Who we are. What we do.

The Okeanos Foundation for the Sea is a German philanthropic non-profit organization with an US entity that supports Pacific island states in their efforts to operate and also to build fossil-fuel free traditional sailing canoes (vakas) for their daily passenger and cargo transportation needs, culturally based education and research.

Our Okeanos Vaka Motu non-profit operations are conducted by Pacific islands-led social enterprises that offer traditionally based sustainable sea transportation to meet day-to-day needs.

Okeanos Foundation and its social enterprises share a vision for a sustainable, fossil fuel free future built upon respect for traditional knowledge, environmental stewardship, biodiversity and holistic place-based education and development strategies.

Our foundation develops, funds and implements projects that inspire and initiate positive change for people and the environment – while increasing awareness of the threats our oceans face in tandem with realistic future solutions.

Early History

Dieter Paulmann’s love for oceans and underwater filmmaking led to the establishment of the Okeanos Foundation to support a variety of ocean advocacy, research and communication projects. Since 2007, Okeanos has been supporting symposia on ocean noise, climate change, and the role of phytoplankton while collaborating with globally recognized science communicators such as Carl Safina.

Deeply troubled by the global threat to biodiversity, in 2009 Okeanos began producing the feature documentary Racing Extinction, directed by Academy Award winner Louis Psihoyos. Filmed across the globe over 5 years, Racing Extinction draws attention to mankind’s role in a potential loss of at least half of the world’s species. On December 2nd 2015, Racing Extinction was broadcasted simultaneously in 220 countries by the Discovery Channel in recognition of the United Nations’ Paris Climate Conference. Please visit our page Racing Extinction Film Project to learn more.

Te Mana O Te Moana voyage

In 2010, Okeanos began working with voyaging societies across the Pacific to develop and build a fleet of seven traditionally designed, fossil fuel free double masted Vaka Moanas, representing ten island nations. The spirit of tradition and ancient wisdom spoke to our hearts and created a longing for solidarity, cooperation, and kinship.

Our international voyage ‘Te Mana O Te Moana’ (The Spirit of the Ocean) began in April 2011. Over the course of two years, hundreds of  sailors navigated from Aotearoa to Hawai’i to the US West Coast with a historic arrival at San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge in August 2011. Our journey home began January 2012 with stops at Cocos Islands, Galapagos, Tahiti, Cook Islands, Samoa, Fiji and Vanuatu concluding at the Festival of Pacific Arts in the Solomon Islands, August 2012.

Our voyage demonstrated the genius of Pacific vaka design and the power of the almost lost culture of celestial navigation.

Collectively we safely sailed 210,000 nautical miles of open ocean and showed the world the great power and potential of the vaka.

Our entire Te Mana O Te Moana journey was filmed. In hundreds of hours of professional footage, the evolution of powerful navigators prepared and the longing to give back to their communities can be experienced. We are currently expanding our earlier Te Mana O Te Moana film story into the feature documentary The Starchasers that follows our heroic Pacific navigators as they chart new waters implementing sustainable development strategies for their communities. Please visit our The Starchasers webpage to learn more.

Our voyage continues

Te Mana O Te Moana voyage launched a renaissance in traditionally based ocean stewardship and engagement. Our journey embraced the collective ethos that we must look to the past to prepare for the challenges of the future.

While visiting small island nations, powerful and transformative ideas collectively emerged as to how traditionally designed fossil fuel free modern vakas could best be incorporated into the day to day lives of the Pacific peoples. Today, the Okeanos journey continues building upon the success and trained community of Te Mana O Te Moana.

We have designed new vakas from information shared by many different island groups, resulting in one mast sailing vessels – called ‘Vaka Motu’ – specific to Pacific inter-island transport that are culturally meaningful, environmentally sustainable while satisfying all sea transportation needs.

Our new vaka technology connects the best of the past with the best of the future including solar panels and, most recently, biofuel-powered engines, perfectly suited for fossil-fuel free transport of people, food, medicine, and supplies between Pacific Islands.

Please visit Sustainable Sea Transportation to learn more.