Islands shaped by fire, and children born of the sea
Through the violet gloom 160 feet under the sea, giant spheres of stone take shape beneath us. We descend to the ocean floor as though entering a vast plaza whose cobbled surface lies bathed in eternal shallow. Slowly, for I am new to such depths, I follow my diving partner Jim Robinson down the last few feet to the bottom. Nothing stirs at our approach. As we glide among the great stones, no cheerful clouds of reef fish wheel and dart before us in glittering escort. No langouste and moray peer from dark crevices, no albacore and bonito warily patrol the edges of the twilight. Here and there a starfish, its red-brown colour transformed to iridescent green by an illusion of the depths, glistens like some fragment of wine bottle shattered on the stones.
study the spheres themselves and the history of the great range of sea mountains called Hawaii. for the spheres are basalt, literally the birthstone of volcanic islands and the basic substance from which the 50th State was created. In exactly this form, though at abyssal depths, islands of Hawaii began life some 25,000,000 years ago. I had learned of the spheres before coming to Hawaii from a friend of Jim's, Dr. James G. Moore of the U.S. Geological Survey at Menlo Park. Dr. Moore had encountered the spheres at extreme depths through the use of dredges and remotely controlled cameras. Later he discovered identical formations in shallower water, diving in company with Jim. He suggest I dive and see them personally if I got the chance.
I hesitated at first. Basalt, after all, is nothing more than lave and Hawaii has plenty of that. I asked what was so special about the spheres. "The very fact that they're spheres," Dr. Moore had answered. "You won't find lava like that anywhere on land in Hawaii except in some dried-up prehistoric marsh. We call it 'pillow lava,' and it's peculiar to submarine volcanic eruptions. Cold water surrounding the molten flow turns the outer skin to something almost like rubber, so that as more lava boils-up from below, the skin stretches to form domes or pillows. After a while the pillows harden and the lava finds other outlets, building more pillows and still more, in astronomical numbers.
"On land," Dr. Moore added, "lava takes entirely different shapes, such as the taffylike pahoehoe and a clinker type known as aa. but the surface area of Hawaii represents the mere tips of gigantic sea mountains. We estimate that the major portion of the islands - including their original base - consists of pillow lava. yet few people have ever seen it in its natural state. Jim Robinson is a charter fisherman and diver at Kailua on the Island of Hawaii, and he knows a formation you can reach with scuba gear. If you're interested in the birth of the islands, go and see him." Now across the intervening twilight Jim beckons me toward one of the larger spheres, a boulder some five feet in diameter. As I swim over, he scrapes at the surface with his fingers. A faint cloud of gray algae blossoms and drifts away, exposing a patch of smooth stone almost the same lifeless colour. Jim points to other boulders alongside the underneath the first one, and I see that all are linked in a single mass, like some huge pile of cannonballs welded together at random.
Jim glances at his watch and spreads the fingers of one hand. At the depth and with single air tanks we can stay only five more minutes. He motions me toward a nearby rise where the boulders seem to have sprouted one on top of another and abruptly ended in a sharp ridgeline. We reach the crest and I find it is only an illusion. The spheres continue down the opposite slope in a vast and motionless cascade, gradually disappearing in the lavender immensity of depth and time to some remote crucible of origin. It is a spectacular sight, and somehow a chilling one. As Jim's signal I gladly turn and start upward through zones of shadow toward the welcoming world of light. No one knows who first saw it, that great armada of islands ranged in ragged convoy across 1,600 miles of the mid-Pacific. Very probably the earliest settlers came from the Marquesas Islands about A.D. 750, steering their double-hulled canoes across 2,400 miles of unknown ocean with neither compass nor charts to guide them - a triumph of seamanship unexcelled either by the Vikings or the Phoenicians.
Hawaii was the last of the great ocean frontiers known to have been conquered by the Polynesian people, according to Dr. Kenneth P. Emory, the great authority on Polynesian culture and history at Honolulu's Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum. "Their ocean-wide voyaging," he told me when I called on him, "began on the western borders of Polynesia, quite possibly in the Fiji Islands region, about 1500 B.C. It was there that the Polynesians merged as a group distinct from all other peoples in terms of language, culture, and physical makeup. Doubtless they had common ancestry with other Pacific peoples, reaching back several millenniums to what is now South-east Asia." He paused, then waved through his office window toward a small garden, lush in the tropical sun. "As to what drove the Polynesians on their great voyages, I would say that one of the chief forces is right there - good land, and the food it could supply. Over the centuries the Marquesas, like a number of other Pacific island groups, have been plagued by recurring drought. They could never have supported a large population for any length of time; hence they became an early center of dispersal. Hawaii, with its ideal climate, its relatively large expanse and variety of land, most have looked like paradise to those early Marquesans - and to others, such as the Tahitians, who followed them."
Proud progeny of a mid-Pacific melting pot, Hawaiian islanders exhibit characteristics bestowed by diverse ancestry. Skin colors range from delicate pink to copper. Straight black hair predominates. Beginning in 1852, planters imported some 46,000 Chinese to work the sugar plantations. In the 1880s, Japanese and Portuguese arrived. during the 20th century about 125,000 Filipino laborers have settled on the plantations, along with Koreans. Spaniards, and Puerto Ricans. Mixture of the races and nationalities has increased. Half a century ago 12 percent of the marriages in Hawaii were inter-racial. World War II hurried the trend and now about a third are. Pure Hawaiians may soon disappear entirely. From a high of 300,000 when Captain cook landed their numbers have shrunk to fewer than 7,000. today's islanders represent a rich blend of Yankee ingenuity. Oriental industry, and native good will, each element sparkles with uniqueness in a broad mosaic of Hawaiian culture remarkably free of racial tension and strife. (1970)
Not to mention the British, Russians, Americans, French, Chinese, Japanese, Mexicans, Filipinos, and any number of others who came in their turn and to whom Hawaii also looked like paradise. In most cases Hawaii lived up to the image, though now and then paradise proved to be a mirage. Yet few who came to settle ever gave up and returned home. As a result, Hawaiians today are an incredible mixture of nationalities involving literally scores of combinations, with pure Polynesians reduced to less than one percent of the island's 700,000 permanent inhabitants, and Caucasians - or haoles, to use the Hawaiian word - accounting for less than 20 percent. Hawaiians of Japanese ancestry are the largest group, with nearly 35 percent of th4 total. Intermarriage contributes both to the joy of Hawaiians and to the confusion of newcomers, for there are Joneses and Baileys in Hawaii today with as much Oriental blood in their veins as in those of the Lins, the Chus, and the Sakamuras. Such a mixture helps to explain Hawaii's climate of tolerance and comparative lack of racial problems. As a Hawaiian friend recently remarked to me, "How can you have a discrimination in a place where everybody's a member of a minority group?"
Kamehameha I, memorialized in bronze in downtown Honolulu, extends an uptur4ned palm in welcome - the gesture of aloha. Some 1,400,000 tourists annually spend more than $450,000,000 viewing the old king's realm. (1970)
The answer, of course, is that you still can, and Hawaii does, but it is nonetheless well named the Aloha State. During three months of travel throughout the major islands and many of the smaller ones, I heard that familiar Hawaiian word of both greeting and farewell, "Aloha," hundreds of times, yet never without the ring of real warmth. Behind the smile and the aloha, however, there are many Hawaiis - some of them little-known to mainland Americans. First of all, there is the Hawaii of pure geography, a great elongated strand of 132 islands, shoals, pinnacles, and reefs with a combined area of 6,450 square miles, roughly equal to that of Connecticut and Rhode Island. Of the islands only seven are inhabited to any real degree - Hawaii, the largest, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Oahu, Kauai and Niihau.
