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Seven Must-See New Museum Exhibits to Marvel at This Winter

Smithsonian Magazine

With a new season comes a new slate of museum exhibits designed to inspire, teach and delight visitors. Whether it’s a light display showing a museum campus in a new way, an anniversary celebrated through art and photographs or a collection devised by a legendary filmmaker, these seven exhibits are must-sees for this winter.

Winterlights; Newfields; Indianapolis, Indiana
Now through January 6, 2019

Image by Visit Indy. Winterlights brings a sparkling glow to Newfields and the grounds of the Indianapolis Art Museum. (original image)

Image by Visit Indy. Winterlights brings a sparkling glow to Newfields and the grounds of the Indianapolis Art Museum. (original image)

Image by Visit Indy. Winterlights brings a sparkling glow to Newfields and the grounds of the Indianapolis Art Museum. (original image)

Image by Visit Indy. Winterlights brings a sparkling glow to Newfields and the grounds of the Indianapolis Art Museum. (original image)

Image by Visit Indy. Winterlights brings a sparkling glow to Newfields and the grounds of the Indianapolis Art Museum. (original image)

Winterlights, the curated outdoor lighting spectacular, is back at Newfields in Indianapolis for a second year—but this time with a few additions. More than 1.5 million lights twinkle around guests this year, with a new Wintermarket and an updated and redesigned finale show. At last year’s inaugural edition, it's said that at least 46 people proposed to their significant others. Inside the Lilly Mansion on the Newfields property, guests will be treated to displays with hundreds of LED candles and origami butterflies. The new finale on the walk-through includes a digital snowstorm and an ice cave.

Museo del Prado 1819-2019. A Place of Recollection; Museo Nacional del Prado; Madrid, Spain
Now through March 10, 2019

María Isabel de Braganza, López Piquer. (Courtesy of the Prado)

In 2019, Spain’s famed Prado museum is celebrating 200 years since its founding. In total, the exhibit, titled A Place of Recollection, will feature 168 art pieces, plus a large number of additional documents, photos, maps and audiovisual installations. The show will not only look at the past two centuries of art and installations in the museum, but it will also explore the ways in which the museum has interacted with Spain and society at large. The layout will be broken into eight different periods of the museum’s history, spread throughout Halls A and B. Featured artists on display include Renoir, Manet, Chase, Sargent, Arikha, Pollock, Rosales, Saura and Picasso.

Spitzmaus Mummy in a Coffin and Other Treasures; Kunsthistorisches Museum; Vienna, Austria
Now through April 28, 2019

Image by Courtesy of the Kunsthistorisches Museum. A view of the Spitzmaus exhibit. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of the Kunsthistorisches Museum. A view of the Spitzmaus exhibit. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of the Kunsthistorisches Museum. A view of the Spitzmaus exhibit. (original image)

Image by Rafaela Proell. Wes Anderson and Juman Malouf at the exhibit. (original image)

Filmmaker Wes Anderson and his partner, writer and illustrator Juman Malouf, have teamed up again for something a bit less cinematic than their usual, but no less impressive. The two have curated the art installation Spitzmaus Mummy in a Coffin and Other Treasures at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. The exhibit includes 400 pieces that Anderson and Malouf selected from the overall collection at the museum, the majority of which they pulled out of storage just for the show. In fact, many of the items will be on display for the first time in the museum’s history. Among the treasured pieces in the exhibit are an ancient Egyptian ceramic bead necklace and an Indonesian carved wooden monkey.

Magritte & Dali; The Dali Museum; St. Petersburg, Florida
December 15, 2018, to May 19, 2019

Image by Banque d'lmages, ADAGP / Art Resource, NY. Rene Magritte [1898-1967]La Magie noire [Black Magic]. 1945 Oil on canvas, 79 x 59 cm; Inv. 10706. Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium,Brussels 2018. C. Herscovici I Artists Rights Society [ARSI]. New York (original image)

Image by Herscovici / Art Resource, NY. Rene Magritte [1898-1967]L'ile au tresor (Treasure lsland). 1942 Oil on canvas, 60 x 80 cm; Inv. 10708 Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium,Brussels 2018 C. Herscovic1 I Artists Rights Society IARSI. New York (original image)

Image by Banque d'lmages, ADAGP / Art Resource, NY. Rene Magritte (1898-1967]Dieu n·est pas un samt (God Is No Saint].ca. 1935-36 Oil on canvas, 67.2 x 43 cm. Inv. 11681 Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels 2018 C. Herscovic1 I Artists Rights Society (ARS]. New York (original image)

