding of our oceans, and inspire future generations to become guardians of our blue planet.

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