The Adventure Of A Lifetime - Mid-Pacific Institute

Elementary School News

The Adventure Of A Lifetime

Mid-Pacific Kindergarten-Grade 5 PE Teacher Bruce Black

Posted on May 12, 2015 by Scot Allen

IMG_7590abc.jpgMid-Pacific Kindergarten-Grade 5 PE Teacher Bruce Black returned from the adventure of a lifetime with many perspectives on the planet and the environment and, of course, more excitement than he originally anticipated.

Bruce Black (pictured in blue jacket), Mid-Pacific Kindergarten-Grade 5 PE Teacher, departed New Zealand on April 29, on board the Hawaiian Voyaging Canoe Hōkūleʻa. The canoe uses traditional Polynesian navigation techniques as it sails to Australia. The crew of 12 arrived in Sydney in mid-May.

The journey was part of Hōkūleʻa's 47,000 nautical-mile sail around the world to bring attention to the importance of protecting environmental and cultural treasures for future generations.

Black has been involved with the PVS for more than 7 years as a teacher, volunteer, sailor and expert water enthusiast.

The hardest part of the journey for him was four days of rough weather, 20-foot seas, high winds and cold 50 degree sea air. The crew wore foul weather gear much of the time. "Its tough to sleep in rough seas... we were constantly cold and wet," he said. "One night a big wave ripped some canvas on the boat, which required the entire crew to be on alert to pitch in to make repairs."

The crew worked and slept in shifts; but as you would imagine, on a small boat, the captain and the navigator get very little sleep. Navigation starts at sunrise following the sun all the way to sunset, and then at night following the path of known stars. The navigator also reads the swells and even tracks the flight of birds, Black said.

According to Black, a majority of the crossing was amazingly quiet and calm. Closer to land they saw larger cargo ships, but in the middle of the sea they found the ocean remarkably free of ships. At night, the dark skies allowed them to see many celestial objects that are invisible to city dwellers. The crew enjoyed the Southern Cross spinning like a clock, galactic clouds and, of course, the Milky Way.

On board, his job as science officer was to document the condition of the fish they caught. "We were looking for evidence of pollution inside each fish and we really didn't see it," he said. "We saw healthy fish and water." The crew also gathered samples for DNA analysis by scientists at the University of Hawaii.

In addition to work, the crew also had lighter moments. They saw dolphins playing in the boat's bow wave, Ahi jumping, and even a killer whale. They did not, however, see the pollution that some expected. The waters down under are remarkably clean.

On Eddie Aikau's birthday, they stopped to honor the surf legend with a moment of silence. Later, they caught a 70-pound Ahi.

There were Maori dancing ceremonies in New Zealand as they departed, as well as Aboriginal smoke ceremonies in Australia. As they sailed into Sydney Harbor, the captain ordered that the sails be raised and the boat be sailed through the congested waters past the Sydney Opera House. "The captain had confidence in our abilities to tack in a busy harbor." he said. "That was great fun to demonstrate our seamanship, and I am so glad we did it."

"The whole experience was a challenge and really taught us what the early Polynesian voyagers went through to discover new land," he said.

Upon his return to school, what did his students want to know? Was it scary?! "Not really. I really enjoyed it. You feel quite insignificant out there. You need to show a lot of respect for the ocean and the courage of earlier voyagers, as well as you shipmates"

The boat featured a satellite connection for emergencies and for sending photos and video back to Hawaii. Students were also curious about how the food was prepared. The boat has a galley -- actually a small water proof box that featured a two-burner stove. The culinary rules of the sea included hot coffee available 24/7. The most popular food items were soups, chili and stew. Fresh fruit and veggies were eaten first. The fish they caught were eaten in a strict and logical progression: first as sashimi, then as poke, boiled, dried and finally within a soup. Nothing went to waste.

Black is presently working with the 3-4 grade teachers at Mid-Pacific and other schools on a project known as "Hawaii: The Exemplary State," which is designed to allow schools to work together to understand the environment, clean our watershed and -- specific to Oahu -- clean up the Alai Wai Canal and create better, more natural water circulation. He said it is of the utmost importance that we work together to protect the reefs by working to create a more natural environment in equilibrium with nature.

He recently put his name in for another voyage in the future. His best advice for his students: "follow your passion and prepare yourself for the adventures of your life!"

Polynesian Voyaging Society mission: Founded on a legacy of Pacific Ocean exploration, the Polynesian Voyaging Society seeks to perpetuate the art and science of traditional Polynesian voyaging and the spirit of exploration through experiential educational programs that inspire students and their communities to respect and care for themselves, each other, and their natural and cultural environments.

Photos courtesy of the Polynesian Voyaging Society.
© 2015 Polynesian Voyaging Society.

For more information, please click here.