Sunday, July 14, 2013

Hawaii Day 6 (Micronesia Day 23) - Pu'uhonua o Honaunau

Saturday, July 13, 2013
10:54 P.M.

It's weird to think that in less than 24 hours, I will be back at my house. I'll see my dog, go fishing in the lake and sound, see friends, blast music on my speakers, and play saxophone (albeit I'll get home after midnight so the last two will have to wait). I say that I'll be home in less than a day because of the time change. In reality, I'll be home early Monday morning PDT, but it should still be late Sunday night here.

Today was another wonderful day in paradise. We did a whole bunch of things... snorkeling (with a coral reef in decent condition), boogieboarding, and even cliff diving at South Point, which is the southernmost point in Hawaii and therefore the southernmost point of the 50 U.S States. I've heard some claims that this point is the southernmost point in the entire U.S., but I think some of the unincorporated territories of the U.S. in the Pacific would beg to differ... specifically American Samoa. That's the southernmost territory that pops into my head but I'm sure there are more; let me know if you know one that is further south.

Boogieboarding was great because the waves were a bit larger than usual and I tried catching waves at a spot that had a shallower reef break, therefore producing higher waves. These waves weren't anything to laugh at... they were at LEAST 20 inches. The problem with that spot was that it had a bunch of rocks. Thankfully I didn't hit any, but there was one wipeout in which I came particularly close. We saw these extremely tan pacific islander kids who we assumed were native Hawaiians riding on top of their boogieboards and attempting to do sick aerials, like rodeos and flips. None of them executed these seemingly impossible stunts completely, but some came close, and it was extremely fun to watch.

Cliff diving was definitely my highlight of the day. My mom was nervous about me cliff diving due to my recent seizures, and I was too. When I got to the spot we were jumping, I felt more nervous in some ways and less in others. The drop was much higher than I expected. I guestimated that each jump took around 1.5 seconds to travel from the top of the jumper's altitude to the water, and since I know that gravity accelerates things at ~10 m/s (on Earth), I calculated the velocity to be proportional to 10X, where X is the number of seconds that have passed, and the distance to be equal to (10/2)X(^2), or 5X^2. Since X ranged from 0 to 1.5, the acceleration was equal to 10 meters/second, and the distance was half the acceleration multiplied by the time that had passed squared, I took the integral of 5X^2 took the integral of 10X from 0 to 1.5 and got 11.25 meters. Air resistance was negligible, and since I rounded up to 10 m/s from the widely accepted value of 9.81 m/s, I decided to simply let one meter equal one yard. There are 3 feet in one yard, so 11.25* 3 = 33.75 feet.

Of course, it felt like 337.5 feet. Before I jumped, some beautiful Hawaiian native girls (there's plenty of them) told me to keep my hands by my side and flex my butt cheeks. I forgot to do the latter and experienced pain in my groin. I think the flexing of the buttocks is especially important for guys because of our anatomy in that area. Also, my epilepsy bracelet on my hand snapped off due to the force of me hitting the water. One of the other guys who was jumping and snorkeling in the area dove beneath where I jumped and called my mom's cellphone to report that he had miraculously found my bracelet. It's currently being mailed from Hawaii to my house.

The most educational thing I did today was to go to Pu'uhonua o Honaunau which, for those of you who have been reading my blog, is like Nan Madol Jr. I took a whole bunch of pictures and will explain the site to you when I have time, but now it is time for me to get a good night of rest and get ready to catch a plane tomorrow morning.

On a side note... it was raining here earlier, but the rain was light compared to Pohnpei. Tuesday night may feature some thunderstorms over the Cascades and into the lowlands, but it's hard to tell at this point. We do occasionally get these summer thunderstorms that are pretty dry but provide some spectacular light shows.

Oh, and read Cliff Mass' blog. He's had some great posts lately.

Thanks for reading!

Ended 11:37 P.M.

Saturday, July 20, 2013
11:24 P.M.

Hello everybody, I'm back in Seattle, and I'm ready to talk about Pu'uhonua o Honaunau. I'm writing outside my Whidbey Island home by moonlight. I can see a couple stars, but nothing like I experienced at Mauna Kea. Anyway, let's get to it!

There are a lot of Hawaiian terms here, so I'll define them for you. I listed them in the order they appear in my post.

ali'i - royal chiefs
The Great Wall - a massive wall up to 10 feet high and 17 feet think that separated the pu'uhonua from the royal compound.
pu'uhonua - place of refuge
kapu - sacred laws
ahupua'a - a large climatic/socioeconomic/geographic subdivision of moku
moku - the largest divisions on the island
konane - an ancient Hawaiian game which bears similarities to checkers.
Keone'ele - a cove which acted as the royal canoe landing
kanoa - Bowl-like holding places that were carved into rock
papamu - a stone surface often used to play konane
mana - spiritual power, often (but not always) possessed by the bones of deceased ali'i
heaiu - a final resting place for previous chiefs
hukilau - a method of fishing that involves dragging a net through shallow water.
ki'i - statues representing guardians of the pu'uhonua
kahuna pule - a priest that absolved kapu offenders so they could return from the pu'uhonua back home