Image by Salvador Dali Museum. Salvador Dali. Old Age, Adolescence, Infancy (The Three Ages), 1940, Oil on canvas. Collection of The Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, FL [USA 2018 ©Salvador Dali, Fundaci6 Gala­ Salvador Dali, [Artists Rights Society]. 2018. (original image)

Image by Salvador Dali Museum. Salvador Dali. Portrait of Gala, c.1932, Oil on panel. Collection of The Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, FL [USA! 2018 ©Salvador Dali, Fundaci6 Gala-Salvador Dali, (Artists Rights Society}. 2018. (original image)

It’s a festival of surrealism at the Magritte & Dali exhibit in Florida’s Dali Museum. The exhibit draws together the two great minds, showcasing their work from the 1920s to the 1940s—the decades during which the two spent a great deal of time together and often displayed their work at the same exhibitions. This is the first exhibit of its kind to highlight the works of the two Surrealists, and to examine the shared themes in their paintings. Some of the Magritte pieces on display include Le Baiser [The Kiss] (1938), La Magie noire [Black Magic] (1945) and Dieu n’est pas un saint [God Is No Saint] (ca. 1935-36).

Gods in My Home: Chinese New Year with Ancestor Portraits and Deity Prints; Royal Ontario Museum; Toronto, Canada
January 26, 2019, to September 15, 2019

Image by Royal Ontario Museum. Unidentified artistAncestor Portrait of a Couple祖先像(夫婦)Qing dynasty, 1644–1911Hanging scroll, ink and colour on paper138.4 × 77.5 cm ROM, 2018.46.1 (original image)

Image by Royal Ontario Museum. Portable Shrine for Housing Spirit Tablets祠堂Late 18th – early 19th centuryShanxi 山西Painted and gilded wood115 × 95 × 60 cmROM, 2009.72.1 (original image)

Image by Royal Ontario Museum. Unidentified artistAncestor Portrait of an Elderly woman祖先像Qing dynasty, 1644–1911Hanging scroll, ink and colour on silk172.5 × 96.5 cm ROM, 921.1.139 (original image)

Image by Royal Ontario Museum. The Dragon King God龍王之神19th–mid 20th Century Woodblock print, ink and colour on paper31 × 27.9 cmBeijing, 北京 ROM, 969.168.56 (original image)

Image by Royal Ontario Museum. Enjoy Music/Happiness Together 同樂會Republic of China,1912–1949Woodblock print, ink and colour on paper53.0 × 29.6 cm, eachYangliuqing, Tianjin 天津楊柳青ROM, a: 969.168.32, b: 969.168.33 (original image)

Image by Royal Ontario Museum. Unidentified artistZhong Kui (Demon Queller)鐘馗19th–mid 20th Century Hanging scroll, ink and colour on paper220 × 106.5 cmROM, 921.32.23 (original image)

Image by Royal Ontario Museum. Military Door Gods with Battle-axes立斧門神19th–mid 20th Century Woodblock print and hand drawing 65.0 × 41.0 cm, each Yangwanfa 楊萬發, Liangping, Chongqing重慶梁平 ROM, a: 995.160.11.2, b: 995.160.12.1 (original image)

Image by Royal Ontario Museum. Lady Mouse’s Wedding 老鼠嫁女19th–mid 20th Century Woodblock print, ink and colour on paper52.5 × 34.2 cmJiajiang, Sichuan 四川夾江ROM, 969.168.22 (original image)

Celebrate the Chinese New Year in 2019 by exploring Gods in My Home, an exhibit of rare ancestral portraits and traditional prints honoring the occasion. The majority of the pieces in the exhibit have never been on display before; there are more than 100 items, dating back to the late Imperial period, that all speak to the customs and beliefs of Chinese culture. Nine large ancestral portraits that were commissioned by wealthy families are complemented by a selection of printed ancestral scrolls, something a not-so-well-off family could have afforded. For the traditional prints, these were often pasted onto walls and doors to ward off evil spirits and bless the home.

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing; Bristol Museum and Art Gallery; Bristol, England
February 1, 2019, to May 6, 2019

Image by Creative Commons. The Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. (original image)

Image by Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. An image from the da Vinci exhibit. (original image)

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing honors the artist for the 500th anniversary of his death at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. The showing is part of a larger exhibit across 12 venues throughout the United Kingdom, featuring a total of 144 da Vinci drawings. The Bristol Museum will have 12 of the drawings (as will each of the other venues), all specially picked to show the breadth of da Vinci’s career. The works have been selected to showcase da Vinci's wide-ranging interests and include painting and sculpture sketches, scientific drawings and engineering diagrams. The drawings on display all come from the Royal Collection Trust.