Through a curious holdover from an ancient Hawaiian land division, Honolulu, the state capital, is the world's longest city, stretching 1,367 miles southeast to northwest, encompassing a dozen islands and lying across two time zones. The tiny atoll of Kure, on the far north-western tip of the Honolulu District, is actually closer to the distant Marshall Islands than to what officially is the other other side of town! Hawaii, not Florida, has the southernmost point of land in the United States - Ka Lae, or South Cape, on the Island of Hawaii. Geologically, the same island is the fastest-growing part of the United States, thanks to two active volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea, which occasionally add enormous quantities of lava to the island's area and mass. In addition, the State of Hawaii is the fastest-moving one of the 50 - the islands as a whole creep steadily toward Japan by some four inches a year, several times the rate of the North American continental drift.
Finally, Hawaii has what is technically the world's tallest mountain, Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii. From its base on the ocean floor it rises 19,680 feet to se level, and another 13,476 feet. By comparison, Mount Everest in the Himalayas reaches a mere 29,028 feet. The wonder is that the Spaniards missed the archipelago for more than two centuries, during the age of the great galleon voyages from manila to Mexico's west coast. Yet Hawaii somehow eluded European navigators until January 18, 1778, when England's brilliant explorer, Capt. James Cook, sighted the Island of Oahu. Two days later he landed at Kauai, Oahu's neighbor to the northwest. Within little more than a year, on his second visit to the islands, Cook lost his life in a skirmish with natives at Kealakekua Bay on the Island of Hawaii. Cook called his discovery the Sandwich Islands, after one of his patrons, the Earl of Sandwich. Happily for everyone, the name gradually gave way to the ancient Polynesian term, Hawai'i, whose exact meaning, despite countless claims, no one really knows. Such was their love for the verdant islands that in their ancient poetry the Polynesians called them Hawai'i kua uli - "green-backed Hawaii."
Others since then have been equally enraptured. Mark Twain called Hawaii "the loveliest fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean," and he declared that "no other land could so longingly and so beseechingly haunt me, sleeping and waking." Jack London fell in love with Hawaii, declaring, "The older I grow, the oftener I come back..." For simple eloquence, however, few have matched the words of Charles A. Lindbergh, who has done much to help preserve Hawaii's natural beauty. Visualizing the islands in a vast setting of night, Lindbergh wrote that they "appear held up by water and pressed down by stars." There are times when Hawaii, or at least Oahu, appears pressed down by the sheer weight of human bodies, in the form of some 1,400,000 annual tourists (1970). Nor is Mark Twain's fleet of beloved islands apt to lighten ship in the near future. Forecasts run as high as 3,000,000 tourists a year by 1978 0 more than four times the islands' current population.
Hawaii's first king - a skilled general and a wise leader - Kamehameha I seized power in the late 18th century.
For the moment tourism ranks second to United States military spending in Hawaii's list of financial assets. The great bases such as Pearl Harbour Naval Station, Hickam Air Force Base, Schofield Barracks, and the Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Air Station - all of them on Oahu - help to provide Hawaii with a yearly defense income of some $606,000,000, and a military population of more than 100,000, including dependents. War in Viet Nam has brought a flow of 197,000 servicemen a year on "R & R" - rest and recuperation - for individual periods of a week, with the addition of a marching number of loved ones from the mainland. Gradually tourism is overtaking the military as Hawaii's chief source of income, providing a total in 1968 of $460,000,000. those two familiar symbols of the islands, sugarcane and pineapple, trailed far behind with $201`,000,000 and $127,600,000 respectively.
So much for statistics, they provide no more than a bare outline of Hawaii. colour and variety stem from other aspects of island life, such as that wondrous example of spoken music, the Hawaiian language. Few except scholars and those of Polynesian origin speak it fluently for the language of most islanders today is more than 99 percent English. The remaining fraction of a percent, however, is pure Hawaiian, and essential to everyday life. Even the rawest newcomer quickly learns a handful of words, including the one for himself - malihini, stranger. The early Hawaiians were strangers themselves to the written word, having managed for centuries with an assortment of crude symbols and pictographs. It fell to the first American missionaries to Hawaii in the 1820s to transform into script what sounds more than anything else like a mountain stream bubbling over polished stones.
Glowering temple image, a museum piece now, once evoked Hawaii's gods. Settled by Polynesians, discovered by Captain James Cook, shepherded into the modern world by missionaries, Hawaii retains its pristine beauty, its amiable charm. (1970)
The missionaries accomplished the job with only 12 letters - seven consonants and five fearfully overworked vowels - in combinations as melodious and unmanageable as any in the history of human expression. Take, for example, Hamakuaikapaiaalaikahala - a type of hold in the ancient Hawaiian art of lua, or hand-to-hand combat. "Hamakua," an authority on the sport explained to me, "is a former district on the Island of Maui. Literally, Hamakuaikappaiaalaikahala means 'Hamakua of the bow4ers fragrant with pandanus' - a not uncommon example of Hawaiian poetic speech." He grinned. "In fact, it takes a good lua wrestler almost as much time to pronounce the hold as it does to apply it!"
When it came to personal names, the Hawaiian language takes off in an uncontrolled rhapsody of poetic composition. A good friend of mine, a charming woman on the island of Kauai, goes by the first name of Maile. In once asked her what it meant. "It's a type of flowering vine with aromatic leaves," she answered, "but of course that's only my nickname. The real one" - she took a breath - "is Mailelauliilii Hoapilimakaieie. It means "The small, fragrant maile vine closely entwined with the climbing ieie plant of the upland forests.'" As it happens, Maile's last name is more of a problem for her fellow Hawaiians to pronounce than her first one. she married an American of Yugoslav descent, another good friend of mine, Bob Semitekol. "Semitekol," says Bob cheerfully, "doesn't mean a thing."
Fortunately, most of the pure Hawaiian words in common use throughout the islands are as short and simple as their English counterparts. Hawaiians of every national strain say pau (POW) for finished, puka (pooka) for a hole, keiki (kay-kee) for a baby or child, and wahine (wa-HEE-neh) for a wife or woman. Of the two words for man - kane (KA-neh) and kanaka (kah-NAH-kah) - the latter can convey either great affection or disrespect, depending on the speaker's tone. For descendants of mariners, Hawaiians have curious gaps in their language - for example, there is no real word for 'weather'. As for direction, the islanders prefer to relate to things close at hand rather than to abstract points of the compass. Two prime examples are the universally used words, mauka and makai, the former meaning "toward the mountains" and the latter "toward the sea."
Occasionally landmarks serve in place of directions, as in the case of Ewa and Diamond Head on the Island of Oahu. Ewa is a plantation area to the west of Honolulu, and Diamond Head, of course, is the famous volcanic peak east of the city. Honolulu residents use the two place-names to indicate west and east respectively. To newcomers unfamiliar with the custom but having a smarttering of island geography, it is disconcerting to hear a football broadcaster at a high-school game announce, "Punahou kicks off, and it's a high one, Ewa-Diamond Head" - seemingly a kick of some 15 miles. At least one gap in the Hawaiian language reflects the islanders' instinctive generosity. Although there is a much-used word for "Thank you" - Mahalo - there is no real equivalent of "You're welcome." The sentiment is taken for granted.
Erosion-scarred cliffs of Kauai'i Na Pali Coast soar thousands of feet above the mists and 'ohi'a-lehua trees of Kalalau Valley. (1970)
Hawaii's official motto conveys the same sense of basic gentleness and decency among her people. composed in 1843 by King Kamehameha III, it declares: Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka Aina I Ka Pono - "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness." After Kamehameha's time Hawaii passed from the status of kingdom to republic in 1894, to United States Territory in 1900, and finally to 50th State in 1959, not always with righteousness and certainly not always in peace. but the life of the land has been preserved by a Hawaiian spirit that has survived triumph and tragedy for more than 1,200 years. For an over-all view of the Hawaiian islands, nothing can quite march a personal tour with my friend Charles R. (Bud) Whitman. At the time of my visit Bud was a captain in the U.S. Air Force and a flight instructor with a squadron of T-33 jets at Hickam Air Force Base just west of Honolulu. One afternoon I sat buckled in the rear seat of a T-33 while Bud rolled us down the huge runway Hickam shares with Honolulu International airport and lifted the nose into a clear Pacific sky.