Pu'uhonua o Honaunau was a complex that consisted of royal grounds for the ali'i and a massive wall (The Great Wall) to protect and enclose a  pu'uhonua for defeated warriors, noncombatants in wartime, and those who violated kapu. It is located on the southern Kona Coast inside Honaunau Bay. It was used for centuries until 1819, when Kamehameha II abolished traditional religious practices that were used there. As a result, many of these old religious structures or temples were purposefully destroyed by the Hawaiians or were abandoned and left to decompose naturally. It was set aside in the 1920s as a county park, and in 1961, it graduated to a national historical park to, as my field pamphlet says, "maintain a setting where old Hawaiian ways continue in the modern world."

11:39 P.M. - A brief dog fight broke out. Serious Micronesia deja vu.

As I previously said, there are two main components to Pu-uhonua o Honaunau: the ali'i and the pu'uhonua. Let's describe both in a little more detail.

Royal Grounds:

These grounds were the home of the ali'i of the Kona district on Hawai'i. They were located within the ahupua'a. This ahupua'a spanned from the gentle slopes of Mauna Loa to the southern Kona Coast and offered not only plentiful drinking water but provided great opportunities for farming and fishing. The fish were held in freshwater and saltwater holding ponds so that the ali'i could have their fish nice and fresh. The ponds are pictured below. Unfortunately, I forget which is which.

As far as fishing goes, workers tied ki leaves to ropes to form a net, and they dragged this net through the shallows. This method is called hukilau.

ki leaf nets for hukilau

The residence for the royalty included at least 10 thatched buildings in a grove of coconut palms. The scene was quite bustling, with servants constantly running from hut to hut to serve the chief, prepare fish taken from the royal fishponds, or anything along those lines. The ali'i, on the other hand, could be doing anything from negotiating war treaties to playing konane.

konane on a papamu

Canoes landed in Keone'ele and only allowed to be used by the chief and his assistants. Anybody else who used the canoe would be breaking kapu.

A reconstruction of a typical canoe with an outrigger. They were pretty nice boats.

Throughout the entire place were kanoa which may have been used to evaporate saltwater to create salt or serve as a place to pound awa, a Hawaiian root, to make a drink for ceremonies.



A broad overlook of the pu'uhonua

A HUGE stone wall that was built in the mid-16th century kept the royal grounds and pu'uhonua separated. The ali'i's bones were often brought here, and mana encircled the area as a result. The wall, while impressive, didn't represent any spiritual purpose.

The Great Wall

However, it protected some very spiritual temples and objects. An example is Hale o Keawe, which was built in 1650 and was the newest heiau. Both photos below are of the Hale o Keawe temple complex.

Keawe'ikekahiali'iokamoku (try saying that three times fast), the great-great grandfather of Kamehameha I, had his bones placed in the temple, and his (Keahw's) mana was believed to protect the pu'uhonua.

The pu'uhonua was designed to be a place of peace. Because no blood could be shed here, even enemies of the chief could seek peace in this place. For example, in the 1782 Battle of Moku'ohai, an archrival of Kamehameha fled here and later became Kamehameha's prime minister.

Kapu were very important here. Commoners could not even allow their shadows to cover the palace grounds, let alone walk in the ali'i's footsteps, touch his stuff, or look at him. Women couldn't eat with men or prepare meals for them (that has sure changed). A person could be executed if a kapu was broken, for if they angered the gods, tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, famine, and other disasters may strike down upon the area.

But here's the ironic part. If people broke kapu, they were immediated sought out to be caught. If they made it to the pu'uhonua, however, they were safe and the kahuna pule (priest) would absolve them of any wrongdoing, giving them the option to return home safely if they so chose. Talk about running for your life.

The whole place reminded me of Nan Madol from Micronesia and made me realize how spectacular Nan Madol was. I don't mean to take away from Pu'uhonua o Honaunau at all; I think it is incredible even though many of the structures have been restored. But I had never given much thought to the work it took to build Nan Madol. I was astounded by the width of The Great Wall, and it made me realize how grandiose Nan Madol really was.

Finally, I discovered another mangrove. After our Micronesia unit on mangroves, I hold these trees in much higher esteem. Mangroves aren't native to Hawaii, but oh well; they're cool anyway.

There's a weird illusion going on with my arm and leg (viewer's left)

Thank you for reading! This is probably the last of the Micronesia/Hawaii posts, at least for now. I hope you've enjoyed them!



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thank you Donald! Yes, Hawaii is not exempt from powerful storms. Hurricane Iniki in 1992 caused massive damage in Kauai, and a little less so in Oahu.

    Kona is normally much drier than the windward side of Hawai'i, but every once in a while, the entire chain can experience these "Kona Storms" which have their origins to the southwest and travel northeast, which is opposite of the prevailing trade winds in the area. These storms can cause tremendous flooding and landslides on the normally dry leeward sides of the islands, not to mention high winds and surf.