The Young Picasso – Blue and Rose Periods; Fondation Beyeler; Basel, Switzerland
February 3, 2019, to May 26, 2019

Image by Succession Picasso / 2018, ProLitteris, Zurich. PABLO PICASSO, ACROBATE ET JEUNE ARLEQUIN, 1905Gouache on cardboard, 105 x 76 cmPrivate collection (original image)

Image by Göteborg Konstmuseum. PABLO PICASSO, FAMILLE DE SALTIMBANQUES AVEC UN SINGE, 1905Gouache, watercolour and ink on cardboard, 104 x 75 cmGöteborg Konstmuseum, Purchase, 1922Succession Picasso / 2018, ProLitteris, Zurich (original image)

Image by RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris) / Mathieu Rabeau. PABLO PICASSO, AUTOPORTRAIT, 1901Oil on canvas, 81 x 60 cmMusée national Picasso – ParisSuccession Picasso / 2018, ProLitteris, Zurich (original image)

Image by The Cleveland Museum of Art. PABLO PICASSO, LA VIE, 1903Oil on canvas, 197 x 127.3 cm The Cleveland Museum of Art, Donation Hanna FundSuccession Picasso / ProLitteris, Zurich 2018 (original image)

For the first time in Europe, paintings and sculptures from Picasso’s formative years—1901 to 1906, known as the Blue and Rose periods—will be displayed together in one place in The Young Picasso. The exhibit will be laid out chronologically and will focus on his work with human figures. The first part will be the Blue period, when shades of blue dominated his work, which mostly explored deprivation and suffering in the people around him. From there, the exhibit pivots to the Rose period, during which time he moved to Paris; these works focus on circus performers. The exhibit has about 80 paintings and sculptures on view.

During the Cold War, the C.I.A. Secretly Plucked a Soviet Submarine From the Ocean Floor Using a Giant Claw

Smithsonian Magazine

In a corner exhibit of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., which opens this weekend, a submarine control panel, a swoopy-banged wig, detailed whiteprints and a chunk of manganese are on display. Together, they represent relics of a Cold War espionage mission so audacious, the museum’s curator, Vince Houghton, compares it to the heist from Ocean’s 11. This mission, codenamed Project Azorian, involved the C.I.A. commissioning the construction of a 600-foot ship to retrieve a sunken Soviet submarine from the ocean floor—all in complete secrecy. “I can’t imagine there’s another country in the world that would have thought, ‘We found a Soviet submarine, under [more than three miles] of water. Let’s go steal it,’ says Houghton.

The six-year mission began in 1968, when the Soviet ballistic missile submarine K-129 went missing without explanation somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. In this post-Cuban Missile Crisis era, both American and Soviet submarines prowled the open seas with nuclear weapons aboard, prepared for potential war. Some reports indicate that the sinking was due to a mechanical error such as inadvertent missile engine ignition, while the Soviets for a time suspected the Americans of foul play. After two months, the Soviet Union abandoned its search for K-129 and the nuclear weapons it carried, but the United States, which had recently used Air Force technology to locate two of its own sunken submarines, pinpointed the K-129 1,500 miles northwest of Hawaii and 16,500 feet below the surface. According to the declassified C.I.A. history of the project, “No country in the world had succeeded in raising an object of this size and weight from such a depth.”

Internally, the intelligence community deliberated about the cost-to-reward ratio of such an expensive and risky undertaking even as the submarine offered a tantalizing trove of information. According to Houghton, the value of the K-129 stemmed not just from the code books and nuclear warheads onboard, but also the chance to understand the manufacturing process behind the rival power’s submarines. If the U.S. knew how the K-129’s sonar systems operated, or the mechanisms by which the submarines kept quiet, they could improve their ability to detect them. And by 1967, the Soviet Union had amassed an armament of nuclear weapons large enough that the two nations had “virtual nuclear parity,” Houghton explains. As a result, the Americans were hungry to gain a competitive advantage—an edge the K-129 might provide.

The C.I.A. brainstormed several improbable-sounding means of recovering the submarine. One suggestion involved generating enough gas on the ocean floor to buoy the submarine to the surface. Instead, they settled on an idea reminiscent of the classic arcade game—a giant claw that would grasp and pull the K-129 into the “moon pool” belly of a giant ship. Initially, the project boasted an estimated ten percent chance of success. (Granted, that figure increased as Azorian approached completion.)

