Nainoa Thompson, chief navigator of the Hokulea and president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, received the National Geographic Society’s oldest and most prestigious honor, the Hubbard Medal, at the 2016 Explorer Awards Thursday in Washington, D.C.
He has been part of the canoe’s Malama Honua Worldwide Voyage. Upon its completion, the Hokulea will have stopped in 100 ports, 27 nations and 12 UNESCO Marine World Heritage sites.
Thompson is a graduate of the University of Hawaii, where he received a bachelor’s degree in ocean science. A member of the Ocean Elders, he is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Peter Benchley Ocean Award for Excellence in Exploration; the Unsung Hero of Compassion, presented by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama on behalf of the organization Wisdom in Action; and the Native Hawaiian Education Association’s Manomano Ka ‘Ike (Depth and Breadth of Knowledge) Educator of the Year Award.
Paleoanthropologist Meave Leakey was also a recipient of the honor.
Named for the National Geographic Society’s first president, Gardiner Greene Hubbard, the Hubbard Medal is given in recognition of a lifetime of achievement in exploration, discovery and research. In 1906, Robert E. Peary was the first to receive the Hubbard Medal for his exploration of the Arctic. This year’s recipients will join the ranks of distinguished honorees, including Charles Lindbergh, John Glenn and Jane Goodall, among others.