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When we talked of going to Hawaii for a couple of weeks in February 2018 several of our friends enthusiastically recommended it. To many of them it's a nice place to go on holidays - a little further to go than Bali but with a nicer climate, better beaches and better shopping - with bargains to be had at the designer outlets.

 


Waikiki

 

To nearly one and a half million racially diverse Hawaiians it's home.

 

 


Downtown Hilo

 

To other Americans it's the newest State, the only one thousands of miles from the North American Continent, and the one that's more exotic than Florida.

To some it's historically significant - the site of America's single greatest military defeat, unless you count Vietnam or perhaps Afghanistan - and it all took place on a single day: "a date which will live in infamy".

Here, on my father's 25th birthday, the course of world events took a dramatic new direction.  He was not yet married to my mother.  So to me it's one of those places where history most clearly influenced the conditions necessary for my birth and thus the birth of my children too. 

But why was the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour on December 7 1941?  And why is that fleet no longer there?

That story goes back to the arrival of Captain James Cook at Kealakakua Bay, on the west coast of the island of Hawaii, on January 16 1779, and the outcomes that momentous event triggered for inhabitants of the newly discovered Sandwich Islands as more and more strangers arrived.

I found myself fascinated by the youngest US State's short but turbulent history. Statehood is one of the more recent events that I remember clearly.  But you might like to skip these sections if these and other improbable events leading to your birth are of no interest.

 

 


History

A Creation Story

 

In the beginning the Pacific Ocean was a formless void.  Then about 70 million years ago the Great God Vulcan said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters".  So he formed a great hot spot - a hole in the earth's crust through which magma from the mantle could leak, like air leaking from a netball.  Then Vulcan said,  "Let the dry land appear".

On the surface of the Pacific tectonic plate, below the water, a little pimple formed - pushing the land up until it became an island and with a 'pop', some red hot molten rocks and gasses squirted into the sky.  And Vulcan saw that it was good. 

But soon the Pacific plate drifted north, over his hot spot. So Vulcan repeated his trick again and again, creating a chain of islands.

 

Lyman Museum Lyman Museum
Lyman Museum Lyman Museum

Lyman Museum - the formation of the archipelago
 

Vulcan's hotspot is presently below Mauna Loa and Kilauea and the mere mortals a' top his other mountain have noticed that there's an almost linear relationship between the age of each volcano in the chain and its distance from Kilauea, the youngest, that emerged above water just 100,000 years ago.  They've also noticed that the island they call Oahu is over a million years older than their 'big island' of Hawaii.

 

Formation of the Hawaiian archipelago
Formation of the Hawaiian archipelago

Formation of the Hawaiian Archipelago - from the Hawaii Center for Volcanology website

 

Vulcan's islands were of pure sterile rock, born of fire. So Vulcan said, "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon my isles".  Thus during the millions of years that followed, sea creatures came ashore and flotsam from trees and plant life washed ashore. Then those new-fangled bird things evolved to bring seeds in their guts and defecate in the soil.  And Vulcan saw that it was good.

A long, long time later, after lying unmolested for many hundreds of millennia, just seven hundred or so years ago, Vulcan caused an eruption creating a long white cloud so that following it from far away the first human settlers arrived (or was that New Zealand?).  After humans arrived an avalanche of change took place.  With them they brought new plants and animals and a whole new ecosystem began to evolve.  The first settlers were soon followed by others of their species, who possessed even more advanced technologies, and thus they brought even more change. Some might say devastation.

But mighty Vulcan's not concerned.  He has more islands planned. Underwater nearby he's already building another, Loini, that's not yet emerged from the waters and over time he intends to sink the present lot.

Praise be to Vulcan.

 

 


Settlement and European Discovery

 

 

Like many of the islands in the Pacific, the Sandwich Islands remained uninhabited until the thirteenth century, a full century after William the Conqueror invaded England. 

This isn't what most commentators or tourist guide books on Hawaii will tell you.  They generally claim that the Polynesians arrived around 600 years earlier. This was based on 19th century, anthropological guesswork and has passed into folk-law.

The later date is the result of modern, more accurate, carbon dating of the first human artefacts.  Thus it was around the same time as Polynesians colonised New Zealand. 

Genetic ancestry shows that the distant ancestors of the Polynesians migrated from Taiwan to Melanesia about five thousand years ago and then travelled east to the Society Islands. From there they colonised  places as far flung as Easter Island and finally set sail, relatively recently, to several as yet uninhabited and probably undiscovered pacific islands, including the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) and New Zealand.  Contrary to another myth they did not come from nor did they inhabit South America.

But this is all academic.  It's certainly true that for centuries before first European contact people thrived here and their population grew from one or two small groups of first settlers to several hundred thousand, possibly as many as half a million, islanders. This expansion was sustained by their evolved civil society and social codes and religion; some of these anathema to our present values. 

Obviously the Polynesians were able to build ocean-going craft that were sufficiently large or numerous to carry enough people, food, animals and seedlings of staple plants to support viable colonisations.  They had mastered navigation and apparently had a belief-system or culture that underwrote such adventurers. 

The last to settle Polynesians (for example Hawaiians and Maori) were especially skilled in warfare. 

 


Militarism in Hawaii - Fort DeRussy, US Army Museum - note the implied incorrect time of arrival  

 

Many human cultures encourage young men to prove themselves as warriors, for example New Guinea Highlanders and Australian Aborigines. This requires warlike skirmishes or raids on other groups; and in some cases as in New Guinea highlands full scale battles.  Initially anthropologists proposed that from time to time whole groups were expelled to take their chances at sea. 

But there is now evidence of trade between far-flung islands that points to return trips, requiring deliberate and highly skilled navigation. Yet their basic technology was Neolithic: stone, bone and wooden tools.  Unlike the Vikings or the great Chinese sailors they had no metals and no written language so that knowledge was passed on by  word of mouth, from master to apprentice and preserved in drawings and song and dance: Hula - initially a strictly male dance tradition seen only by the initiated.  In addition to a complex language, supporting navigational and agricultural skills, the Sandwich Islanders had developed a feudal style hierarchical society in which the upper classes ruled the common people, supported by a complex pantheon of gods and the law of kapu.

