Chad Kalepa Baybayan, Seafarer Who Sailed Using the Stars, Dies at 64


Chad Kalepa Baybayan, a revered Hawaiian seafarer who was a torchbearer for the artwork of “wayfinding,” which ancestral Polynesian sailors used to navigate the Pacific Ocean by learning the stars, commerce winds and flight patterns of birds, died on April 8 at a buddy’s house in Seattle. He was 64.

His daughter Kala Tanaka stated the trigger was a coronary heart assault. He suffered from diabetes and had had a quadruple bypass over a 12 months in the past.

Many centuries in the past, oceanic tribes sailed the waters between the islands and atolls of Polynesia in double-hulled canoes. They plotted their course by consulting the instructions hid inside sunrises and sunsets, ocean swells, the behaviors of fish and the reflections of land in clouds. As Polynesia was colonized and modernized, the secrets and techniques of celestial navigation have been almost forgotten.

Mr. Baybayan grew to become a face of a cultural motion to protect these outdated methods, and a tireless educator who taught the science of wayfinding in lecture rooms and auditoriums throughout the nation.

Mr. Baybayan (pronounced “bay-BAY-an”) was a young person when he joined the crew of the fabled Hokule’a (“Star of Gladness”), a voyaging canoe during which he discovered to grow to be a wayfinder below the tutelage of the Micronesian grasp navigator Mau Piailug.

At the time, conventional Hawaiian tradition was in peril. Usage of the native language was declining, sacred lands have been being desecrated and fewer ceremonies have been being held. In 1973 the Polynesian Voyaging Society was shaped in hopes of preserving the area’s seafaring heritage, and it constructed Hokule’a, a reproduction of an historical deep-sea voyaging canoe.

In 1976, the vessel embarked on a historic journey from Hawaii to Tahiti with out the assist of navigational instruments, in what was supposed as a show of wayfinding’s technical sophistication. The journey, which was led by Mr. Piailug and documented by National Geographic, additionally sought to disprove theories that Polynesia was settled by accident by hapless sailors misplaced in an aimless drift. (Mr. Baybayan was too younger to go on that famous voyage, though he served ceremonial drinks produced from awa root to his crewmates earlier than their departure.)

When Hokule’a lastly made landfall in Tahiti, 1000’s of individuals had gathered on shore to greet the canoe, and the event was declared an island-wide celebration. The voyage’s success galvanized a revival of native tradition, often known as the Hawaiian renaissance, that included a celebration of slack-key guitar music and the hula.

Beginning in the late 1970s, Mr. Baybayan sailed on Hokule’a for greater than 40 years, rising to the rank of captain and grasp navigator — although, he told National Geographic in 2014, “I will never be a ‘master’ because there will always be more to learn.”

“What it truly does is sharpen the human mind, intellect and ability to decipher codes in the environment,” he added. “It’s also incredibly rewarding to navigate and make a distant landfall. For me, it’s the most euphoric feeling that I have ever felt.”

In 2007, Mr. Baybayan was initiated by Mr. Piailug, who was then 75, into an elite class of wayfinders often known as Pwo. The ritual commenced with the blowing of a conch shell, and Mr. Baybayan was given a bracelet of stinging coral to mark his new standing. In 2014, he helped lead Hokule’a on a three-year circumnavigation of the globe.

In his late 30s, whereas elevating a household and juggling jobs as a lodge porter and a ramp agent for United Airlines, Mr. Baybayan determined to pursue a better training. He graduated with a B.A. in Hawaiian research from the University of Hawaii at Hilo in 1997. He then earned a grasp’s diploma in training from Heritage University in Toppenish, Wash.

Mr. Baybayan grew to become an educator at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, using its planetarium to teach visitors about celestial navigation. He also traveled to classrooms across the country to talk about wayfinding with the aid of an interactive star compass floor mat. In 2013, he gave a TEDx Talk that recounted the history of Hokule’a.

“There are only a few people in the world who can really navigate properly, and Kalepa was one of them,” Nainoa Thompson, a fellow Hokule’a grasp navigator, stated in a cellphone interview. “But where Kalepa separates himself is how far he took things with education. He broke the rules.

“Traditional navigation schools,” Mr. Thompson continued, “have always been highly protective of the knowledge. There are 4,000-year-old navigation schools in Micronesia that still won’t teach their methods to outsiders. History will say that Kalepa was the one who stopped the extinction of the great navigators because he shared our knowledge with the world.”

Chad Kalepa Baybayan was born in Honolulu on Aug. 15, 1956, and was raised in Lahaina, Maui. His father, Llewellyn, was a laborer and postal employee. His mom, Lillian (Kalepa) Baybayan, was a homemaker. As a boy, he went spearfishing with a grandfather and his household ate their recent catches for dinner, served with poi.

In highschool, Chad performed basketball and soccer and was on the wrestling crew. In 1975, when Hokule’a docked on the shore of his seaside city, he felt one thing stir inside him.

“It just grabbed my heart,” he said in an interview in 2000. “I knew that if there was anything in my life that I wanted to do it was sail on her.”

His daughter elaborated: “For him, seeing Hokule’a was like seeing this thing he’d only heard about in stories and history books, but then there it was and it was real. It wasn’t just a story anymore.”

When Mr. Baybayan first joined the crew, he was charged with duties like washing and scrubbing the vessel. He started learning the methods of wayfinding in his 20s, and he went on to information voyages that took the canoe to Cape Town, Nova Scotia, Cuba and New York.

Mr. Baybayan’s progressive method to preserving custom generally made him a polarizing determine in his Native Hawaiian group.

He was an ardent supporter of the building of a $1.four billion telescope on the dormant volcano Mauna Kea, a sacred web site thought-about the resting place of gods. Called the Thirty Meter Telescope, it’s anticipated to be one in all the strongest telescopes ever made, however activists have protested its building for years.

“I’ve heard the comment that the protesters want to be on the right side of history,” Mr. Baybayan told The Associated Press in 2019. “I want to be on the right side of humanity. I want to be on the right side of enlightenment.”

In addition to his daughter Kala, Mr. Baybayan is survived by his spouse, Audrey (Kaide) Baybayan; one other daughter, Pukanala Llanes; a son, Aukai Baybayan; his mom, Lillian Suter; two brothers, Clayton and Lyle Baybayan; a sister, Lisa Baybayan, who now goes by Sister Ann Marie; a half brother, Theodore Suter; and 6 grandchildren.

Last month, Mr. Baybayan was in Seattle along with his spouse to go to a few of his grandchildren when he collapsed out of the blue one night.

The evening after he died, a gaggle of his crewmates, together with Mr. Thompson, gathered aboard Hokule’a for a moonlight passage in his reminiscence. Mr. Thompson, who had studied celestial navigation alongside Mr. Baybayan as a younger man, seemed towards the stars as he honored his fellow wayfinder.

“I think Kalepa has gone to where the spirits go,” Mr. Thompson stated. “Now he is up there with our ancestors who dwell in the black of the night.”



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