Details from the Glomar Explorer's ship building plan (reproduction), 1971. In the bottom-center of the ship, you can see the plans for the "moon pool," which the claw would be able to pull the submarine into. (Courtesy of the International Spy Museum) A diagram of Project Azorian's retrieval mechanism on display at the International Spy Museum (Courtesy of the International Spy Museum)

Legally speaking, the U.S. was concerned that the project could leave them open to charges of piracy if the Soviets had an inkling of the illicit submarine-salvaging plans. Wanting to sidestep diplomatic tensions and keep whatever knowledge was to be gleaned from the mission secret, the C.I.A. constructed an elaborate cover story with the help of enigmatic billionaire Howard Hughes. The aviation mogul lent his imprimatur to the construction of the 618-foot-long ship, to be named the Hughes Glomar Explorer, which was advertised as a deep-sea mining research vessel. In 1972, a champagne christening ceremony and fabricated press release celebrated the ship.

When the ship first sailed from Pennsylvania to waters near Bermuda for testing in 1973, the Los Angeles Times noted the occasion, calling the vessel “shrouded in secrecy” and observing, “Newsmen were not permitted to view the launch, and details of the ship’s destination and mission were not released.” Evidently, the public and press chalked the mystery up to Hughes’ reputation as a recluse, such a loner that he was said to eschew even his own company’s board meetings.

Next, the Glomar Explorer navigated to the Pacific around South America—because it was too wide to pass through the Panama Canal. After some minor foibles (the U.S.-assisted 1973 Chilean coup happened the same day as seven technicians were trying to board the ship in the country’s port city of Valparaíso), the Glomar Explorer arrived in Long Beach, California, where it loaded more than 20 vans full of equipment (including a darkroom, paper processing, nuclear waste handling) for analyzing the K-129’s contents.

Meanwhile, a team built the claw (nicknamed “Clementine” and formally known as the “capture vehicle”) in a gargantuan floating barge called HMB-1 in Redwood City. In the spring of 1974, HMB-1 submerged and met up with the Glomar Explorer off the coast of Catalina Island in southern California. HMB-1 opened its roof, and the Glomar Explorer opened the bottom of its hollow “moon pool” to take the steel claw onboard. Then the HMB-1 detached and returned to Redwood City, the transfer unnoticed.

The 51,000-ton barge HMB-1 was where the "capture vehicle" that would grasp the submarine was constructed in secret. Here, HMB-1 sails under the Golden Gate Bridge. (Bettman / Getty Images)

That summer, the Glomar Explorer, with the approval of President Richard Nixon, set off towards the spot where the K-129 rested. By this point, the Cold War had reached a détente, but still, two separate Soviet ships (likely loaded with intelligence operatives) closely monitored the supposed mining vessel as it worked to retrieve the submarine. (At one point, Glomar crew members even piled crates on their landing deck to prevent any attempts to land a helicopter.) But the mission continued undetected—as the 274 pieces of heavy steel pipe that stretched between the claw and the ship were being slowly hauled back onboard, with the submarine in Clementine’s grasp, the second Soviet tug sailed away.

After about a week of slow upward progress, Project Azorian finally completed the lift of the K-129—but only one part of it. According to Project AZORIAN: The CIA and the Raising of the K-129, a book co-written by naval historian Norman Polmar and documentary director Michael White, about midway through the process, a few of the grabber arms encircling the submarine broke, and a large part of the K-129 fell back to the ocean floor. While the later media reports and history books generally relayed that the more desirable components of the submarine, like the code room, sunk, Houghton encourages skepticism of the details surrounding the project’s ostensible failure. “The conventional wisdom has become that this was a failed mission,” he explains. “[The C.I.A. has] allowed that belief to be what everyone understands, but why would they not? I always say, ‘We have no idea what they got.’” (Many of the details in this story are sourced from C.I.A. declassified documents and recently published historical accounts, but since other findings from the mission are still classified, and the C.I.A. may have had reason to obfuscate the story, skepticism remains warranted.)

We do know, however, that the Glomar Explorer retrieved the bodies of several of the K-129’s crewmembers, whom they gave a military burial at sea, which the C.I.A. filmed and gave to Russia almost 20 years later. Coincidentally, the retrieval also brought up manganese samples from the bottom of the sea, the material that the Glomar Explorer purportedly was researching.

Part of a control panel that was recovered from the K-129 in Project Azorian. (Courtesy of the International Spy Museum)

The U.S. seemed to have gotten away with the elaborate submarine heist—Ford’s secretary of defense, James Schlesinger, said in a White House meeting, “The operation is a marvel.” In early 1975, however, after a random robbery of the headquarters of Hughes’ Summa Corporation, which was acting as a front for the Glomar Explorer, the story made its way to the headlines of the Los Angeles Times and national television. The story broke later than it could have—famed New York Times reporter Seymour Hersh had been following it as early as 1973 but honored a request from C.I.A. director William Colby to suppress the story—and were riddled with inaccuracies. (The code name was thought to be “Jennifer,” which was actually referred only to its security procedures, and the L.A. Times report placed the recovery efforts in the Atlantic Ocean.) Nonetheless, it was enough to alert the Soviet Union and “disturb” (his words) President Ford. Project Matador, the plan to retrieve the rest of the K-129, apparently got nixed as news of the thought-to-have-failed mission and its rumored (but, Houghton says, ultimately unknowable) $300 million-plus price tag circulated.