 

 

 


Social Structure in the Sandwich Islands - US Army Museum  

 

The first Europeans to visit the islands were led by Captain James Cook, who on an earlier voyage, principally to observe the transit of Venus, first mapped the east coast of Australia.  Cook was murdered on the east coast of Hawaii (the big island) as a result of an ill-advised attempt to kidnap the local war-lord in order to recover a stolen longboat and other goods. An obelisk marks the spot to this day.  Cook held Polynesians in high regard.  He'd discovered that they knew of uncharted islands and could find them by means of currents, bird migration and astronomical observations. 

 


Enforcing kapu - from Hawaiian Journey by Joseph G Mullins  

 

Hawaiians likewise were extraordinarily quick to learn from the new arrivals to their shores.  After Cook additional British ships arrived then ships from other European nations stopping to take on water and food in exchange for trade goods, including metal objects and weapons.

Like many Neolithic societies the fundamentals of reproduction were not well understood by the Polynesians.  Families were matrilineal as the part men played in childbirth was somewhat obscure. Girls began to have sexual relations after menarche.  Abortion and infanticide disposed of unwanted pregnancies and pregnancy and its attendant issues were 'secret women's business'.  Thus sexual relations were a normal part of courtship and 'getting to know you' games. To European male sensibilities the young women seemed delightfully promiscuous.  This would have disastrous consequences in Hawaii, Tahiti and several other Polynesian communities.

 


The Kingdom of Hawaii

 

 

 

 

Once modern weapons arrived the various war-lords on the big island of Hawaii were soon reduced to one, when 'Kamehameha the Great' defeated the other local chieftains, assisted by a serendipitous eruption of the Kilauea volcano in 1790 that killed over 80 warriors of the opposing warlord and scattered the remainder.  This was a clear sign from the gods.

 

angry gods

 

 


 The rise of Kamehameha - US Army Museum

 

Kamehameha had been present when Cook arrived and understood the importance of guns.  He quickly acquired an armoury of 'Brown Bess' muskets from traders and British interests.

 

 

Brown Bess musket Brown Bess musket
Monarchy Cannon Monarchy Cannon

Weapons of the type used by Kamehameha's troops to take Oahu - US Army Museum

 

He was also at pains to prevent potential rivals doing the same. In this he was assisted by two British sailors who made Hawaii their home. The most influential of these was John Young who built a house and established a family with an Hawaiian girl.  Young was an impressive man and a persuasive orator who acted as technical and diplomatic adviser as well as translator to foreign visitors. As Kamehameha rose to power Young was appointed Royal Governor of Hawaiʻi and one of his grandchildren would later become Queen.

Another occasional ally was British naval officer, Captain George Vancouver who had been with Cook as a junior officer and had already met Kamehameha. He and Young also developed an understanding. Vancouver is the man after whom both Vancouver island and the city in Canada are named, in addition to Mount Vancouver in New Zealand and another in Alaska.  He is best known for exploring and charting both the north west coast of North America and south west Australia. His achievements are so many his role in Hawaii is hardly mentioned in his main Wikipedia entry.

Yet he was very influential in Kamehameha's rise to power. In 1794 Kamehameha who had not yet secured the remaining islands and fearing attack from other nations ceded the island of Hawaii to Great Britain.  According to Vancouver: Several officers then went ashore, raised the British flag, and took possession of the island of Hawai'i in the name of King George III. A salute was fired aboard both Vancouver's naval vessels, and two copper plates were prepared with the following inscription:

'On the 25th of February, 1794, Tamaahmaah king of Owhyhee. in council with the principal chiefs of the island, assembled on board His Britannic Majesty's sloop Discovery in Karakakooa bay, and in the presence of George Vancouver, commander of the said sloop; Lieutenant Peter Puget, commander of his said Majesty's armed tender the Chatham; and the other officers of the Discovery; after due consideration, unanimously ceded the said island of Owhyhee to His Britannic Majesty, and acknowledged themselves to be subjects of Great Britain.'

source: Rhoda E. A. Hackler - Alliance or Cession?
Missing Letter from Kamehameha I to King George III
of England Casts Light on 1794 Agreement

 

Henceforth Kamehameha flew the Union Jack and soon partitioned King George to station a British warship in Hawaii and provide a Register and Seal to facilitate trade with North West America.

 

Island Woahoo March 3rd. 1810

To His Majesty King George

Sir

Having had no good opportunity of writing to you since Capt. Vancouver left here
has been the means of my Silence. Capt. Vancouver Informed me you would send me
a small vessel am sorry to say I have not yet received one.

Am sorry to hear your being at War with so many powers and I so far off cannot assist
you. Should any of the powers which you are at War with molest me I shall expect your
protection, and beg you will order your Ships of War & Privateers not to Capture any
vessel whilst laying at Anchor in our Harbours, as I would thank you to make ours a
neutral port as I have not the means of defence.

I am in particular need of some Bunting having no English Colours also some brass
Guns to defend the Islands in case of Attack from your Enemies. I have built a few small
vessels with an Intent to trade on the North West of America with Tarro root the produce
of these Islands for fur skins but am told by the White men here I cannot send them to
sea without a Register. In consequence of which beg you will send me a form of a Register
& seal with my Name on it. Being very poor at these Islands any thing which you may
think useful to me I beg you will send by the earliest opportunity. My best respects to you
& your Queen & all your family wishing you Health Happiness & a long prosperous
Reign.

