Category Archives: Hawaiian History

Kamehameha Day

The statue of King Kamehameha is draped with leis as part of the proceedings.
A rider in the parade as it passes through Hawi.

This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Summer Traditions.’ See more responses here.

Some summer traditions, such as barbecues and going to the beach are year-round here, but Kamehameha Day is an event that kicks off summer, occurring as it does in mid-June. There’s a ceremony at the king’s statue in Kapaau, a parade through the community, and festivities at the local park. Many places mark the king’s birthday with similar events, but some take place on the Saturday nearest his birth date. In North Kohala, the king’s birthplace, the celebration is always on the actual date regardless of which day it falls on.

This year though, the celebration was one of a multitude of events cancelled because of the Covid-19 virus. These photos are from previous years’ events.

Hula dancers dance in front of the statue during the opening ceremonies.

Spencer Beach Park

Spencer Beach Park, near Kawaihae, is a popular spot for families. With protected water, sand, shade, and facilities it’s got most everything little kids need. On weekends it can get crowded, but during the week it’s usually possible to find a quite spot.

The park is right next door to Puʻukoholā Heiau National Historic Site so it’s possible to visit both places from one parking spot.

Better Days: Kona Village Resort

Looking across Kahuwai Bay toward the Kona Village Resort
The sign on the fence says it all.
Some of the damaged buildings lining the shore.

On March 11, 2011, the northeastern part of Japan was jolted by an earthquake registering 9.0 on the Richter scale. While the quake caused extensive damage, the resulting tsunami was even more destructive. Water surged up to six miles inland and flooded more than 200 square miles of land. Perhaps the best known result of this tsunami was the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, after it was overrun by the surging waters.

Here in Hawaii, a few hours after the earthquake, tsunami waves washed up on shore. The waves were up to 10 feet high, but the damage was not as great as was feared. However, along the west coast of the Big Island, there was flooding and damage to coastal properties.

One of those properties was the Kona Village Resort, situated to the north of Hualalai Resort. Damage to the resort’s properties was sufficient to force its closure. The property then sank into the swamp that is insurance settlements and financial shenanigans. During this time, the buildings deteriorated.

Originally, the resort was supposed to reopen this summer, but that was pushed back a year, then more. Currently, sometime in 2022 is the planned reopening, but this being Hawaii, that date shouldn’t be taken too seriously. When I walked the beach past the site, work was going on, but I saw only a handful of workers and a couple of active machines. It didn’t appear to be a project going full-steam ahead.

The current work site, lots of orange netting but not much action.
At a casual glance things don’t look too bad, but the roof thatching is mostly gone, the buildings are open to the elements, and there’s other damage in and around the area.
It’s still a beautiful setting and the beach is enticing.

Kilauea lava

Lava fountains flare up alongside the rim of the active vent in Halemaʻumaʻu Crater at the summit of Kilauea Volcano.
The walls of the crater illuminated by the lava.

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Mother Earth.’ See more offerings here.

The Big Island is home to Madame Pele, who in Hawaiian culture is the goddess of volcanoes. She is the creator of new land as well as a destroyer. These photos were taken on April 24, 2018. (An account of that visit, and more photos, can be found here.) On May 1, the lava in the lake began to drop. Within a week, it had dropped more than 700 feet and continued falling. Lava had also disappeared from Pu’u O’o, the other active vent on Kilauea.

The drop in lava levels was due to magma in the system moving down the east rift zone of the volcano where it emerged in a series of vents in Leilani Estates, a housing subdivision in the southeast part of the island. This new eruption lasted until late August, 2018, since when the volcano has been quiet.

While there has been no visible activity, below ground, magma has been moving through the system, notably into Kilauea’s summit chamber. It’s surely only a matter of time before Madame Pele makes her presence known again on one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

The early morning light shows the crater and land around Halemaʻumaʻu Crater. This is a scene that no longer exists. Since this photo was taken, not only is the vent no longer active, but the crater floor has collapsed numerous times and the walls have also subsided in places.

Puna Coast Trail: Along the coast

This is the second part of a three-part description of a hike along the Puna Coast Trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (See part 1 here).

As the trail reaches the coast, it passes over an older flow that has a fair amount of vegetation on it. The third photo shows the trail cutting through a swathe of naupaka, sourbush, and assorted grasses.

This area was, despite the threat of volcanic activity, well occupied by early Hawaiian people. Along the trail are several reminders of that including the structures below. The photo, below middle, shows the amazing abilities of plants to grow in even the most daunting locations. The roots are somewhere deep in the lava, from which the trunk of this noni snakes upward. The large, nobbly fruit can be seen on this plant. This fruit, when ripe, has a pungent aroma which supposedly smells like vomit!

The bottom photo shows an area of rocks and black sand on the coast, backed by an extensive field of naupaka. Beyond that, the trail passes close to a pair of sea arches seen in the top photo and the one at top right. This is a rugged coastline and, when the weather is rough, huge waves can crash up and over the lava. It’s also an unstable coast with rocks and sections of cliff liable to tumble into the ocean.