The C.I.A. also faced a diplomatic dilemma that spring. Pressed by the Soviet ambassador to the U.S. and Freedom of Information Act requests from journalists, they wanted to avoid directly acknowledging that they’d illicitly stolen a submarine from the watchful Soviets, but were obligated to somehow respond. “[The U.S. government] did not want to embarrass the Soviets,” Houghton says, “mainly because in doing so, [they] really set diplomacy back significantly, because the Soviet premier would have to respond” through sanctions or an attack on a territory. In the effort to walk this diplomatic tightrope and comply with FOIA requirements, the “Glomar response”—“we can neither confirm nor deny”—was coined. While the Glomar response stood up in federal court as a reason to deny a FOIA request, the incident, writes historian M. Todd Bennett, “intensified otherwise routine ‘Intelligence Wars,’ tit-for-tat actions taken by the Soviet and American intelligence services.” That May, Soviet operatives increased the amount of microwave radiation trained on the American embassy in Moscow.

The wig Vernon Walters, the deputy director of the C.I.A., used to disguise himself when he visited the Glomar Explorer (Courtesy of the International Spy Museum)

Forty-five years after the Glomar Explorer hauled (part of) the K-129 from the ocean floor, Project Azorian remains “legendary within the [intelligence] community,” Houghton says. The glass cases show the onesies worn by crew members onboard, phony belt-buckle “safety awards,” a barometer from the ship and even a wig C.I.A. deputy director Vernon Walters wore to pay the Glomar Explorer an incognito visit, but they also name-check engineer John Graham and display a scaled-down version of the detailed whiteprint used to design the now-defunct ship.

Azorian stands out, Houghton says, because “it’s so bold, so ambitious, and it almost was guaranteed to fail.” And yet, although only part of the submarine was retrieved, the ship was built, the almost ridiculous proposition of a giant claw extending to the ocean floor proved functional, and despite the scale of the project, it stayed secret for seven years. The Spy Museum positions the Azorian saga as a paean to innovation, an exemplar of how the “unsolvable problems” of the intelligence world can be tackled with creativity and technological advances.

Nine Days of a Sailor-Scholar’s Life Aboard the Canoe Circumnavigating the Globe

Smithsonian Magazine

“Welcome to voyaging!” says Nā‘ālehu Anthony after a wave washed over the bow of the canoe and soaked the three of us. We are aboard Hōkūleʻa, the famous Hawaiian voyaging canoe that is going around the world, as it is being towed out of Yorktown, Virginia, and into the Chesapeake Bay.

Hōkūleʻa, which was recently honored by United Nations in recognition of its historic four-year journey to sail around the world, is raising consciousness about caring for Mother Earth. Since departing Hawaiian waters in May 2014, the craft has sailed more than 22,000 nautical miles, visited 13 countries and made stops at 60 ports. I am standing at the forward mast with Zane Havens, another newbie to Hōkūleʻa, and Nā‘ālehu, who at this moment is the captain, and we are literally learning the ropes—the daunting mass of coils and cleats involved in working the sail and the mast.

I have been granted the rare honor of crewing for a portion of this leg of the World Wide Voyage, and will be with the canoe for nine days as it makes its way to Washington, D.C. We will visit Tangier Island, Northern Neck Virginia, Piscataway, and this article along with my other dispatches will detail what we learned along the way.

But first there is the learning necessary to serve as crew: the straightforward lessons about how to work the canoe and how to live on the canoe, and the far more elusive learning of one’s place on the canoe.

My aim before we headed out to the high seas was to get ma‘a to the wa ‘a.

Ma‘a—(MAH-ah) means “accustomed, used to, knowing thoroughly, habituated, familiar, experienced,” and wa‘a  (VAH-ah) is the Hawaiian version of the pan-Polynesian word for canoe.

I am also in the process of building a four-foot model of Hōkūleʻa, and these two processes feed each other: knowing the canoe will help me make the model accurate, and building the model will help me know the canoe better.

Hōkūleʻa is a “performance replica.”  She is built to perform like a traditional canoe, but made of modern materials. The hulls are plywood and fiberglass, the rigging is Dacron. But in other ways, she is an intricate vessel compared to the Hikianalia, the larger and more modern-style canoe I trained on a few months ago. The sails are traditional crab-claw style, the rigging more complicated, the accommodations more…rustic, and on the whole, it is wetter.