And am Sir
Your Majesty's
most devoted Friend & Servant

TAMAAHMAAH

King of the Sandwich Islands

PS. My removal from Owyhee to this Island was in consequence of their having put to
death Mr. Brown & Mr. Gordon, Masters, (of the Jackall & Prince Le Boo, two of you
merchant vessels.)
I have sent by Mr. Jno. Gl Spence Commander of the Ship
Duke of Portland, a feather'd cloak & beg your acceptance

source - as above

 

The post script refers to the attempt by the rival chieftain on Oahu to capture two British merchant ships during which both captains were murdered.  The ships were then recaptured by the remaining officers and crew who sailed to Hawaii to seek Kamehameha's (Tamaahmaah's) protection. 

He assembled a flotilla of war canoes and in a battle plan worthy of Napoleon took Oahu in a multi-pronged attack, driving the defenders into the Nu'uanu Valley. They were given the choice of surrender or death.. The feathered cloak sent to King George was a valuable trophy that had belonged to the deposed leader.  The chiefs on the remaining islands quickly capitulated and pledged fealty.

 

 


The Battle of Nu'uanu - US Army Museum  

 

Later he would write to King George again - note the new phonetic spelling of his name (signed by his own hand on both occasions):

Brother,

We, Kamaahamaah King of the Sandwich Islands wishing to render every assistance
to the ships of His Most Sacred Majesty's subjects who visit these seas, have sent a letter
by Captain Spence, ship Duke of Portland, to His Majesty, since which Timoree King
of Atooi, has delivered his island up, and we are now in possession of the whole of the
Sandwich Islands. We, as subject to His Most Gracious Majesty, wish to have a seal and
arms sent from Britain, so as there may be no molestation of our ships or vessels in these
seas, or any hindrance whatsoever.

Wishing Your Majesty a long, prosperous and happy reign, I am Brother

KAMAAH AMAAH

Oahoo, August 6th 1810

source - as above

 

Thus by 1796 Kamehameha had taken the eight inhabitable Sandwich Islands and unified them under the new 'Kingdom of the Sandwich Islands', later the Kingdom of Hawaii.  He soon affected European dress as King Kamehameha I.  A modern economy developed.  In addition to food and fresh water Hawaiians traded sandalwood for western goods.  Advised by John Young, Kamehameha built warehouses and employed foreigners as intermediaries with the visiting merchant-captains and as harbor pilots.

Kamehameha remained autocratic and wedded to the old religion yet he was remarkably open to new ideas, building modern ships, promoting trade and bringing Hawaii into the community of nations. He developed a sophisticated understanding of national loyalties and cultural and political differences.  His favourite female companion, Kaahumanu was equally astute and became known as his principal 'wife' (of five wives and several more casual friendships). She became very influential in the new nation's diplomatic affairs.  She too had several lovers, a source of tension between them.  She was greatly admired by Vancouver who encouraged her exclusive relationship with Kamehameha and described her as his 'Queen', disregarding the others.  Foreign diplomats understood that it was she who was to be addressed and treated as Queen. 

 

 


Missionaries and Hawaiian Flag

 

 

In 1812 US President Madison decided it would be a good idea to take advantage of Britain's war with Napoleon and attack the remaining British presence in North America.  Read more...

An American in Hawaii attempted to haul down the Union Jack and replace it with the Stars and Stripes.  Kamehameha decided to have a bet each way and designed a new flag with the Union Jack and eight stripes representing the eight Hawaiian islands, just as the US flag has thirteen stripes representing the founding states.  That flag remains the State flag of Hawaii to this day.

 

 


The State flag of Hawaii flying on the Battleship Missouri  

 

After Kamehameha's death in 1819 it was Queen Kaahumanu who anointed both his successors: Kamehameha II then Kamehameha III. 

In addition to their discovery by Captain Cook there were connections to eastern Australia from the earliest days of both territories.  The first western style dwelling or 'royal palace' was built by two men from Sydney.  Queen Kaahumanu didn't like it, preferring her traditional woven grass upper-class dwelling.

In 1819, the year that Kamehameha I died, the first American whaling ships arrived. Rich whaling grounds had been discovered near Japan and whale oil was in high demand in America, particularly for oil lamps as people spread out across the country.

 

 


Hurricane (oil) Lamps of the type that once lit isolated homes and farms across the American plains and the world.
As a child in Australia we had a couple against 'blackouts' but they were most commonly used of 'bonfire night'  Read more...

 

Elsewhere the oil was used to lubricate machinery in the developing 'age of steam' and until recently ambergris from sperm whales was used in cosmetics.  Whale bone was used in corsets, skirt hoops, umbrellas and buggy whips.

By 1824 over 100 whaling ships were arriving annually.  By 1846 this had risen to 736.  Each whaler had a crew of 20 to 30 and would be at sea for months on end.  Bigger farms were needed to provision all these ships. New crops and livestock were introduced to meet the whaler's food preferences.

Many whalers were ungodly men and thought to be in need of Christ's Grace so together with its 'heathen' natives Hawaii presented a rich fishing ground of another kind. Thus close on the heels of the whalers came the missionaries.

Queen Kaahumanu was fertile ground for new ideas. She had already upset several of the earlier traditions of 'kapu'.  Now women and men could eat together and women were even allowed to eat bananas.  Soon she would reject the old gods too.

The Church of England had been quick to establish two bishops and six supporting ministers/priests and the Methodists followed suit with a local bishop. From 1820 until 1854 the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions sent over 80 Protestant missionaries together with their wives to save the heathen souls of Hawaii.  The Catholics arrived from France in 1827 and soon the Mormons and even the Russian Orthodox were in on the quest for souls.

A new trinity of divinity was not the only gift the white men brought. Hard on the heels of the whalers had come rampant venereal disease, resulting in: sterility; miscarriages; and death. Now the missionaries brought outbreaks of small pox, measles, whooping cough and influenza. To the islanders, who had no natural immunity, these diseases were often fatal.  To decimate means to kill one in ten.  These diseases were killing six in ten.  Demographers estimate that over the next century the native population on Hawaii fell by over 80% - from over 300,000 to less than 40,000 in 1896 (source).

