OPINION — Dreaming of a trip to Hawaii

Published 11:04 am Thursday, June 24, 2021

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Aloha in paradise.

Those words conjure up feelings of love, culture and a people who celebrate their rich heritage. Of the 10 places I want to live on this Earth, Hawaii is number one on that list.

When I see a photo or video on TV I can sense the taste, feel and vibrancy of the island. I pray one day I will receive a lei around my neck in the future.

Hawaii has the fourth largest coastline of the 50 states. Furthermore, it is the only state that is an archipelago, a chain of islands fully surrounded by an expanse of water. The area of land is 6,422.62 aquare miles. These illustrious islands were created from volcanic activity over a hotspot in the Earth’s mantle and the results are exposed peaks of a large undersea mountain range known as the Hawaiian Emperor seamount chain. The Pacific plate slowly moved northwestward over the hotspot at about 32 miles per million years. Due to extensive erosion the northwest islands are older and smaller. The northwestern-most Kure Atoll is the oldest island at 28 million years while the southeastern-most Hawaii Island is where volcanic activity still occurs. The island’s age was determined using the potassium-argon dating method. According to ancient legend the goddess of volcanoes Pele visited the islands and volcanic eruptions are due to her anger with the Hawaiian people.

The Hawaiian Islands were first settled by Polynesian navigators as early as A.D. 300, and in January 1778, James Cook, a British captain, became the first European to make landfall there.

The islands were independently governed by a monarchy until 1898 when the U. S. annexed Hawaii as a territory. On August 21, 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state. In total there are more than 100 islands in Hawaii with the eight major ones being Big Island (also called Hawaii), Oahu, Maui, Kaho’olawe, Lana’i, Moloka’i, Kaua’i and Ni’ihau.

The Midway Atoll has several smaller islands but it is governed by the federal government as a territory not Hawaii because it is classified as a minor outlying island with a strong military history.

Oahu is Hawaii’s third largest island and the most populated. It has 70% of the state’s population. The state’s largest city and its capital is Honolulu. In addition, Oahu has many historic and cultural attractions such as the Bishop Museum and Pearl Harbor. Moreover, it’s called “The Gathering Place” and consequently, the Polynesian Cultural Center is in the town of La’ie.

Subsequently, Big Island is the largest in Hawaii and the U.S. with the highest peak in Hawaii at Mauna Kea at 13,796 feet. Big Island has an area of 4,028 square miles. A t one time Maui, the second largest island, was once Hawaii’s capital. At one time each island was ruled by an ali’I (chief) for centuries before King Kamehameha unified the islands with absolute rule. Each ali’i promoted peace and prosperity through leadership in unity.

Moloka’i Island is where Father Damien, a priest, built houses and schools. He also cared for the physical and spiritual needs of the islanders, especially those with leprosy. From 1866 to 1969 people with the disease were exiled to the town of Kalaupapa. Most of Lana’i Island was purchased in 1921 for $1 million by James Dole who established the world’s largest pineapple plantation. Later the plantation was moved overseas and the island maintained two resorts but returned to a quiet atmosphere.

The Kaua’i Island, known as “The Garden Isle,” is the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands and was the first one seen by Captain James Cook in 1778. It boasts tropical landscapes and rainforests.

The island of Kaho’olawe is nicknamed “The Target Island” since the U. S. Navy used it from 1941 until 1990 as a target for artillery. Due to the lack of freshwater and dry land  it has no permanent citizens living on it. In addition, Ni’ihau Island, known as “The Forbidden Island” and is the smallest inhabited one, has no tourism allowed because the Robinson family privately owns the island. They are the descendants of Elizabeth McHutcheson Sinclair who purchased the island in 1864 for $10,000 in U. S. gold from King Kamehameha V.

Finally, the Hawaiian Islands are a diverse mosaic of vibrancy with its tropics made from the depths of the Earth. They are a landscape of breathtaking scenery combining ancient heritage with modern flair that only God could orchestrate.

Judy Moore is a history columnist living in Wylliesburg and can be reached at v5agabnd1@outlook.com.