A daunting mass of coiled ropes confronts me at Yorktown. Will I ever learn what they all do? (Doug Herman)

When I first came aboard Hōkūleʻa in Yorktown, the coils of lines on the masts were daunting. It was hard to imagine I would ever know what all of these did. “Mau understood this canoe immediately,” I was told by master navigator Kālepa Baybayan, referring to his teacher Pius “Mau” Piailug, the famous navigator from the island of Satawal. “He just looked over all the rigging and understood right away.” But for someone with only a little experience on large sailing canoes, it would take longer.

Hōkūleʻa has two masts—the main mast in front, and the mizzenmast in the center. Each is held in place by a large number of stays—ropes that pull the mast from enough different angles to keep it securely perpendicular to the deck. Unlike most modern sailboats, the masts rest in blocks on the deck. The sails are fastened to a spar—the piece that goes up against the mast—and a boom, which curves outward when the sail is open.

Our first task was to attach the sails to the spars and booms (why they were off in the first place I do not know). Each one is tied on loosely around the spar and boom with little strings, so that the sail can slide freely to attain its proper shape when the wind pushes against it. We had to be careful not to tie these strings around the many lines running up the spars, and several had to be redone. 

Image by Doug Herman. The boom of an open sail (original image)

Image by Doug Herman. Na‘alehu Anthony (foreground, in dark coat) instructs us in how to tie the sails to the spar and boom while in port at Yorktown. (original image)

Image by Doug Herman. The “heiau” (temple) that holds the base of the mast. (original image)

Image by Doug Herman. Keala Kimura (left) and Kalā Tanaka at the steering paddle. The deck is framed by the many stays holding up the masts, as well as the sheets—ropes that would pull the sails to one side or the other. (original image)

Then the closed sail is hoisted up against the mast. This takes four people, one on each of four halyards, with some others on the deck lifting the sail until it is beyond their reach.  Once the sail is up, the halyards are coiled in a certain way that allows them to be hung on cleats on the mast. This is true of all the lines used in the rigging. A simple loop in the cleated end can be lifted off and the entire coil dropped to the ground when the line needs to be used again.

Opening the sail involves loosening two sets of three tricing lines. These are attached to the boom and they let it out. One person gets on each set of these lines. In addition are what they called “bag lines.” These are attached to points along the top of the sail. When we close the sail, someone pulls on these first to help bundle up the sail nice and tight so that it doesn’t bag out. To open the sail, these need to be loosened.

Nā‘ālehu had us practice raising the sail, opening the sail, closing the sail, and lowering the sail several times until we were all familiar with the process. Of course, most of the crew were seasoned voyagers who had done multiple legs of the Worldwide Voyage already, but this was good practice nonetheless.

Diagram of the many lines used to raise, open and close each sail. The tricing lines are doubled on the other side. (Doug Herman)

Much more complicated is the raising and lowering of the masts themselves. This we needed to do to get under the many bridges leading into Washington, D.C. In fact, we had to do it twice—once to get up to the Lincoln Memorial, where we then put everything back up and opened the sails for a photo shoot, and then down again to get under the next two low bridges; and then up for the final ride to the Washington Canoe Club. 

This process would be easy if we could take down the mizzenmast first, but because there is not sufficient room out in front of the main mast to get a good angle on the rope, the main mast comes down first. It was necessary to put a block and tackle on the front stay, and use lines from the mizzenmast to help lower it down. Problem is, all the stays from the mizzenmast are in the way of lowering the main mast. So they had to be moved, one at a time, as the main mast came down. Plus, the whole process ran in reverse to put it back up. By the third run, we managed to do it all in an hour and a quarter—down two hours the first time. We also had recruited some tall fellows from the Washington Canoe Club to come aboard to help lift.

The complex task of stepping the mast (Photo courtesy of Ōiwi TV )

The other workings of the canoe were familiar to me already: the giant steering sweep—a huge, 18-foot paddle on a pivot that is used to steer the canoe; the workings of the tow line (we were towed the entire way by a separate boat, with the indefatigable Moani Heimuli at the helm.)

Life aboard Hōkūleʻa is rather like camping. Full crew is 14 people—12 crew, the captain and the navigator. Under normal conditions, we would be operating in two shifts, each doing stretches of four, five or six hours at a time as the captain sees fit. In this case, except when we were coming into port, there was little activity on board. Someone needed to be at the steering sweep at all times—sometimes two people, depending how rough it got. Each night we came into a port, where we had access to bathrooms, hot showers and cold drinks. In most places, we also had accommodations with real beds, walking distance from the canoe.