I had asked Bud to show me as many of the major islands as he could, together with any features that were particular favorites of his. We skimmed eastward - or rather, Diamond Head - along Honolulu's heavily developed waterfront, past an expanse of high-rise hotels with a narrow threshold of sand that marks the city's world-famous Waiki8ki Beach. Behind the huge glass-and-concrete columns Honolulu stretched white and gleaming toward the mountain slopes, like some gigantic wave creating a breakwater in cascades of foam. Here, within little more than one percent of Hawaii's area, nearly half of her people are concentrated. Beyond Diamond Head, bud climbed to 12,000 feet and set a course east=southeast for the Island of Hawaii, largest and geologically youngest in the chain. Over the intercom he identified various other islands as they slipped beneath us, adding details about their makeup and history.
The first was Molokai, set like a green shoe on the blue carpet of the Pacific with the toe pointing due east. To the south lay the smaller islands of Lanai and Kahoolawe, the one a center of pineapple production and the other an uninhabited Navy and Marine Corps target range. Still farther to the east lay the great hourglass shape of the Island of Maui. "They're all youngsters to most of the chain," Bud said, "with an age as actual islands of about one to two million years. some of the older ones to the northwest of Oahu may have poked their heads above the surface as far back as 10 million years to reach that level from the ocean floor. There's the baby of the group," he added, tilting the nose down so that I could see the silhouettes of two massive cones blotting out the horizon ahead and to the southeast.
That's Hawaii, with Mauna Kea on the left and Mauna Loa to the right. It's still about 90 miles away, so you can get an idea of why Hawaiians call it the 'Big Island' - it's larger than all the other 131 put together. As an island, it's probably less than half a million years old, and it's still going strong. Mauna Loa erupted the last time in 1950, and Kilauea on the other side of it seems to be in action half the time these days. It's a little far to the Big Island with our fuel supply, so I'll show you another crater close up. they call it Haleakala - roughly, 'house of the sun.'" Letting down to 7,000 fees, Bud swung toward the Island of Maui, approaching it from the north and flying between two volcanic masses across a low isthmus that gives Maui its nickname, the "Valley Island."
Once through the divide he climbed sharply to the left and we suddenly crested the rim of the most enormous crater I have ever seen. It stretched beneath us for miles like some vast open-hearth furnace shut down moments before. Repeated eruptions had tempered and scorched the walls and floor of the basin to deep red, streaked with lifeless grays and blacks. Far below, the surface was studded with the dark pinnacles and eroded cones that had fired the monstrous caldron. "It's dormant now," Bud said reassuringly and then added, not so reassuringly, "it blew up the last time from one of its flanks in 1790. The guidebooks say it's the largest crater in the world, but it isn't - just one of the largest. Still, it's 21 miles around the rim and one and a half times the size of Manhattan. Let's have a look inside."
With that, Bud tilted over and we streaked down one side of the crater, beginning a circuit of the western end several hundred feet above the floor and balancing more or less on one wing tip. twenty-one miles back to Kauai, go and have a look at where that soil comes from. You'll think you're standing right on the very run of the Grand Canyon." On our seaward side and at some 10 miles' distance another island appeared, its long, tapering silhouette reminiscent of a sperm whale. "Take a good look," Bud advised. "This is a probably as close as you're going to get, although it's true you can fly over it if you want. It's named Niihau, but it's often called the 'Forbidden Island.' About 250 Hawaiians, mostly of pure blood, live on it as cattle and sheep ranchers. The island belongs lock, stock, and barrel to the Robinson family on Kauai, and outsiders are strictly kapu - forbidden. The idea seems to be to protect at least one traditional Hawaiian community from being overrun and destroyed by the modern world."
As it turned out, I did get a close, if brief, look at Niihau many weeks later under circumstances involving a helicopter, another memorable pilot, a flock of wild birds and a cow in desperate trouble. At the time with Bud, however, I took another look, jotted down "Niihau - kapu," and turned to the view close at hand - Kauai's Na Pali coast. Both our fuel and the afternoon sun were dwindling and Bud made a pass along the great rampart, a bluff hundreds of feet high that plunges vertically into the restless sea, with only a tiny crescent of each here and there to suggest a landing point. "it's not exactly the spot I'd pick to come ashore even in a flat calm," Bud said, "but some historians think that's just where the first Polynesian arrivals in Hawaii set foot. If you'd been at sea for weeks without sight of land I guess anything would look good, and certainly they were sailors enough to manage it."
Then we were heading for Oahu and home. Beyond Kauai to the far northwest lay a score of smaller islands of the 10th State, a few inhabited, that I would have to see some other way. but the flight had given one an excellent view of the heart of the great galaxy that is Hawaii. Several miles of Oahu's Kaena point, Bud picked u Honolulu approach control on the radio, and we began our descent. along the narrow valleys back of the coast where shadows come early, scattered lights of houses were beginning to wink on. Soon they would filter down across Honolulu itself, until the city became a great floodplain of light washing mauka-makai - from the mountains to the sea. A mile ahead of us in the approach pattern a four-engine transpacific jet landed and swung smoothly from the runway toward the main terminal. As Bud and I followed suit and began taxing toward Hickam, another huge jet touched down behind us.
The procession seemed endless. Many aboard the big planes undoubtedly were businessmen with work to do in Honolulu, and other passengers were on route across the Pacific to Australia or the Far East. but a good many more were taking Hawaii at its word, expressed in one of the simplest of island sayings, E kipa mai - "Come, enjoy hospitality."
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High-rise capital of an island paradise
I never learned her last name, but it doesn't matter. She is "Kaimi" to everyone who drops by. In an average week the she arranges to welcome several hundred visitors to Honolulu without ever seeing them - Kaimi's customers take care of that part of the job themselves. I met her one morning at her stall near the entrance to Honolulu's airport, surrounded by a day's work in carnations, plumeria, bougainvillea, vanda orchids, and a bushel or two of yellow ginger. Behind an almost visible cloud of fragrance she was stringing blossoms and leaves into familiar Hawaiian garlands called leis with the lightning skill of a Chinese shopkeeper at his abacus. In a row of neighbouring stalls a dozen or more women were doing the same thing. The finished leis hung in a dazzling block-long frieze from the ceilings of the stalls, for sale to anyone meeting an arriving plane or seeing one off.
As it happened I was on my way to meet a typewriter at the air-freight terminal, but I stopped by Kaimi's stall to admire her handiwork. She gave me a smile and a cordial "Aloha", as we talked, her fingers maintained their rhythmic blur. From Kauai I learned several things about flowers in Hawaii, including the fact that the hibiscus, nor the orchid, is the official state blossom. both kinds of flowers come in a wide selection, orchids alone run to more than 20,000 varieties in the islands, counting both the wild and the constantly increasing hybrid strains. Commonest among them all is the miniature vanda joachim, the type Kaimi had, a rather perishable crimson, purple, and white orchid that ends up in everything throughout Hawaii from leis and buttonholes to steak platters at exclusive restaurants.
During some 15 minutes Kaimi dispatched half a dozen leis to hurried customers, several of them old friends, for prices ranging from two dollar5s to seven. I began to feel in the way since I want a customer, and I said my alohas to Kaimi. She reached into a basket behind her and produced a small white orchid of a kind I hadn't seen before, tucked it in my lapel, and waved me away as I reached for my wallet. "Nobody," she explained smiling, "should leave without something". Kaimi's remark, in quite a different sense, is echoed by more than one tourist as he departs from Honolulu after a vacation. the tourist is referring to the state of his finances and Honolulu's ability to deplete them. the complaint is an old one and it has some justification. Hawaii, especially Honolulu, has one of the highest costs of living in the United States - roughly 20 percent above the national average.