Kamehameha II and his wife also lacked the necessary immunity. On a State Visit to Britain in 1824 both of them contracted measles and died before leaving London.  Queen Kaahumanu replaced him with the ten year old Kamehameha III and installed herself as Regent. By this time she'd converted to Protestant Christianity and soon expelled the French Catholic missionaries and locked up their Catholic converts.  The French responded by sending a gunboat and forcing Kamehameha III to reconsider. An Edict of Toleration was issued, allowing the Catholics to worship, but they were still unhappy with preferences given to Protestants.

Meanwhile the great love of the young King's life had been his sister, Narienaena.  Prior to the arrival of Christianity Polynesians had no concept of incest and as in Ancient Egypt it was perfectly normal to form a marriage-like partnership with one's sibling. But Narienaena converted to Christianity and is said to have become deeply depressed after discovering that she had been living ignorantly but happily in sin.  She died when she was just 21, it is said: 'of a broken heart'.  The broken hearted King visited her grave regularly for the rest of his life.

Queen Kaahumanu died in 1832 leaving Kamehameha III to reign in his own right. 

 

 


A commissioned portrait in oils of King Kamehameha III - from a daguerreotype (Wikipedia commons)
By the second generation the monarchy was already adopting European norms and customs - and employing the latest technology

 

Lawlessness broke out, always a preliminary to engineering a revolution, and a new generation of native-born whites, predominantly from American missionary families, demanded increased 'public safety' pushing Hawaii towards constitutional monarchy.

In 1840 Hawaii's first constitution enshrined the Legislature of the Kingdom of Hawaii a bicameral parliament on Westminster lines with a House of Nobles, replacing the earlier Council of Chiefs, consisting of the King (or Queen) plus five women and ten men, and an elected House of Representatives. The Missionary Party now represented native-born white interests in the Legislature.  The Hawaiian women, who reflected the traditional matriarchal culture, were a thorn in the side of some more patriarchal Europeans. This was 80 years before women even got a vote in the US, let alone a place in Congress.   Henceforth the Legislature would make laws and present them for the monarch's ascent.

At the beginning of 1843, just as the new Legislature was getting under way,  the Royal Navy warship HMS Carysfort arrived in Honolulu Harbor and her commander Lord George Paulet demanded that King Kamehameha III cede the islands to the British Crown. This the King did and Paulet installed himself as Governor and began restructuring the administration. But then it transpired that Paulet had exceeded his authority. Six months later the Hawaiian Crown was restored with an official apology from Her Britannic Majesty Queen Victoria. In his restoration speech, Kamehameha III declared: "Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono" (The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness), this remains the motto of the State of Hawaii to this day.

Arising from these incidents Kamehameha III extended his overseas diplomatic efforts.  By the end of 1843 the British and the French had agreed that Hawaii was indeed a sovereign state:

Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and His Majesty the King of the French, taking into consideration the existence in the Sandwich Islands of a government capable of providing for the regularity of its relations with foreign nations, have thought it right to engage, reciprocally, to consider the Sandwich Islands as an Independent State, and never to take possession, neither directly or under the title of Protectorate, or under any other form, of any part of the territory of which they are composed.

 

Not so the native-born whites of the Missionary Party.  For the next 50 years they would continue to plot with soon to arrive American business interests to make Hawaii a new territory of the USA, often seeding unrest, and in one case a mutiny, to advance their goals, culminating in a military coup against the popular Monarchy in 1893.

 


Sugar and Immigration

 

 

The year Queen Kaahumanu died, an American, William Northey Hooper, had sailed from Boston and leased 980 acres of land from Kamehameha III.   Hooper would be the first of a group of American plantation entrepreneurs to attempt to grow sugarcane for the export market. 

Sugarcane had long grown here.  The cane was among the plants introduced by the Polynesians.  By 1829 the Rev Joseph Goodrich was already milling 'a year's supply' of sugar and molasses' at Hilo.  But until now it had been for local consumption. 

Initially the prospects for export were poor. It was tens of thousands of miles to New York or London by sea.  How was Hawaii to compete with plantations in the Caribbean and in the southern states of the US that were very much closer to these markets and where slave labour could be employed?

Luckily for the struggling sugar growers, two decades later gold was discovered in California and in 1849 300,000 'forty-niners' invaded that sparsely populated, previously Spanish, territory displacing the locals and laying waste to the land.  All these people had to be transported and fed. The US economy boomed as a result and within two years the booming Republic of California had joined the US Federation.  Suddenly shipping was in Hawaii's favour.  It was far cheaper to ship sugar in bulk by sea to San Francisco than overland from the southern states by wagon. Fate had delivered the Hawaiian sugar planters an answer to their prayers.

A huge expansion was required. With a devastated native population there was plenty of suitable land well-watered land, blessed with rich volcanic soil and a relatively compliant, pro-development, government.  But there was no suitable labour force.

Before today's mechanical harvesters sugarcane planting and cutting was particularly arduous.  Not only had the Hawaiian workforce been devastated by disease, those other European gifts: alcohol; opium and tobacco played their part too.  Planters complained that many native Hawaiians saw no sense in arduous work on the plantations when they could easily subsist on land that they now owned under land reform.  Even at its peak the native workforce willing to plant and cut sugarcane never grew to more than two thousand.

In American, until 1865, sugar growers had resolved this by buying slaves or enslaving native people. But this was not possible in Hawaii.  The British were already committed to the abolition of slavery throughout the Empire and 1852 King Kamehameha III gave his assent to a new constitution introducing a Declaration of Human Rights, adopting these principles and giving more power to the people.  Hawaii plantation owners would have to look elsewhere.

Their solution was to employ indentured labour. This is where a worker is bound by contract to work for a particular employer for a fixed time and rate of pay.  These workers were recruited from around the Pacific, beginning with the first group of Chinese in 1850.

