These days, the military conducts exercises at its Pōhakuloa Training Area in the saddle between Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea and Hualālai. At 133,000 acres, it’s the largest such installation in Hawaii or anywhere else in the Pacific.
But during World War II, the military leased 91,000 acres from Parker Ranch, around Waimea and down towards Kawaihae. A temporary base, called Camp Tarawa, was built on this land, and much of the rest of it was called the Waikoloa Maneuver Area. This area was used to train troops for campaigns in the Pacific.
After the war, the land was returned to Parker Ranch. While it was cleared of most munitions, a lot of shrapnel can still be found there today. The top photo shows part of the haul from a half-hour walk through the area. The coin is a U.S. quarter, a little under an inch in diameter. Many of the pieces have lines, grooves, and other marks that might help identify what munitions they were once part of.
The photo to the right shows a piece of shrapnel lying in the dirt in the scrubby ground that makes up most of this area. Kawaihae Harbor can be seen at the top right. I thought it would be hard to spot shrapnel in this terrain, but it’s surprisingly easy. Shrapnel has a slight, but distinctly different look to the dirt and lava rocks. Pick it up and it’s noticeably heavier than any of the rocks.
Hunting for shrapnel isn’t without risks. Apart from the dangers of wandering around on rough, unstable ground, there’s always a chance of finding something live. Best tread lightly.