What grieves the people of Hawaii is that the tourist has a good deal to do with the fact, yet for him the burden is only temporary, if the pinch gets too tight he can always leave. but for an islander high prices are an inescapable fact of life. If Hawaiians have one of the highest average family incomes among the 50 states, they also have the greatest percentage of working wives - the only way some families can make ends meet. "In some respects Honolulu is a bargain-basement city," says Robert C Schmitt, Hawaii's brilliant and personable State Statistician. For a short course in Hawaiian economics I had called on Bob one morning at his office in Honolulu's spectacular new State Capitol, near the former royal residence known as Iolani Palace.
"Mostly, the bargains have to do with climate," Bob explained. "Like many other parts of Hawaii, Honolulu varies in temperature no more than a few degrees on either side of 75 degrees F. As a result we have almost no heating bills and we can go a little light on clothes. But Hawaii isn't really an industrial state, and it's far removed from the states that are. To start with, we're 2,397 miles from San Francisco, and that means quite a freight bill on mainland goods. Add a tourist-oriented economy to the equation, and Hawaii has a few statistics she could do without. "For example," Bob continued, "food costs us 18 percent more than it does the rest of the country, and housing costs up to a whopping 41 percent more in some categories. land prices are so high that most people would rather lease a lot than buy it - that way they can afford to build a house. Even so, on a percentage basis fewer residents of Hawaii own their own homes than the people of any other state."
As a portrait of paradise, it sounded a bit grim. bob shook his head, "You don't see us leaving in droves," he said. "In fact, it's the other way around. Metropolitan Honolulu, which takes in all of Oahu, still ranks among the 10 fastest growing major cities in the U.S., with an increase in population of 29 percent over the last decade. the total now stands at 645,000 (1970). Besides that, we've got at least two things no paradise should be without - youth and beauty. Hawaiians are the youngest people of any state, with a median age of 24.3 years. As for beauty,' he added, grinning, "our women seem to rate pretty high with their men - Hawaii has more florists per capita than any other state in the Union! If you want to argue the point, that figure is exactly 20.8 florists for every 100,000 Hawaiians." Who wants to argue? Hawaii's women are unquestionably beautiful, a fact that adds a great deal to the charm of Honolulu. Not that the city needs all that much help, according to Mike Hoomanawanui. I rode with Mike for an afternoon aboard his sightseeing bus, one of hundreds to the paralysis of city traffic.
Mike is both guide and driver on the bus, and Honolulu traffic jams don't trouble him at all. As he explained to my fellow sightseers and me, his last name, Hoomanawanui, is Hawaii's unofficial motto. "In island language," he announced, "hoomanawanui means - 'Take it easy, don't be in a hurry, today is so beautiful, why reach for tomorrow?'" Or as the dictionary puts it, with none of Mike's gift for poetic expression, "hoomanawanui ... patience." With the exercise of a little hoomanawanui and with Mike's knowledge of Honolulu we saw a good bit of his hometown, beginning with that feature of virtually every island tour, Waikiki Beach. Actually, Waikiki is no different from a score of other resort beaches in Hawaii except in the size and glitter of its hotels and office buildings, driven like an immense row of ornate pilings into a strip of Honolulu's waterfront. Behind the barricade, along Waikiki's Kalakaua Avenue, flows a human tide as varied and iridescent at Hawai'i's waters. the sidewalks were awash with tourists in blindingly colorful aloha shirts and muumuus - the graceful ankle-length island dresses - interspersed with equally blinding young girls in bikinis and the inevitable surfers in ragged shorts, manoeuvering their fibreglass boards through the crowds with the same effortless skill they show on the water.
Pedestrians and motorists were bombarded on all sides by the sounds of Waikiki - loudspeakers blaring an incredible assortment of rock and Hawaiian love songs from restaurants and cafes, the thrill of police whistles, the bleat of horns, and the thunderous chime of pile driver against steel as Waikiki builds itself ever newer and larger. "Some people complain that it's artificial," Mike said with a wave at the scene, "and in at last one sense there's no argument. Waikiki used to be mostly swamp until the city drained and filled it. The name means 'spouting water,' probably from springs in the swamp." Farther along Kalakaua Avenue the buildings gave way to open beach, with a panorama of swimmers and sunbathers burnished varying shades of mahogany. Beyond stretched the luminous green expanse of sea, streaked in endlessly dissolving patterns by the white wakes of surfers. From Waikiki, Mike turned inland toward everyday Honolulu, where the metropolis soon sheds its boardwalk atmosphere and becomes an average American city - with exceptions. among clusters of school children drifting back to afternoon classes I noticed a marked scarcity of blond heads and Caucasian faces. Most features were Polynesian and Oriental of a soft blend of the two, under uniformly lustrous black hair.
Honolulu's neighborhoods reveal marching blend of cultures, faiths and customs. Within the space of a block or so I counted two Protestant churches, a Buddhist temple, a Singapore bank, two hamburger stands, a Japanese teahouse, and a pizza parlor. Even in the field of sports Honolulu happily combines elements of both East and West. Newcomers to the municipal stadium are startled to find their fellow baseball fans clamoring for the umpire's scalp in faultless Brooklynese, while devouring gingery teriyaki steaks and saimin, a kind of Oriental noodle soup. Later I was to find that other time-honored American institutions cheerfully bow to island tastes. At its store in Honolulu's gigantic Ala Moana Center, Sears, Roebuck and Co. serves poi to employees and their guests in the cafeteria. Mainlanders normally pass the offering by, complaining that the traditional Hawaiian dish made of boiled and ground taro root mixed with water to a soggy creation lacking almost all taste. Displaying typical courtesy, Hawaiians refrain from pointing out that the same description could apply to a mainland favorite, mashed potatoes.
With the ease of long practice Mike guided us through a number of stops, leading off with Iolani ("Bird of Heaven") Palace. Here the Hawaiian monarchy ended its faltering days in 1893 under ruthless pressure from a group of prominent haoles, who seized control of the government. "It was pretty direct pressure," Mike remarked as we toured the ornate, musty throne room bordered by an old-fashioned stone veranda. "They simply imprisoned the queen, Liliuokalani, as a threat to stable government and in 1894 declared Hawaii a republic. "Liliuokalani, did much to better as a musician than as a stateswoman," he added. "She composed a number of beautiful songs, including the famous 'Aloha Oe,' whose title can mean 'Greetings,' or in this case, 'Farewell to Thee.' After a while they freed Liliuokalani, but it was aloha and farewell to the Hawaiian kingdom."
Back in the bus we had a quick glimpse of the new $50,000,000 downtown area - not Waikiki, but the financial district adjoining the city's once well-defined Chinatown - and had a view of Kewalo Basin, home to both sport and commercial fishermen. "With all that water," Mike said, "you'd think Hawaii would be a great commercial fishing center, but it isn't. Believe it or not, our commercial catch is only about one-sixteenth as big as Florida's - roughly 13 million pounds a year. Part of that's due to outdated methods and gear, but there's an invisible reason, too. The Hawaiian Islands are sea mountains, and they don't have the continental shell that gives some of the other maritime states their big hauls."
For a finale Mike took us high above the center of the city, atop the almost symmetrical volcanic cone known appropriately as the Punchbowl. Around and below us Honolulu arced 360 degrees, from the hillside communities to Tantalus Mountain at our backs, westward toward the vast enclave of Pearl Harbor and along the entire waterfront to the ragged silhouette of Diamond Head crater on the eastern horizon. In the immense grid of avenues and cross streets Mike printed out a patch or two of green, one of them marking the site of the University of Hawaii and the renowned East West Center, dedicated to knowledge and understanding throughout the Pacific area. Certainly the Pacific could use more of both, as the Punchbowl bears silent witness. The great dormant crater is known officially as the national Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Here beneath simple flagstone-style markers set in a wide field of grass lie nearly 20,000 dead of World War II, the Korean War, and the Viet Nam conflict. Not all the monuments memorialize Hawaiians, for during World War II many mainland families chose to leave their dead where they had found a last measure of warmth and affection far from home.