Now sugar would surpass whaling as the mainstay of the Hawaiian commercial economy. In any case whaling would soon be made less essential by the success of  Rockefeller's Standard Oil, substituting mineral oil for lighting, heating and lubrication, surpassed in due course, in the 20th century, by: automotive; aircraft; shipping; and industrial applications.

In all some 50,000 Chinese spent time working the cane fields. But more than half of them quit to become subsistence farmers.  This led to difficulties in enforcing the conditions of the indenture as the Chinese would simply walk off the job, like any free worker, if conditions were too onerous or the pay too low.  The Planters' Society began to cast about for a more compliant workforce. 

In 1878 the first Japanese peasants arrived to work on the plantations. The Japanese would eventually outnumber all other ethnicities. That year too, the economically struggling Portuguese territories of  the Madeira Islands, and the Azores, where sugar was already grown, would provide another 3,300 cane workers, bringing different traditions. Manuel Nunes, a Portuguese who arrived in Hawaii in 1879, is credited with introducing the Ukulele, once a small Portuguese guitar, to Hawaiian culture.

According to Wikipedia: In all some 200,000 Japanese workers arrived with 55% returning to Japan. Between 1903–1910, 7,300 Koreans arrived and only 16% returned to Korea. In 1906 Filipino people first arrived. Between 1909 and 1930, 112,800 Filipinos came to Hawaii with 36% returning to the Philippines.

 

 


Sugar Plantation 'Laborer' Statistics Report - December 1897 - Plantation Museum
Note that even the Portuguese outnumber Hawaiians and half the total workforce is Japanese

 

This time wives were encouraged to accompany the workers because families are more dependent on a regular pay packet and a cast system was evolved under which the different ethnic groups were kept apart and granted different hierarchical status.  These measures were deliberately designed to mitigate against coordinated industrial action to sue for better conditions. Nevertheless the workers did indeed strike and suffered draconian punishments. 

 

 


Industrial action by Sugar Workers - Plantation Museum
In 1900 Indentured Labour was identified as a form of slavery and abolished
During the 20th century sugar growing in Hawaii became progressively less economic -
in part because of repeated damage to wharves, storage and rail facilities by a series of Tsunami
Meanwhile sugar growing in Australia became more economic when the high cost of labour
as a result of the 'basic wage' led to improved farming practices and increased mechanisation

 

 


Australian Echoes

 

 

The discovery of gold in California soon had echoes the other way across the Pacific in Australia. 

Small finds of gold had been reported across the various Australian colonies from the earliest days, with a fully substantiated find in 1823, but the last thing the colonial governments wanted was everyone rushing out into the bush to look for gold. The claims were dismissed or kept quiet.

But after the California gold rush caused many to leave Australia, depressing the infant economy, both NSW and Victoria responded by offered prizes to the first to find the gold that they already knew was there.

Thus in 1851 an Englishman Edward Hargraves, who had recent gold prospecting experience in California, claimed the prize and set off the Australian gold rushes. These reversed the flow across the Pacific and resulted in significant population rises; stimulating economic development; leading to the iconic 'diggers'; contributing to the infant labour movement; and thus to Australia's unique style of democracy.

The Hawaiian experience suggested another opportunity.

In 1862 Captain Louis Hope and John Buhot established a sugarcane plantation near Brisbane where Hope operated Australia’s first commercial sugar mill. Sugarcane growing quickly spread along the coast of Queensland and into northern NSW.  As slavery was illegal, the Queensland solution was to emulate the Hawaiian growers and recruit indentured labour from the pacific islands. Elsewhere in the Empire indentured labour toiled in the diamond and coal mines of South Africa and on the farms of Rhodesia.

As the Federation of Australia was coming into being the founding fathers had no doubt that indentured labour was disguised slavery and required that Queensland end the practice before it was permitted to join the new Federation. Just a month after the new Federal Legislature first sat in Melbourne the infamous Immigration Restriction Act of 1901 was introduced by the new Prime Minister, Edmund Barton. It had overwhelming support and passed both houses to receive Royal Assent in December 1901.

Thus the first significant act of the new Australian Legislature was to prohibit importing 'coloured labour' to Australia.  Existing indentured labour - mainly islanders - known as 'kanakas' were to be deported - giving rise to Australia's first illegal immigrants when some absconded.  This became known as the 'White Australia Policy'.

Over the next 60 years this 'policy' became a festering source of tension with other partners in the British Commonwealth, particularly on the sub-continent, Singapore and Hong Kong. It was also mentioned frequently in  Russian and particularly Chinese propaganda that I could listen to on my shortwave radio, condemning the 'running dog capitalists'.

On the other hand, supporters of the policy pointed to growing racial tensions between 'whites', now often outnumbered by indentured or enslaved black labourers and their descendants in southern Africa and the United States. Thus the Immigration Restriction Act was amended many times but was not repealed until June 1959 when I was already in High School. It would be several more years before the thorn was fully extracted and Australia would embrace a new wave of Asian immigrants. 


 

Back to the story...

 

Kamehameha III died in 1854 and was succeeded by his nephew, Alexander Litholiho who was crowned Kamehameha IV. 

Alexander had married Emma Rook, the beautiful mixed-race granddaughter of John Young. They were a glittering couple who were received in several of the royal palaces of the world.  Kamehameha IV was the first monarch to attempt to curtail the culture-destroying activities of the American missionaries and the growing influence of the less than godly planters.

He was encouraged in this when on a visit to America as a boy in 1850 he was called a 'nigger' and almost thrown off a train, like Ghandi in South Africa.  He was outraged saying that he had never been treated in such a way in any other county. He became steadfastly pro-British and the couple named their short-lived first child: Prince Albert. 

Alexander, Kamehameha IV, died in 1863 and Lot, Alexander's brother was crowned Kamehameha V.  He took note of the planter's growing power and introduced a new constitution to restore power of the Hawaiian electorate.  By then the American Civil War 1861-1865 was in progress, see my notes on our visit to southern US states last year.  Read here...