Towards the end, I preferred to sleep on the canoe. I had an assigned bunk that was just my size along the side of the canoe and I could roll back the canvas to watch the stars before drifting off.

Hōkūleʻa is brilliantly designed with a series of hatchways down into each hull, regularly spaced between the booms that hold the two hulls together. A guardrail around the deck has diagonal supports going out to the far edge of each hull. Canvas is stretched over these supports to create kind of a long tent. On the deck side, the zipper doors in the canvas hid the sleeping compartments atop the hatchway. The Hawaiian word “puka” was often used to refer to these. Puka means both “hole” and “doorway,” and so is particularly apt for these low places you crawl into.

Plywood boards have been placed over the hatches, and thick foam pads on top of those.  I had puka #2 on the starboard side—the one closest to the bow (#1 being the entry way onto the canoe). My belongings were kept in a waterproof sea bag, with a few extra things stashed in a cooler alongside the hatchway under the plywood. A clothesline above the door allows you to hang things you need to access regularly—headlamp, hat, sunglasses and so forth. There are also some pockets for things like toiletries and sunscreen.

Image by Doug Herman. The canvas cover over the sleeping areas (pukas), also showing the catwalk and (above it) the safety line that rounds around the outside of the canoe. Far left is the navigator’s platform, the outside of which is the ocean-going toilet. (original image)

Image by Doug Herman. The foam sleeping pad lies atop a sheet of plywood, which rests atop the hatch cover. (original image)

Image by Doug Herman. Lifting up the plywood shows the hatch cover, some coolers, and a life jacket. A small gear bag needs to be moved to open the hatch. (original image)

Image by Doug Herman. Looking into my puka. My hat, waterbottle and sunglasses are clipped to a line outside, my orange sea bag visible inside. (original image)

Image by Doug Herman. Down the hatch: cracker boxes and water jugs. (original image)

Image by Doug Herman. Moani Heimuli drives the tow boat, with Arthur C. Harris providing the navigation for the complex conditions of the Chesapeake Bay. (original image)

Inside the hatchways is storage, and the ship’s quartermaster has to keep track of what is stored under each puka. In mine there were a dozen waterproof boxes labeled “crackers” and a handful of five-gallon jugs of potable water. A water cooler was kept on deck and everyone had a water bottle with a carabiner on it so it could be clipped to a line when not in use. 

When the cooler ran out, which happened a few times, I had to move all my gear into the next person’s bunk or out on deck, lift up the plywood and foam pad, remove the hatch cover, and climb down into the hull to lift out another five-gallon jug. This occurred often enough that I kept my puka pretty tidy, and it was used for demonstrations when we came into port.

Over the last two sleeping pukas on each side are the navigator’s platforms. This is where the navigator sits—on which ever side allows him or her to see past the sails. To the rear of these is an open puka on each side. On one side are the buckets for washing dishes: two with plain water for before-and-after rinsing, and one with soap for washing. All this was done in seawater, except coming up the Potomac where we were uncertain about the cleanliness of the water.

Cooking takes place on a two-burner propane stove on deck. It sits in a box with awnings at the sides to keep out the wind. Another box contains all the cooking gear and utensils.  Breakfast and lunch were mostly a hodgepodge of snacks, cut-up oranges and other lite fare. Dinner, however, was a hot meal: something with noodles, often. And hot noodle dishes were also served for lunch on colder, rainier days. During real voyaging, there would be hot water going all day for tea, coffee or cocoa.

Cooking up SPAM singles for a delicious lunch. The crew packet paperwork states that the diet tends to be high fat and low fiber, and that constipation is likely. (Doug Herman)

Everyone wants to know how you go to the bathroom on the canoe. First, if you are not already wearing a safety harness (and on this leg of the voyage, we almost never were) you have to put one on. Then you tell someone that you are going to the bathroom. It’s all about avoiding a man-overboard situation—nobody wants that. (I am told it has happened only three times in 40 years of voyaging on this canoe.)

Then you go out through that back puka, around the back of the navigator’s platform, and onto the catwalk on the outside edge of the hull. Here you clip a tether from your harness onto the safety rope that runs all the way around the outside of the canoe. If you fall off, at least you will be dragged along rather than left behind. Once you are secure, you hang your bare bottom out and do what needs to be done. When you return, you tell that same person that you are back. “Sometimes in rough conditions I’ll be talking to people as they go out,” says Mark Keala Kimura, “and I’ll keep talking to them while they go to the bathroom, just to make sure they’re still there.”