Other markers reflect Hawai'i's own contribution to a war half a world away. many inscriptions bear the numerals "442," familiar to all Hawaiians. The numbers stand for the 332nd Regimental Combat Team, the much-decorated unit of second-generation Japanese from Hawaii - all volunteers - who fought brilliantly in Europe during world War II. As befits a Hawaiian memorial, no race or national group lies separate in the Punchbowl. Walking among the stones, I came across series of names such as Maeda, Lindner, Kawakami, Cooley, Galase, Dillingham, LeBlanc, and Bondino. Other names are being added in grim testimony to the fact that the Pacific's troubles are far from over. On our drive back along the rim of the crater the silence was interrupted by the rhythmic crack of three volley from a rifle squad, followed by the mournful epilogue of Taps. Later, as we said goodbye, I asked Mike if the Punchbowl had a Hawaiian name, and he nodded.
They call it Puouwaina," he answered, "after the pagan ceremonies conducted there long ago by the Polynesian priests. It was never a happy place, that crater. roughly translated, Puowaina means 'Hill of Sacrifice.'" fortunately, Honolulu had other connections with war, such as the job of restoring the morale of those who wage it. One day I waited with some 125 anxious young women at the U.S. Army's Port De Russy Maluhia Service Club near Waikiki for a flight of servicemen returning on a week's "R & R" from Viet Nam. the period of rest and recuperation is available to military personnel who have served three months or more to the combat zone. Their wives and sweethearts may fly out from the mainland to share it with them. For what obviously was a happy occasion, I found the atmosphere at Fort De Russy unsettling. Despite the Army's thoughtfulness and planning, the final hour of waiting began to border on the hysterical. Then along came Chaplain Geary.
Wesley V. Geary is a giant of a man, a much-decorated Negro major in the United States Army's Corps of Chaplains, and a great loss to the entertainment world. With a sure instinct for his audience he proceeded to reduce the 125 nervous women to helpless laughter, and to while away 45 otherwise-unendurable minutes. I don't remember everything Wes Geary told them, but I recall a good deal of sound advice worked in along with the humor - such as the fact that, in addition to being a paradise, Honolulu ranks among the top 10 cities in the country for theft and burglary. While relating this sobering fact major Geary smoothly extracted a purse with his foot from a chair beside its preoccupied owner, inspected the wallet, and finally handed everything back in disgust. "Pictures!" he snorted. "No money, just snapshots of him! You girls know what the Army pays a chaplain? When you come down here I expect you all to be ready and able to support the church of your choice."
On the subject of sunbathing Wes cautioned his listeners against an overdose the first day or two of leave. "That Hawaiian son's mighty strong," he said, "and it can spoil your R & R just as easy as it can make it." there were a number of Negro wives in the group, and I noticed they laughed as hard as the rest when he added, "Just look what it did to me." As Wes talked, an occasional car drew up to the recreation center entrance. Each time, despite their obvious delight with the chaplain, some of the women's nervousness returned. Wes took a stern attitude. "Now I told you I'd let you know when those airport buses are coming," he said, "and Wes Geary, for one, is going to stand clear of you wild stampeding females when they arrive. but you've got to think of the safety of others. Last week about this time a trash van pulled up here with six young soldiers in fatigues. Well, I couldn't hole my girls. Those poor innocent boys took one look at what was coming and lit out for their lives - they're still AWOL in the hills."
At last word came that the buses were on the way. Wes arranged the women in two long lines, so that their men would walk between and each could claim her own. "Whatever you catch you can keep," were Wes's final words. "But when it's over, remember we're only open five minutes for exchanges." Then the men were there, and the only exchanges were the wordless ones of joy and of relief from longing. With an enormous smile Wes surveyed 125 couples oblivious of everything but the miracle that enfold them, and turned companionably to me. "Now, brother," he said, "let's find ourselves a cup of coffee. there's another miracle due here in exactly three hours." It is a curious city, Honolulu, one whose image is blurred by its own variety of features, none of them quite outweighing the rest. there is the scenic beauty of a San Francisco, the transient quality of a Washington, D.C., the seafaring aura of a Boston or Charleston, and the distinctive blend of energy and indolence that is pure New Orleans. Honolulu is all, and yet none of them.
In terms of industry, Hawaii's capital city is still hardly more than a processing plant for those two island specialties, pineapple and sugarcane, that are grown throughout the 50th State. Aside from three pineapple canneries and four sugar mills, Honolulu boasts two cement plants, a concrete-pipe factory, a mill for making steel reinforcing rods, one oil refinery, and assorted dredging and construction firms. Nor is Honolulu a major center of arts and sciences, although its massive University of Hawaii, with a faculty of 2,600 and an enrolment of 18,500, has a growing reputation in such fields as oceanography, Asian and Pacific studies, geophysical sciences, and tropical agriculture. The real business of Honolulu, military and tourists aside, remains what it was a century ago - the management of Hawaii's 6,450 square miles of varied land, at profits ranging from modest to astronomical. to a large degree the job rests in the hands of a few major companies, known in Hawaii as the "Big Five" - Castle & Cooke, American Factors (AMFAC), Alexander & Baldwin, Theo. H. Davies, and C. Brewer - with competition from such rising firms as Dillingham Corporation, Henry J. Kaiser Associates, and one giant nonprofit trust known as Bishop Estate.
"Of course, land management takes in a lot of things today," said my friend Frederick Simpich, Jr., a former vice president of Castle & Cooke and son of the late Frederick Simpich, Sr., an assistant editor of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC. Fred is an old Hawaii hand, a highly successful author, and a private consultant on land investment in the islands. "Most of the Big Five," Fred continued, "got their star during the last century in agriculture, principally sugarcane, with control of sizable tracts of land. As time went on they not only increased their land holdings but also branched out in a variety of other fields. today, for example, Castle & Cooke is involved in everything from pineapple and sugar to shipping, California community development, and even manufacturing. "Now," Fred added, smiling," comes the revolution, with the explosion of tourism and immigration. Since World War II land has increased fantastically in value, people have begun pushing pineapple and sugarcane off the map of Oahu. Which doesn't mean that pineapple and sugarcane are dead - Hawaii still needs a diversified economy. But it does mean a whole new concept of land use and development, with wisdom and good taste, I hope. We haven't got much time left."
Time, in the opinion of many, long ago ran out on Honolulu, and the clock has begun ticking for the other islands. No subject today produces more heated argument in the 50th State than the whole question of development versus conservation. "In some cases," Hawaii's able young Lieutenant Governor, Thomas P. gill, told me one day, "the so-called 'development' of our islands has shown all the taste and imagination of strip-mining in West Virginia. Land is the coin of the realm to our people, and many of us are sick of seeing it squandered. So far, in Honolulu, we have lost more battles than we have won. but the tide is turning. People are getting tired of speculators and callous developers. Once a Hawaiian gets really angry, watch out." Even when he isn't angry but only deeply concerned, the Hawaiian can be impressive. I spent an hour or two one afternoon with Kekoa David Kaapu, a Harvard graduate and native of Oahu whose job, at the age of 32, is to bring a sense of order to Honolulu's patchwork growth and Urban Development, Kekoa - or David, as he was known at Harvard - faces a task that would stagger an army of city planners. He approaches it without illusion, yet with considerable confidence in himself and in Hawaii's future.
"From a strictly residential point of view," David told me, "Honolulu is something of disaster. Among major U.S. cities we rank sixth in the rate of over-all construction, yet last in providing new family housing. You can see why," he added, pointing through the window toward Waikiki. "With land so expensive, developers go for the quickest return, and of course that means tourist facilities such as hotels and restaurants. But even when we've built for ourselves," David said, "we made poor use of the land. The average height of buildings in downtown Honolulu today is exactly two stories - not what you'd call high-rise. Yet any planner can tell you that the way to open your city up is to concentrate your working and living areas in vertical clusters and put the rest in parks and vistas." He smiled. "It's the old story of 'Stand back and give the victim a little air.' It's a wonder Honolulu's still breathing."