This gave another great boost to the Hawaiian sugar industry, now that Southern sugar was no longer available to the world due to the Northern Blockade. As a result sugar prices rose over fivefold.

After the war the South was in ruins and their workforce was freed from their forced labour.  US sugar producers struggled behind a tariff.  It could be a golden time for Hawaiian sugar growers, if only they could be rid of the protective tariff. 

 

 


Treaty of Reciprocity

 

 

The planters had a plan: a Treaty of Reciprocity between the United States of America and the Hawaiian Kingdom was drafted under which Hawaiian sugar and other goods would enter the US duty free. In return US goods would enter Hawaii free and, as a sweetener, the US Navy could build a naval base in the mouth of the Pearl River.

This would be a win-win for the planters, who saw a political advantage in a physical US presence, but not so good for the Hawaiians who were outraged at a proposed alienation of sacred Hawaiian river lands.  The Hawaiians still held the overwhelming balance of power in the democratically elected House of Representatives.  With the growing racial tensions fist-fighting broke out on the floor of the Legislature.

Kamehameha V acceded to the proposed Treaty of Reciprocity but it would not pass the lower house.  Shortly afterwards in, 1872, the he died without leaving an heir.

A new King, Lunalillo, was chosen by popular vote of the Hawaiian Legislature. He was a sophisticate and lover of the arts who also 'liked a drink'.  He was also dying of Tuberculosis and would last little over a year. His reign was chaotic.  Helped along by the Missionary Party lawlessness had broken out across the country and the royal household troops, who were commanded by Europeans, mutinied and were disbanded.

An attempt by Queen Emma to rule and restore order was thwarted by the Legislature and the House of Nobles elected another high-cast Hawaiian: King Kalakaua.

Kalakaua became known as the 'Merry Monarch'.  He demanded an elaborate coronation, reflecting that of Napoleon, and built the large 'loani Palace for balls and State banquets.  Yet he entertained friends and visitors, like Robert Louis Stevenson, in his more casual wooden boat house in the traditional style preferred by his Queen.

 

 


King Kalakaua entertaining Robert Louis Stevenson in his Boat House
They're sitting on the floor but women alternate with men and the dress style is European
Edwin J. Beinecke Collection of Robert Louis Stevenson - public domain  

 

The glittering 'loani Palace is now a tourist attraction.

During his reign Kalakaua negotiated a more limited Reciprocity Treaty under which only Ford Island (moku'ume'ume) in the middle of the river would be leased to the US for 'a coaling and repair station for the use of vessels of the United States, and to that end the United States may improve the entrance to said harbor and do all other things needful to the purpose aforesaid.' - ratified in 1884.  Read more...

This together with his taste for power and a plan to create a Federation of Polynesia so alarmed the Missionary Party that they forced the 'Bayonet Constitution' of 1887 on him by threatening him with the militia, now commanded by their supporters.  This robbed Kalakaua of most of his powers. For good measure the new constitution abolished the democratically elected House of Representatives and restructured the House of Nobles so that only wealthy land owners and US citizens, now made honorary Hawaiians, could stand as members.  Once in effective control of the government they worked to replace Kalakaua with his sister, princess Lili'uokalani, as Regent.

 

 


Dredging at Pearl Harbour after 1884 - resulting from the Reciprocity Treaty of 1875
Note that the attached commentary at the US Army Museum is misleading as to dates and extent

 

 

Kalakaua died of a stroke in San Francisco in 1891 and Lili'uokalani returned from London, where she was attending Queen Victoria's Jubilee, to be crowned.  As Queen her first goal was to restore democracy but this was not to be tolerated by the white businessmen who had sized power and were now actively lobbying Washington for the annexation of Hawaii by the United States.  The Hawaiian public were close to rebellion so the white minority formed a 'Committee of Public Safety' and strengthened the militia to assure the 'safety' of families and property. 

 

 


Coup and Annexation

 

 

In January 1893 the Cruiser USS Boston was in Honolulu Harbor and her captain was being entertained by the US Government Minister (and Envoy Extraordinary) to the Kingdom, John Leavitt Stevens and local businessmen from the Committee of Safety.

Stevens had been a journalist and was an advocate of the doctrine of 'Manifest Destiny' that had been used to justify the seizing of Indian territory and the westward flow of settlers in the US.  Later it would justify the extension of American power across the Pacific to Japan (Read More...) and the Philippines. 

Advocates believed that Divine Providence had set America the task of spreading their founding beliefs, democratic institutions and technologies across the continent and then outwards to the world.  Like The Blues Brothers, they were on a mission from God.  Similar 'manifest destinies' would later be claimed by International Communism and by the Nazis under the doctrine of Lebensraum.

So in that American 'can do ' spirit and after a couple of drinks, on the afternoon of January 16 Stevens directed the captain of the Boston to provide 162 armed sailors and Marines to come ashore and support the local militia of the Committee of Safety as they deposed the Queen, raised the US flag and declared the Republic of Hawaii.

When news of the coup reached President Cleveland's administration in Washington an enquiry was initiated. It concluded that the monarchy had been illegally overthrown by force with the complicity of a United States Minister.  Cleveland's State of the Union address included the statement: "Upon the facts developed it seemed to me the only honorable course for our Government to pursue was to undo the wrong that had been done by those representing us and to restore as far as practicable the status existing at the time of our forcible intervention."  Thus the US would emulate the British restoration of 1843.

Yet the provisional government refused to step down.  Instead they formally established the 'Republic of Hawai'i ' on US Independence Day, July 4, 1894, with Sanford Dole, a missionary descendent, as President.  They then sat back to await forcible intervention by the United States to restore the Monarchy.

The following year an attempt was made by Hawaiian  monarchists to restore the Queen but it was put down with extreme prejudice and she was put under house arrest. To get an amnesty for arrested loyalists she relinquished her claim to the throne. Japan protested both the overthrow and the brutality with which the counter revolution was put down. The Monarchy had the support of the most Japanese Hawaiians who were among those opposing increasing US influence.  Might Japan attempt to invade?  Might that, possibly invented threat, force the US to support the rogue Republic?

