A traditional Polynesian sailing canoe that has been used in epic voyages is being launched on the greatest journey yet.

The three-year tour starting from Hawaii will go roughly south and west past Australia, around the Cape of Good Hope, to the Americas, and back via the Panama Canal. It will make the Hokulea's breakthrough voyage look like a light jog. That 1976 roundtrip to Tahiti demonstrated the effectiveness of ancient Polynesian boat design and instrument-free navigation. It also made the Hokulea a resonant icon amid a cultural renaissance for Native Hawaiians.

Along for safety and support on the 47,000-mile trip will be a larger sister vessel, the Hikianalia. The modern voyaging canoe will connect the journey via satellite Internet to classrooms and other observers around the world.