I asked David how he proposed to revive the patient, and he answered seriously, "With an ancient Hawaiian cure, or let's say philosophy. Long ago the island kings granted land to their subjects on the basis of mauka-makai - in narrow tracts stretching inland from the coast to the hilltops. the idea was to follow the natural character of the land, so that a man might enjoy all it had to offer: the pleasures and resources of the sea, the coastal fields; and finally the mountains with their cool heights, their forests, and their views. "Hawaii's cities of the future should return to the mauka-makai principle," David declared. "Instead of barricading long stretches of coastline, they should reach back from the water's edge naturally, as the land does, beginning low and rising to higher structures in clusters linked by mass transit. That way they would leave broad vistas open to the sea, which belongs not to a lucky few, but to all Hawaiians. "Yes, I know," he said, anticipating my thought, "Honolulu's built differently, and you can't tear it all down. Imagine trying to dismantle Waikiki! But little by little cities wear out, now's the time to start working on a new one."
Many others in Honolulu today are thinking similar things about distant cities and peoples. On the University of Hawaii's campus, East-West Centre students from 44 nations, including the United States, are studying everything from educational psychology to municipal sewage systems for the sake of better life among their countrymen. One lunchtime I joined half a dozen students at the cafeteria of the center, whose unwieldy official title is the "Centre for Cultural and Technical Interchange Between East and West." All six were in their late 20's or early 30's, most of them graduate students pursuing subjects either unavailable or less advanced in their home countries. Their expenses and tuition came out of some $5,000,000 in federal funds granted each year to the University of Hawaii to run the center. In a world sorely troubled by racial conflict Honolulu enjoys an image of comparative harmony, despite - or perhaps because of - its multi-national character. I asked if the image is a true one.
"On the whole, I think yes," answered Felix Wendt, a tall and likable Western Samoan teacher in his early 30's. "You must remember that Honolulu and the university are not the same thing, but I think people here reflect the city's personality; after all, there are only some 600 of us 'foreign students' in the center, and many thousand Hawaiians at the university. Honolulu's nature seems to me basically tolerant, perhaps a matter of willingness to look beyond one's own - whatever shape or color it may be. That is not to say there is no friction here, for one sees bitterness and unrest just as elsewhere. How can you have change without such things? But I think Hawaiians more than most were born and brought up as companions of change, not so much in themselves as in the people and life around them. Perhaps now change does not come so hard to them."
Talk turned to the East-West Center itself and its effectiveness as a cultural bridge across the Pacific. "Academically, we are part of the university," explained Masao Takahashi, a young language scholar from Japan. "To be truthful, my country has universities that are better, but they have something else, too - students who are strictly Japanese. The real value here is outside the classroom." He gestured politely around the table. "My friends come from countries that Japan cannot live without, although in the past we have not known each other well enough. It seems curious, but I have come all the way to Hawaii to meet my own neighbors."
For Mohammed Yusul Salehi, 21, a political-science major from Afghanistan, the center's value is largely a matter of perspective country," he said, "than about anyone else's. If there is a student riot in any city of Kabul, Felix or Masao naturally asks me, 'What's that all about?' Well, I have been in these riots and so I tell my views - we young Afghans want our government to provide a decent education and job opportunities for our people. the government listens to our suggestions, but it does not always act. So the students can only retaliate by demonstrating, sometimes causing the university to close its doors. "But while I am explaining," Yusul continued, "Felix looks puzzled and finally he asks, 'You mean you would rather have no education than part of one?' So I think to myself, these Samoans, they are nice people but they sometimes miss the point. Then later I wonder just who has missed the point. And finally I realize that it is difficult to have perspective close to home, even when you feel certain you are in the right. And perhaps Felix had taught me something about my own Afghanistan."
The same concern for other people's
problems now and then occupies Henry and Lillian
Risk. Henry and Lillian, however, don't tackle just any problem. They are specialists in recovering lost or buried treasure. I met them one evening during a walk along the water's edge at Waikiki, when the crowds and the activity had subsided for the day and the beach had regained a faint touch of that haunting quality once described by a young Britisher, Rupert Brooke, in his poem, "Waikiki":
Admittedly there is little left to call haunting about Waikiki today, and more often than not Brooke's murmurous soft Hawaiian sea is lost in the sound of murmurous soft Hawaiian music - [played at ear-splitting level by hotel and nightclub bands. And yet there is something irresistible about the beach itself, with its pale crescent of well-manicured sand, its hotel terraces opening on the water, and its distant line of surfers and outriggers darting like shuttles across the green loom of the sea. For a time I walked alone just back of the water, past quiet groups of young people in the deliberately ragged dress that marks them collectively, and usually unfairly, as hippies. It was here among the half shadows that I found Henry and Lillian, though for a moment I had the impression of a World War II demolition tem clearing a mine field. They were stationed a dozen yards apart and moving slowly across the sand, each holding what looked like a mop handle with a giant dinner plate attached at an angle to its lower end. As they walked they swung the plates back and forth in narrow arcs before them, half an inch or so above the sand.
As I drew nearer, I noticed that both were earphones and that they seemed oblivious to everything around them, including occasional passer-by who attempted conversation. I recognized the mop-handle-dinner-plate affairs as metal detectors, instruments used increasingly by souvenir hunters for such items as buried shell fragments and bullets on Civil War battlefields. rather than disturb what was plainly another kind of hunt, I waited until Henry and Lillian decided to take a break and then introduced myself. We shook hands, and they told me what they were after. "Anything people drop that gets buried in the sand," explained Lillian, a lively and charming woman in her early 40's. "Of course it has to be metal - the detectors don't register wood or plastic - but that means everything from pennies and the little tabs off pop-top soda cans to diamond rings and parts of automobile engines. You'd be surprised what people bring to the beach."
In fact there are a number of surprised to Henry's and Lillian's hobby, such as the revelation that for hard cash, meaning coins, the sands in front of luxury hotels are a poor prospect. "They're more for the occasional wristwatch or fancy compact," Henry said. "As a rule, wealthy tourists don't bother with cash; they simply charge beach expenses to their hotel bills. For coins the best bet is the public area, where the drink stands and the rented surfboards are." I asked what an average night's harvest there came to, and Lillian answered, "It all depends on the phase of the moon." Then she caught my guarded look and burst out laughing. "No, we're not cranks or mystics," she said. "It's just that beach sand follows the wash of the tide, and anything underneath moves with it. The heavier tides seem to scour the bottom offshore and bring up the most items along with the sand. Which means a full moon is the best time for electronic beachcombing. But to answer your question, I'd say we average two dollars in change on the nights we go out. It's not what you'd call a profit-making venture, we just enjoy it."
I asked what they collected besides coins, and Lillian threw up her hands. "Come and look through our storage boxes! Costume jewellery, manicure scissors, cigarette lighters, campaign buttons - you name it, and Henry probably has it tucked away somewhere." With truly valuable items, I learned, Henry and Lillian generally manage to locate the owners - most often through hotels nearest to the ar4ea of the find. "Sometimes when a guest loses something valuable," Henry said, "his hotel will give us a call. I work for a construction company during the day, but if either one of us is available, we're glad to help. I don't know how many room keys we've found in a year's time and turned in to front desks." Most finds aren't worth the considerable trouble of trying to return them, and more than one Risk family friend has an attractive cigarette lighter or compact as an unwitting gift from Waikiki. Henry and Lillian have kept only two valuable items themselves after failing to find the owners. One is a Spanish silver coin dated 1796, and the other a man's gold watch worth about $260.
After a while Henry donned his earphones again and set off on a new search. "You can use the detectors with or without the phones," Lillian said, "but we usually wear them to discourage interruptions - you can sort of ignore people that way without being rude. During breaks, however, we're only too happy to answer questions. Here, try these on." She adjusted the phones over my ears and made a series of sweeps around us with the detector plate. At first I heard only a low steady hum, but presently it jumped an octave or two and began wavering. I turned the phones over to Lillian and before long she had the target pinpointed. Unhooking a small wire mesh basket from her belt, she scooped and sifted the sand several times and came up with a 1963 penny. "Risk Family rule Number One," she said, passing it to me with a curtsy. Then she reached down and picked up a battered paper cup, dropping it in the nearest trash bin. "Rule Number Two, or something - it's everybody's beach to enjoy, and look after."