Meanwhile sugar prices had collapsed when the US opened its markets to other producers - making the reciprocity agreement worthless.  The economy was in ruins.

The golden days of sugar were gone but soon other crops like macadamias from Australia and pineapples from South America would take its place. The Dole name, after cousins of Stanford, would become famous for fruit worldwide.

Three years after President Cleveland had threatened to restore the Monarchy the illegal Republic's luck changed for the better.

In 1898 the sinking of the Maine in Havana triggered the Spanish-American War and high on the new President McKinley's list of Spanish assets to seize, supposedly in reprisal for one ship, was the entire country of the Philippines.  Now the United States would need a naval base from which to extend US naval power across the Pacific.

The long sought Annexation was promptly put into effect and to hell with lingering doubts over legality.  Just days after Annexation the first US troops arrived.  Hawaii became a territory of the US and the miscreant Sanford Dole its first Governor.

 


Camp McKinley August 16 1898 - 4 days after Annexation - US Army Museum

 

 


World Wars

 

 

As a result of the Spanish-American war the US successfully took the Philippines, despite some spirited Spanish defence.  But local leaders in the Philippines sought independence. 

In their view one Colonial Power had been replaced with another, by another name.  The patriots opposed US occupation and a long drawn out, bloody war resulted, during which some six thousand US troops were killed and an estimated quarter of a million Filipinos died.  Many US liberals, like Mark Twain, were appalled. 

During the US campaign to take control of the Philippines, Pearl Harbour and Camp McKinley became a stopover for troops en-route.

Yet it was not until the Russo-Japanese War (1904-5), when the growing naval power of Japan became evident, that serious military development took place. This foreign investment at last delivered some of the economic benefits longed-for by the white business community. 

Large scale military investment began in 1908 and the first large US warship of a new Pacific Fleet entered the newly developed Pearl Harbour Naval Base in 1911.

 


Japan's growing empire - Pearl Harbour Museum

 

At the beginning of the First World War the US proclaimed neutrality.  So nine German naval vessels sought sanctuary from the Japanese Navy. 

Today it sounds odd that German warships fled the Japanese.  But nine years earlier, in 1905, Japan had virtually annihilated the Russian Pacific Fleet: sinking 34 ships, including seven battleships.  4,380 Russians died and 5,917 were taken prisoner. 117 Japanese were killed.

During the First World War the Japanese were on Britain's side. So when the US eventually entered the war in support of these allies they captured nine German ships the first day.  Nevertheless, it was becoming obvious that: 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend', and that Japanese and US territorial interests, particularly over the Philippines, would eventually clash.

The US had constructed among the world's most elaborate fortifications around Manilla Harbour and Subic Bay in the Philippines. Now the whole island of Oahu was fortified to become virtually impregnable to Japanese attack by sea.  Several forts protected possible Japanese approaches with huge 14 inch 'disappearing guns' that could destroy a ship over the horizon, taking advantage of the island's high lookouts as well as aircraft for targeting. 

Should a Japanese battleship somehow get within their visual range the big guns were protected by impregnable concrete bunkers and only appeared (popped-up) briefly to fire.  Good quality roads provided quick military access to possible landing points for tanks and field guns.  Soon primitive radar would scan the skies overhead. 

From this impregnable harbour the world's most advanced battleships could steam out to meet the Japanese should they be foolish enough to engage with the United States of America.  These great ships were anchored line astern and two abreast to protect the inner row in the event that they were attacked by air.  This was most unlikely in any case as the harbour was too shallow for a conventional submarine and too shallow for aircraft launched torpedoes.  Deck armour on the battleships was believed to be too thick for bombs to penetrate.  Land and carrier based fighter aircraft assured air superiority.

The US and Japan were not the only powers around the Pacific.  The British had a similarly 'impregnable' naval base in Singapore and Sydney Harbour too was protected by disappearing guns.  Even Darwin Harbour in Australia's far north was protected by massive shore based guns and fighter aircraft.  To the north of Australia the Dutch had the Surabaya Naval base in Java with similar defences and an allied fleet.

In each location, every-day military thinking was dominated by their pride and confidence in this technology.  Troops practiced and re-practiced using it, but also frolicked in the sun, confident in their defences and assured that security lay in eternal vigilance. No one appreciated how vulnerable they were to innovative military tactics and superior aircraft technology.

 

 


A date which will live in infamy

 

 

I've already discussed Japan's miraculous transformation from a reclusive kingdom to a leading industrial power in my notes on our trip to Japan. Read More...

By now everyone on the planet must have seen the movie: Tora Tora Tora at least once.  So we all know of the botched Japanese declaration of war, that came after the attack was already underway, the ignored radar sighting of the incoming aircraft and the brave attempts by the heroes of the movie to get at least a couple of American fighter planes into the air.

But the museum at Pearl Harbour puts much more meat on those bones.

 


A date which will live in infamy
Although there had been ample warning of war with Japan and some intelligence identified Pearl Harbour
Manilla in the Philippines was thought to be the likely first point of any Japanese Attack
Surprise was not the issue. No general tells the enemy where he or she is about to attack
But the attack on Pearl Harbour came without a declaration of war and this was illegal and therefore 'infamous'
No doubt Saddam Hussein was of the same opinion on March 19, 2003.

 

What becomes evident in the museums at Pearl Harbour is a meticulously planned military action by Japan, where many innovative solutions by engineers and military commanders came together, almost without a hitch, to sink or destroy five battleships; and seriously damage another four together with six cruisers and destroyers; to destroy or seriously damage 357 aircraft; and leave 3,478 killed or wounded at the cost to the Imperial Japanese Navy of: 29 aircraft downed and 64 killed, oh, and three mini-submarines with one submariner taken prisoner.  We learn about torpedos modified to run in shallow water and armour piercing bombs dropped from an exact height to explode within the target ship.

