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Hawaiian seamen to share stories

Three Hawaiian merchant seamen will share their stories in upcoming Eia Hawaii and Puana Ka Ike lectures in Hilo and Kona.

Captain “LJ” John Benson, Leighton Tseu and Norman Piianaia will present “Kanaloa: Hawaiian Men of the Sea” from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 11, at the University of Hawaii at Hilo in Campus Center Room 301, and from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Friday, April 12, at the Keauhou Shopping Center, Suite 140, in the inner courtyard next to Bianelli’s. Both lectures are free.

Hawaiians have much experience with the open ocean exchange of commodities. The seamen’s presentation focuses on the history and modern day stories of Hawaiians who were involved in the merchant seaman services, the dwindling population of Hawaiians in the industry, and how they are working to increase the numbers by recruiting new blood into open-ocean voyaging.

Benson, a seaman since the age of 33, now captains large barges. Sailing since the age of 12, he received his captain’s license when he was 19 years old with an accumulated five years of sail time under his belt.

Benson has assisted many escorts and sailing ventures with Kai Makana, Hokulea, canoe races, and Mokumanamana researches with the Edith Kanakaole Foundation.

Tseu is a retired seaman and a retired regional senior port engineer for Matson with 40 years in the waterfront marine business. He has made short sails on Hokulea and helps to educate and motivate the Hawaiian community, especially the opio (youth).

He is a member of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, Moku O Kona; the Papahanaumokuakea Culture Working Group; a participant in Papaku Makawalu; president of Kawehiokalani Inc., and general manager of Keolaewa, LCC.

Norman Piianaia is a retired seaman with over 40 years of experience. He has made short sails on Hokulea and is now involved with Na Kalai Wa‘a and the voyaging canoe Makalii.

For more information on this presentation, contact Joy Cunefare at (800) 842-4682, extension 25340, or e-mail For lecture schedules visit Webcasts of previous lectures are available at

The lectures are sponsored by Keauhou-Kahaluu Education Group, Kamehameha Schools, The Kohala Center, University of Hawaii at Hilo, Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center, and the Keauhou Shopping Center.


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