On the next break I said goodbye to Henry and Lillian and asked when I might find them out on the beach again. "Next week we've got two teen-age sons home on vacation," Lillian said, "and I imagine we won't see the detectors for a while. The boys like to take them out at all hours, even though they lose money at it." that seemed impossible, and Lillian smiled. "They don't waste their time looking for things," she said. "They're hunting for dates. There's hardly a cute young number alive who can watch a boy go by with one of these things and not ask what it's all about. To younger members of the Risk family these aren't metal detectors, they're 'icebreakers.' And they cost a pretty penny in movies and sundaes." She held out her hand. "Maybe Henry and I could meet you for a dip one day soon. I'm told the water's lively."
Pearl Harbor, Polynesian villages, cannonading surf
O'ahu make 'Ewa 'Ewa, runs an old Hawaiian adage - "Unfriendly are the eyes of the people of Oahu."
The saying originated with a disgruntled goddess who visit4d Oahu, but mortals are always welcome. Today the number runs to well over a million outsiders a year, or 85 per cent of those who visit the 50th State. The wonder is that with only 607.7 square miles to do it in, Oahu still preserves a touch of paradise. Those who complain that Oahu's paradise wears a dollar sign generally have seen little more of the island than its commercial heart - central Honolulu and Waikiki. Here, indeed, the crush of tourists is so massive that it overwhelms even the local businessmen. "If everybody decided to come to the beach for dinner on a particular night," says a Waikiki hotel manager wryly, "the island would capsize." Certainly Oahu has a lopsided look in terms of population. The great urban galaxy of Honolulu on the southeastern coast accounts for 571,000 Oahuans (1970), more than half of the island's permanent residents and nearly one out of every two Hawaiians. Yet elsewhere much of Oahu is as sparsely settled as matching areas of the so-called Neighbor Islands such suggestions as the "Aloha Island" - few but the travel guides use it. Other sources insist on translating Oahu's Polynesian name as "the gathering place," although as in the case of Hawaii itself, no one really knows the original meaning of the word.
One of the older links in the Hawaiian chain, having thrust above the sea some 3.4 million years ago, Oahu at one stage was two separate volcanic islands that eventually fused during the course of millenniums into a single mass. Even today the island bears witness to its dual origin, lifting two parallel mountain ranges - Koolau on the east and Waianae in the west - like a pair of immense windbreaks against the trades. Not all of Oahu took eons to materialize. Volcanologists estimate that the island's most famous feature, the giant crater known to early Polynesians as Leahi ("place of fire") and to later generations as Diamond Head, may have been forged by volcanic action within a matter of weeks, possibly even days. Erosion then set to work, filing great notches in the crates rim and etching away the smooth slopes with narrow ravines until the headland today suggests the shattered remnant of some enormous seashell cast up and abandoned by the tide.
Less famous yet infinitely more spectacular is Oahu's Nuuanu Pali - literally, "cool-height cliff" - a dizzying escarpment of the Koolau Range that soars as high as 3,150 feet at one point on the east coast, stripping the incoming winds of moisture and turning leeward Waikiki and surrounding areas into a sunbather's sheltered paradise. Oahu, however, is much more than mere scenery; for one thing it is people like Casey Coryell. Casey is 17, very pretty, and her real name is Katherine; the nickname results from her initials, K.C. I met Casey through her parents, roger and Ernestine Coryell, at a party in their home in Hawaii Kai, a new community east of Diamond Head. Casey and I fell to discussing traditional Hawaiian sports, such as surfing and ti-leaf sliding. The latter is a technique of careering down a muddy slope with a cluster of giant leaves from the ti plant as the toboggan. I asked Casey if young Hawaiians still practiced the sport. "yes," she answered, "but you can only do it during fall and winter rains, when the hills are good and slick. Fluming's much better, because you can do that all year round."
Fluming? Casey smiled. "That's what we call it in the islands. Flumes are the big irrigation ditches that carry water down out of the mountains to the lowland cane and pineapple fields. To flume, all you do is hop in the ditch, float on y9ur back, and catch a free ride partway down with the water. In some places you can even float through tunnels in the mountains and ride aqueducts over the valleys. It's a great sport. And where, I asked, would one find a likely duck, or rather flume? "Up in the Koolau Range,"Casey explained. "Most of the valleys there have flumes in them, but you have to know the way because some are fenced off and others... What are you doing next Saturday?" And so on a memorable Saturday I went fluming with Casey, her father and mother, a smaller sister Carol, and two young men from the neighborhood. Driving north along the windward coast in two cars, we followed the lush corridor of cane fields and pastures running between the sea and the great upturned saw blade of the Koolau Range.
Like many another breathtaking spot in Hawaii, the Koolau memorializes a grim chapter of island history. In a deep notch of the Nuuanu Pali escarpment in 1795, with an invading army from the Island of Hawaii, the great warrior chieftain Kamehameha I met and defeated the forces of Oahu under their king Kalanikupule. According to legend, several hundred of the surviving Oahuans leaped or were driven over the sheet face of Nuuanu Pali to their death more than 200 feet below. Some accounts say the victorious Kamehameha treated his conquered rival with typical Polynesian chivalry by having his brains clubbed out as a gesture to the gods - a practice that helps explain the high incidence of suicide among defeated Hawaiian warriors. The battle at Nuuanu Pali had at least one beneficial result. It solidified Kamehameha's grip over most of the islands and gave Hawaii its first unified rule in more than a thousand years of history.
Beyond the small coastal town of Kasawa we turned inland through a valley richly carpeted to a thickness of 10 or 12 feet by sugarcane. The irrigation flumes plainly were at peak operation, for within a mile the dirt road became a quagmire. We parked the cars on a raised embankment and slogged westward through mud toward the Koolau. Once on higher ground we entered the luxuriant forest typical of the windward slopes of Hawaii's mountains. Though the morning was cloudless, the trail lay deep in shadow beneath a canopy of wild banana, eucalyptus, ironwood, guava, and hibiscus shrubs as tall as giant boxwoods. Along the way Roger Coryell pointed out trees as unfamiliar to me as they were vital to the early Hawaiians - hau, the traditional wood used for the outriggers; and 'ulu, or breadfruit, whose sap served as a binder with coconut fiber for the final caulking. (See Jane Resture's Polynesian Voyaging Web site at URL: http://www.janeresture.com/voyaging/main.htm for further information on 'the final caulking'.)
'Once they had the hull as tight as they could make it," Roger said, "they launched it and held a ceremony called 'drinking the sea.' A group of people got on each side of the canoe and rocked it back and forth until the caulking and the fiber lashings were drenched and started to swell, making everything snug and watertight." Equally important to life ashore was the kukui, or candlenut tree, which we encountered in scattered stands along the trail. As the name suggests, early Hawaiians used the oily nuts as miniature torches after first drying them in the sun. the oil also served as a remedy for stomach ailments. So important were candlenuts as a source of illumination that the Hawaiian word for light itself is kukui.
"Even today," Roger said, "many older Hawaiians call the ordinary household lamp kukui uila - 'electric candlenut.'" As the trail steepened, Casey and Ernestine gradually dropped behind with young Carol, and I began to suspect that the hike was too much for a girl of eight. But I hadn't reckoned on Hawaiian custom. After a while Roger and I paused beside the path with Casey's two friends, Paul and John. Presently Ernestine, Casey, and Carol caught up, each carrying an assortment of leis and small wreaths made of vines interwoven with wild flowers, mainly ginger. After the proper ceremony of decorating the menfolk we all turned once more up the trail. The flume was everything Casey had promised, in addition to being a work of art. Three miles up the mountain we rounded a bend in the path and came on a great groove carved in the slope, beautifully squared and lined with expertly masoned stone. the inner width of the flume was roughly four feet and the depth two and a half, with the lining so smooth that an immense volume of water slipped along it almost unbroken by ripples. Some 40 yards up-current the flume issued from a gaping tunnel in a shoulder of the mountain, and at an equal distance downstream it took off across a deep gorge on an aqueduct supported by a trestle.
