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Local teacher becomes part of Hokule’a voyage

From the first time he set foot on the Manu’a Islands, Daniel Lin knew he had found his heaven on earth.


A true Samoan at heart, Lin first arrived in Manu’a five years ago when he served as a WorldTeach volunteer in 2009- 2010. The following year in 2011, the National Geographic explorer delivered the graduation speech for the Manu’a High School Segaulas.


Since then, he has returned to the islands several times to carry out work for the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS), the Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL), or just to visit the friends he made over the years.


Lin’s recent trip to the territory is on behalf of the PVS, which he started volunteering for in 2011.


The PVS is the driving force behind the Worldwide Voyage for the Hokule’a, which is a 47,000 open-ocean journey around the globe “to find and grow inspiring efforts to protect our earth for future generations.”


(The Hokule’a is slated to pick up two students — one from Tutuila and one from Manu’a — to join the voyage for one leg of the trip. The names of the selected students will be officially announced next month).


As a crew member with PVS, Lin will be aiding the Worldwide Voyage both on and off the canoes. He serves on the PVS Education Leadership Council in helping to create learning experiences for students all around the world, who are engaged with the voyage.


In addition, Lin is a National Geographic explorer and has taken on the role of being one of the key storytellers for the Worldwide Voyage through his contributions (photos and articles) to National Geographic.  


Lin says he is excited to help connect this amazing voyage with the Samoan community in Tutuila and Manu'a.


Currently, Lin is a Senior Policy Specialist for PREL in Honolulu, Hawai’i, where his work focuses on education and climate change in the Pacific. He has a deep interest in connecting modern climate science with traditional knowledge, and grounding it in education. He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut and a Masters degree from Harvard University.


The 26-year-old explorer, who was raised on the East Coast, says his work with PVS as well as his trips to the Samoan Islands have helped him realize part of this dream and that is —_ to contribute something positive.


He said that after he graduated from college, he realized that work in the corporate world was just not for him, and the idea of working to make the rich richer was something he was “uncomfortable” with.  He stated that he “didn't want that life”.


“So when the opportunity to come to American Samoa was offered to me for the first time in 2009, I jumped at it,” he recalled. “I really wanted to get to a place where I can un-learn everything that I was taught and re-learn how to become a part of the world.”


But American Samoa wasn’t far enough for him. Instead, his hunger for adventure took him to Manu’a, “because I felt it was the perfect balance for me, the ideal place. I wanted to get as far away from the east coast as possible.”


Lin departed the territory last Friday after traveling here with renowned master navigator Chad Kalepa Baybayan — the captain and navigator of the Hawaiian deep-sea voyaging canoes Hokule’a, Hawai’iloa, and Hokualaka’i.


The two were here to take care of the logistics associated with the Hokule’a’s arrival later this year in August, including legal ramifications that have to do with Port and Customs issues, as well as connecting with the government and the public about their journey.


Lin’s incurable itch to become an ambassador for education took him to the PVS where he started off as a volunteer, sanding canoes.


“I just became fascinated with the idea of navigation and sailing without instruments, and this is a big part of the PVS, which uses traditional knowledge to sail. From there, I realized that traditional knowledge of the Pacific ties in to western science and it all ties together with climate change and education,” Lin explained.


He said the PVS is an outreach organization that uses canoes as vessels for promoting education outreach.


The two boats that will be taking part in the historic Worldwide Voyage are the Hokule’a and its sister and support vessel, the Hikianalia which is powered by solar energy and sails. According to the PVS, the Hokule’a “represents our culture, heritage and connection to our ancestors,” as it is “traditionally navigated using ancestral knowledge of star patterns, ocean movement, marine life, weather patterns, and other signs of nature.”


The two boats, according to Lin, can carry a load of about 14 people, give or take a couple of bodies.


The Voyage is expected to reach the shores of the independent state of Samoa on August 30, during which time the UN Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) will take place.


“This is a huge conference that will highlight some of the needs and work of small islands around the world and we wanted to be part of that, to tie the Voyage with that, and use it as a voice for stories,” Lin told Samoa News.


Part of the Worldwide Voyage, according to Lin, is science-based, with the escort canoe expected to carry out a lot of scientific projects including college-level research in science education that will benefit schools.


In addition, every port the Voyage will visit (57 total over a span of 4 years), “will allow us to connect with the communities there, promoting education outreach as a gift. And we will be using canoes as instruments to get that done,” Lin said.


A team from the indigenous Hawaiian media program, ʻOiwi TV will be along for the journey, accompanying the canoe to document and record cultural stories through videos, photos, and writings.


The Hokule’a began its Voyage in June 2013, sailing around the Hawaiian Islands. Later this year in May, it will begin its journey around the world. Lin’s participation on the historic trip is definitely a dream come true for this college graduate turned world explorer.


As a National Geographic explorer, Lin writes about his travels in the Asia Pacific region, documenting everything from culture to climate change.


“It’s not all about beaches and paradise but instead, about struggles and unique stories that are found in these areas of the world,” he said. “My work is to provide exposure and awareness for a region that I care about.”


Lin said everything that has happened to him is a direct result of his work in Manu’a so basically, “I owe it all to Manu’a,” which he considers his home.


“I want to peel away everything that isn't important, and this is somewhat a personal renaissance for me, to get to the core of what's important to me. Working as a banker was just not for me. When I traveled to Manu’a for the first time, it all started to move forward for me, in a way that was positive for myself. It may not be the right path for everyone but it has been an adventure for me,” the explorer said.


He concluded, “I had to un-learn what I thought the definition of success was. In the east coast where I’m from, success is tied to a dollar amount. Throughout my journey, I have found a different definition for success. I’m still trying to figure it out but for now, I think I’m on the right track.”