Back in 1976, it was even less private: “The rails are all open, there was no covering, so pretty much when you went you were in full view of everybody,” recalls veteran voyager Penny Rawlins Martin—“with your escort boat behind you!”

On this trip, two small shipboard toilets had been installed in the stern compartments, with canvas curtains that could be drawn. Going up the Intracoastal Waterway from Florida, it was thought to be poor form to have bare bottoms hanging over the side.

The open puka behind the navigator’s platform where dishes are washed also provides access to the catwalk for going to the toilet. In this case, a ship-board toilet is located here as well. Note the curtain that can be pulled. (Doug Herman)

Plain to see on the back of the canoe is a giant plate of solar panels. There is no modern navigational equipment on Hōkūleʻa—not even a compass—but there does need to be power for lights at night, for radio communication with the tow boat, and for the triple-redundancy emergency systems. Safety first.

Overall, the crew is a family, but like any family, there is hierarchy on the canoe: the navigator, the captain, the watch captains, the apprentice navigators. Everyone on board has, in addition to regular crew duties, a particular kuleana—responsibility or skill, such as fisherman, carpenter, doctor, sail-repairer and so forth.

This time our crew contained three people from ‘Ōiwi TV, the only Hawaiian-language television station in the world, working on documenting the voyage with still and video cameras, including a drone. There were educators who ran programming when we were in port. And there was me, documenting the trip for the Smithsonian Institution.

Rex Lokeni watches as the ‘Ōiwi TV crew lift off the drone from the rear solar panels. (Doug Herman)

I also consider myself an educator. A former university professor and now Smithsonian scholar, I’ve been teaching about Polynesian voyaging and migrations for 30 years. More recently, I’ve been writing and lecturing on traditional navigation, and the values of the voyaging canoe and what they tell us about how to live on this planet. I built and sail my own outrigger sailing canoe and have been both blogging and giving lecture and demonstrations about traditional canoe building. And I did do a training voyage in February on the Hikianalia

So I arrived with a certain, tentative confidence, and when in port at educational activities, felt it my kuleana to share the lessons I have derived from so much research. But I quickly felt that something was not going well, and this feeling got stronger as the trip went on. Yes, we were not functioning like a normal crew, and as we were being towed, my inexperienced presence was really hardly necessary. These folks knew what to do and moved like clockwork when things needed to be done. 

These were young, sea-hardened voyagers, some of whom were now on their fifth leg of the Worldwide Voyage (and legs take up to 40 days). I was simply not one of them. 

What right did I have to talk about lessons of the voyaging canoe? I had never been on a real voyage. Finally someone pulled me aside and said “Brah, you are always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.” There were also protocols I was breaking, of which I was not aware.

“You got to have thick skin and you’ve got to work your way up the ropes,” Kālepa had told me in an interview back in 2011. Learning to sail the canoe involves a lot of hard knocks.

Humbled, I realized, even before this calling out, that I needed to shut up. Enough talking about voyaging; now was the time to listen. I came on board thinking I was, well, someone—someone with a part in this. I realized that, for purposes of the canoe, I was no one. A total newbie. And once I realized that, a letting go feeling came over me, and I was happy. I now knew my place on the canoe, and it was good.

The next day, when we were docked in Alexandria and giving tours, I ran into Nā‘ālehu.  “Hey ‘Lehu,” I said cheerfully, “I finally learned my place on the canoe.”  “Oh really?” he responded with a smile.  “Yes,” I said, “I guess everyone has to make that journey at some point.”  He shook his head kindly and replied, “Some people just keep on sailing…” –and never arrived at that shore.

Now I am practicing my knots, building my strength, and continuing work on my Hōkūleʻa model—work that requires knowing all the ropes. I will be ma‘a to the wa‘a to the best of my ability, and someday, maybe I will get to go voyaging for real.

George Lauck's Manuscript Weave Pattern Book; Pennsylvania, 1805-1829

National Museum of American History
Book of designs for weaving coverlets. Designs drawn by a Pennsylvania German weaver, George Lauck, perhaps during the first 3 decades of the 19th century. The first date written in a family record on the first page is 1805. The last is 1829. The patterns are of the same type of block variations found in other German and Pennsylvania German pattern books of the late 18h and ealy 19th century. The second page is a family history in red ink with simple stylized flower decoration in red, yellow, blue, green and brown ink. There are 66 patterns draw out in color (include threading into); 19 pages of treadling diagrams and 130 tie-ups,entered on 15 pages. Plus 2 1/2 pages of dye recipes and prayers entered in the back of the book. A letter in the book from Reading, Pennsylvania is dated 1866. Later in life Lauck was weaving carpets, not coverlets, because coverlets were no longer in demand.
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