For the day Casey had recommended hiking clothes over the oldest available bathing suit. "The flumes look smooth," she had warned, "but where you bump the bottom, you may find a few surprises in the cement work." there was no stopping point between the mouth of the tunnel and a spot well out on the aqueduct, across the top of the flume for support. John noted that the water level was unusually high, leaving mere inches of clearance under the beams. "Keep flat, with your head back when you reach them," he recommended, "then pick the beam you want beforehand. As soon as you grab it get your shoulders above the surface to reduce the drag, otherwise, you'll create a dam and the water will back up on you and push harder."
We started our first run just below the mouth of the tunnel, with John leading off and the rest of the flumers following a few yards apart - myself, then Paul, and finally Casey. while awaiting my turn I discovered it was possible to stand upright in the flume with water churning about knee level. but once a flumer sits down, he is launched and committed. John took off with a splash and went sailing downstream at a good clip feet first, with only his blond head showing. Then I was in the stinging cold of the water and bobbing along behind, waving cheerfully to Carol, who stayed behind with her parents. For a time I enjoyed the dappled effect of branches sweeping by overhead and then I was out in bright sunlight high over the gorge. The sensation was pleasant and I idly surveyed my toes, showing just above water ahead of me like a disembodied cow-catcher. something beyond them caught my attention, and I was suddenly faced with a wooden beam rushing toward me at eye level.
My first thought was that the water in the flume must have risen, for there seemed no clearance at all under the beam. I drew a quick breath and prepared to submerge, wondering just how many beams I could avoid before I had to surface - and catch the next beam like a Hawaiian war club in the head. Just then I got a glimpse of blond hair some yards downstream and realized that John had slipped safely under the barrier. Reassured, I tilted my head back and watched half a dozen beams flash past uncomfortably close to my nose. Then I put up both hands, caught hold of the seventh beam, and lifted my shoulders free of the surface. the movement broke the water's grip and I was soon on top of the beam, ready to walk back along the aqueduct for another run. We made more than a dozen of them, pushing our starting point as far as we dared into the pitch black and rush of water in the tunnel. As Casey had prophesied, I found the bottom of the flume studded with tiny pinpoints of concrete, and before long I had shredded the seat of my swimming trunks. The truth is I shredded a bit more than that, but in Hawaii we never discuss fluming scars.
Finally, the chill of the water drove us out and we hiked down the mountain, gathering armloads of wild ginger for friends of the Coryells. On the return drive we stopped at a grove of trees beside a beach, and Ernestine spread a banquet of chicken, fresh pineapple, and wine. Afterward we spent an hour on the sand, letting the sun bake away the lingering effects of icy mountain water, and reached home in the late afternoon. It had been a day far removed from the usual run of sightseeing excursions, and one that still makes me think of Oahu as Casey's island. Jagen Lal, for one, would dispute the claim, even though he's a relative newcomer to Oahu. I met Jagen one evening near the village of Laie on the island's north coast, there he was preparing to go to war with the enemies of Fiji. the preparations were impressive and I'm sure the Fijians would have won, but then they had to turn the stage over to a group of Tahitian women dancers. Jagen and his fellow warriors are part of the cast of the Polynesian Cultural Center, a major attraction on Oahu inspired and directed by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The center is an offshoot of the Mormon missionary college at Laie and it serves a dual purpose. It offers a living museum for half a dozen ancient Pacific cultures, and it provides income for tuition and expenses to students at the college, many of whom come from distant islands of the South Pacific.
I met Jagen backstage after the spectacular nightly performance of dances based on the traditions of Hawaii, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti, and Maori New Zealand. Earlier I had visited the adjoining collection of villages representing the same cultures, where other students demonstrate the distinctive but relaxed customs of all six peoples. To me, Jagen and his fellow students seemed something of a contradiction. On the one hand they were attempting to preserve the colorful but fading customs of early Polynesia. On the other they were studying the Western culture and technology that threaten to extinguish those customs altogether, as has happened to a large degree in Hawaii. I asked Jagen if he didn't feel a sense of conflict.
"Yes," he answered, "but not in the way you imagine. For me it is more a matter of competition." He waved toward the darkened stage and the villages beyond it. "Every afternoon and evening I am surrounded by the culture not only of Fiji but also of others related to us. I am not so foolish as to admire everything I see, but what is good I accept, and I remember. In the mornings I do the same with what your people have to offer, and if I have some wisdom I choose well from both. "That was not always the way with us," he continued. "In the past there was such a gulf between Fijians and the outside world that we tended to accept everything from it, or nothing. Either way we failed. Here at Laie, as Western students but still as Fijians, we can learn what you have in the West that truly suits us, what may change but not destroy us as a people. And that is what we will take home. Meanwhile," he added, smiling, "if you enjoyed the performance then we have taught you something, too - that a world without Fijians would be a little poorer."
At least one aspect of Polynesian culture has flourished in contact with the West. Throughout half the world today, wherever there are beaches and ocean swells, somebody is probably practicing the traditional Hawaiian art of he'e nalu - "wave-sliding" - better known as surfing Hawaiians boast the finest consistently rideable surf in the world, a claim readily acknowledged by everyone except Californians, Australians, south Africans, Malaysians, and perhaps a few others. Yet the fact remains that the most famous surfing competitions take place on Oahu's northern and western coasts, at such renowned beaches as Makaha and Sunset. Oahuans have other surfing beaches with such grizzly names as Suicides, Point Panic, Banzai Pipeline, and Pounders; but Makaha and Sunset are the ones usually chosen for the great international meets. The average visitor to Hawaii thinks of surfing strictly in terms of Waikiki, and in fact is an ideal beach for learning the sport. During my stay in Honolulu, I took a memorable hour's lesson with a part Hawaiian named Jesse Crawford, an excellent instructor and the beach captain for one of Waikiki's finest hotels, appropriately called the Surfrider.
Jessie showed the same skill with me that has transformed such services as television actress Lucille Ball and her children into creditable surfers - after somewhat more than an hour's instruction. by the end of the lesson he had me standing more or less upright on the board and riding small waves for triumphant stretches of a hundred yards. "You're doing fine, just fine," Jesse said generously as we paddled back to shore, "though you're not quite ready for Makaha." The truth is I never will be except in summer, when Makaha is practically a millpond. From May through October whatever real surf Oahu has comes from the south as a result of Antarctica's winter storms, and the famous beaches on the island's north side are barren of surfers. Beginning in late November, however, it is the Arctic's turn. Storms bred in the Aleutians lash the northern Pacific into a winter fury, sending monstrous thunder all along Oahu's northern coast and only the very skilful, or the very foolish, put out from shore.
One of the former is 39-year-old George Downing, three times winner of the International surfing Championships (Makaha), a yearly classic that draws the world's finest surfers to Hawaii. I spent an evening discussing surfing with George at Waikiki's venerable Outrigger Canoe Club, famous since its founding in 1908 for champion surfers and outrigger canoe teams. I learned that to Hawaiians "reliable surf" may mean waves up to 35 feet in height, but that size is only one factor. "It depends on how the wave breaks, or 'cracks,' as surfers put it," George began. "Many beaches in the world have 35-foot waves. but what gives Hawaii's surf that special quality is the underwater barricade of coral reefs that breaks the swells up as they come in, so that a wave doesn't crack all at once but 'peels' across its face in a continuing motion - like row of dominoes when you push it over. That moving edge just in front of the white water is called the 'shoulder,' and that's where you get the speed, as well as the long ride."
Hawaii - About Hawaii Part 2
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