Dieter Paulmann, the founder of Okeanos - Foundation for the Sea, has felt a strong connection to the sea his whole life. He has always felt a deep bond and innate connection to sea life, particularly whales and dolphins. Later, when Dieter came to learn that the oceans and its inhabitants are severely threatened and its ecosystems increasingly stressed, he began his mission to preserve the Pacific Ocean, the Ocean’s inhabitants, and assist in the revival of ancient Polynesian traditions.
Dieter began spending time with scientists, learning of the latest discoveries and how much the ocean’s ecosystems had been altered from its original balanced, healthy, natural state. After hearing that parts of the ocean were indeed dying, he was deeply moved. At this time, noise pollution was a very new, very disturbing topic. Anthropogenic noise pollution from shipping, oil and gas exploration, and navy sonar interfere with marine life’s natural abilities to communicate, hunt food, and mate. But other issues were emerging, as well, such as acidification and expanding dead zones. Dieter wanted to make a film about these emerging threats, show the world the diminishing and frightening health of the sea and the impending consequences a dying ocean has on us all.
It was in 2008 when Dieter visited the Festival of the Pacific Arts in American Samoa that he saw the Cook Islands’ “Te Au O Tonga” vaka and he knew he found his answer. Dieter then learned of Nainoa Thompson, Master-Navigator from Hawaii and his mentor, Micronesian Master-Navigator Papa Mau Piailug and how the Polynesian ancestors navigated across the ocean using the stars, and how the sea, the sky, and the land are all a part of the inseparable whole.
Inspired by Papa Mau Piailug and Nainoa Thompson at his first meeting, and having met many more people who have since worked passionately to bring back the traditional culture and wisdom of their ancestors into our modern world, Dieter finally knew for sure he had found what he had sought after — the vaka as a metaphor and symbol for a sustainable, respectful life and relationship with the sea.