In the background of the top and bottom photos are the palm trees of ʻĀpua Point, which will be the focus of the third and final post about this trail, tomorrow.

For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go to nps.gov/havo/. For more information about the Puna Coast Trail, go to bigislandhikes.com/puna-coast-trail.

Puna Coast Trail: From the trailhead toward the coast

Last month, I posted photos of colorful lava (here) that I saw on a hike I’d just done. In that post, I noted that ‘I’ll do a post about the trail once I’ve gone through the way-too-many photos I took that day!’ With all that’s been going on in the interim, processing those photos took a long time, but now I’m done. So here’s the first of three posts about the trail, not that you can follow in my footsteps right now because Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is currently closed.

As the name indicates, the Puna Coast Trail travels along the coast of the park, but it starts about a mile inland, across Chain of Craters Road from the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs trailhead. The trail is 11.3 miles long and ends at Halapē campground, but I only hiked as far as ʻĀpua Point, 6.6 miles along the trail. This rugged trail can be hot, windy, and wet so sturdy shoes or boots, a hat, sunscreen, and raingear are a must. There’s no fresh water on the trail so take plenty, as well as enough to eat.

The trail starts by crossing the 1972 flow from an eruption at Mana Ulu. In the top photo, lava from this flow surrounds a small area of older lava. The ferns growing in the cracks are Polypodium pellucidum, an endemic fern known in Hawaii as ae (pronounced Ah Ay). These ferns are among the first plants to grow in new lava fields. The faint outline of the trail can be seen extending from the middle left of the photo to the cairn on the horizon.

Second photo: An upwelling in an old lava flow has cracked open to reveal a variety of colors within. In the background is Hōlei Pali. A pali is a steep slope or cliff. When a flow goes over a pali, it can often be seen, safely, from a distance away.

Third photo: A trail-marking cairn on a section of older lava that has been somewhat revegetated. The noni (Morinda citrifolia) shrub beside the cairn is another early colonizer of lava flows being tolerant of the harsh conditions found there. Noni is a ‘canoe plant,’ having been introduced to Hawaii by the first Polynesians who arrived in their ocean going canoes.

Fourth photo: Cairns mark the trail across the expanse of lava from the 1971 flow, where very little vegetation can be found. This first part of the trail angles down toward the ocean, which can be seen in the distance.

Below: Colorful smooth pahoehoe lava lies on top of ropey pahoehoe lava, from the same 1971 flow. The kind of lava can change quite quickly as conditions change in the flow itself and the terrain it travels through. This also shows the colors in different layers of lava as well as an ae fern getting a toehold.

Bottom: A little hill of pahoehoe lava showing its different forms all jumbled up. I almost included this photo in the earlier post since its colors, textures, and swirls were unexpected art for me.

Tomorrow, part two follows the hike along the coast itself.

For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go to nps.gov/havo/. For more information about the Puna Coast Trail, go to bigislandhikes.com/puna-coast-trail.

Laupahoehoe Point Beach Park

Laupahoehoe is a small community on the Hamakua Coast, 24 miles northwest of Hilo. The name means ‘leaf of lava’ and refers to the low, wedge-shaped cape of pahoehoe lava which juts into the ocean there. That cape is now the site of Laupahoehoe Point Beach Park, but in its early days, this low point of land was the thriving center of the community, with houses, shops, and a school.

On April 1, 1946, all that changed. In the early hours of the morning, there was an earthquake in the Aelutian Islands of Alaska. I’ve seen various reports of the size of that earthquake from 7.1 to 8.6. Some of these variances are due to differing scales in use. The higher numbers refer to the scale in use today, which is moment magnitude, and which more accurately reflects the energy of large earthquakes.

Regardless of the scale, the earthquake generated a huge tsunami, which roared across the Pacific at speeds up to 500 mph. The tsunami reached the east coast of the Big Island around 5 hours later and came ashore as a sequence of three giant waves. In Hilo, the receding water before the third wave, drained Hilo Bay. Then the largest, 55-foot-high wave, thundered ashore. It destroyed much of the town and killed more than a hundred people.

In Laupahoehoe, the same set of three waves occurred. The first two, somewhat smaller waves drenched people and threw fish out of the water. Students from the school were collecting these fish when the third wave struck. 21 students and three teachers were killed and the top photo shows the memorial plaque bearing their names. Only one of the bodies was recovered. Three students survived after being washed out to sea and drifting along the coast for more than a day. An account of their ordeal can be found here.

After the tsunami, the community was rebuilt up on the cliffs, which can be seen overlooking the park’s boat ramp and breakwater in the bottom photo. The park is now a peaceful spot with palm trees dotting the shoreline and an expanse of grass where kids can run. But if the tsunami siren sounds, this community has learned that there’s only one way to run, and that’s uphill.

Better Days: Wreck remains

The scant remains of this shipwreck lie on the rocks of Kahuway Bay, just north of the Hualalai Beach Resort on the Kona coast. The keel is still clearly visible along with several keel bolts and the bottom part of the hull. I don’t know which wreck this is, but it’s been there a long time and will probably survive for many years to come.