 

 

Battleship killer

Model of Japanese torpedo Recovered Japanese torpedo

Japan used modified torpedos after carefully analysing a successful British attack on the Italian Fleet

 

We learn of spies and codes and of careful timing to catch the base least prepared and of aircraft lined up to ward against sabotage by the untrusted Japanese Americans but made more vulnerable to being strafed. 

 

 


American aircraft were 'sitting ducks' for the Japanese fighter bombers

 

Not here but at the Army Museum I'd already learned that the decision to return home after the initial two raids was disastrous for Japan.  The US aircraft carriers, serendipitously at sea, could have been effectively immobilised by destroying their fuel and ammunition supplies in Hawaii.  Then the decisive Battle of Midway may well have had an alternative outcome.  Very soon Japan would have controlled the Pacific as their strategy required.

They fully expected America to bounce back but not before they had consolidated their position from Burma (Myanmar), Malaya and the Philippines and in particular the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) securing the oil and rubber they so desperately needed. They then intended to sue for peace, having every expectation that Britain, without America's support, would be unable do anything about freeing France let alone the rest of Europe and would be forced to sue for peace with Germany. 

Just three days later, on December 10, Japanese land based aircraft would effectively eliminate the British Pacific fleet when they sank the battleship Prince of Wales and battlecruiser Repulse. Why were they within range - they of all combatants must have understood the danger?  The British themselves had used aircraft to sink the German battleship Bismarck. Then in 1940 at the battle of Taranto their aircraft had sunk the Italian battleship Conte di Cavour and seriously damaged five others.

Although some were slow to appreciate it the age of the battleship was over.  During the cold war strategists came to realise that isolated naval bases too, like Pearl Harbour and Malta, are no advantage against nuclear armed adversaries.  In a war with one of these the entire island would be gone on day one, with a single ICBM.  Such naval bases serve only as an invitation to terrorists or domestic activists.

As it was, Admiral Nagumo, in command of the carriers, decided to withdraw after the primary goal of destroying those soon to be 'white elephant' battleships had been achieved.  American anti-aircraft defence had improved after the surprise of the first wave resulting in most of his losses. Further, he was not sure if the three missing US aircraft carriers were in a position to counter attack. Junior officers argued for a third strike but he demurred and persuaded Admiral Yamamoto, the Commander-in-Chief, that it would be better to reserve the fleet's strength than lose more aircraft, particularly as pilots would need to return and land on the carriers at night - something that only the British had perfected and would certainly result in further losses. 

Yamamoto later regretted Nagumo's decision not to go back to destroy the oil and ammunition storages saying it was a mistake that would cost Japan the war. Admiral Nimitz, later Commander in Chief of the US Pacific Fleet, had a similar view agreeing that at the very least: "it would have prolonged the war another two years".

But great as this military blunder was this was not as great as the diplomatic failure to declare war in time, apparently due to difficulties using a typewriter, if we are to believe the movie. This meant that the attack was illegal and henceforth the US could and would use any means at their disposal to retaliate including: flame throwers; deliberate fire bomb attacks on civilians; and ultimately the nuclear destruction of two entire cities.  It was a very expensive mistake, some say misjudgement.

Indeed some historians now assert that the entire attack was poorly conceived and was totally unnecessary for Japan to achieve its aims.  They point out that the US Pacific fleet was heavily outnumbered and in no condition to confront Japan.  Had the Japanese simply gone ahead and taken Singapore, Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, bypassing the obvious flash point of the Philippines, the likely US response would have been a diplomatic rather that military. 

Thus the attack on Pearl Harbour was a huge strategic mistake as it brought the US into the war and led to the destruction of the Japanese empire.  As neither the British nor the Russians could have retaken Europe without the Americans, it also led to Stalingrad, D-Day and the fall of Germany, in addition to the accelerated development of nuclear weapons.

German Europe and Japanese Asia, not the defeated Soviet Union, would then have become the post-war economic and military adversaries of the United States.

 


Strategic Disaster - a war that led to the destruction of the Japanese empire

 

But then, as I said at the outset, I would not be sitting here writing this and you dear reader would probably not have been born either, unless you are pushing 80.  Let's all thank Admiral Yamamoto for his daring plan.

In the aftermath of Pearl Harbour the US won the war against Japan and in 1959 those white plotters from the missions and plantations finally got their way when Hawaii became the 50th State.   The Filipino nationalists also got their way when in 1946 they finally gained their independence from the USA.

And everyone lived happily ever after.

 


Our Tourist Experience

 

Hawaii (the big Island)

 

 

 

We began our visit on the island of Hawaii, the big island.  Beyond the descriptions in our Lonely Planet guidebook we had only a vague idea of what to expect.  Few of the people we knew had been here.  But we knew in advance that to see anything of this we would need to rent a car.

We soon discovered that 'big island' is formed by five volcanos, merged together by the lava and ejected materials - pumice and entrained rocks.  The two largest of these: Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea dominate the island. 

Where the volcanic rock has been eroded to soil plants thrive on the mineral rich loam.  Elsewhere great grey sterile slabs of lava dominate the countryside..

The mountainous volcanoes also produce several microclimates by capturing or shadowing rain as weather sweeps across the Pacific for thousands of kilometres, unimpeded until it encounters the Hawaiian archipelago. Thus in places rich rainforest thrives and elsewhere the landscape is barren and wind-swept. 

This island is very young in geological terms, rising out of the sea, and all the fauna and flora, before humans arrived, came as birds, seeds in the guts of birds or as flotsam, like coconuts, and windblown spores from the older islands. These then evolved to fill the various opportunistic niches filled by other species elsewhere.  For example the largest foraging animal was a flightless bird.   

 

 

Hilo

We decided that the location of our hotel would be less important than convenient free car parking.  Yet the Reeds Bay Hotel was on the water, within half an hour of the airport.  It looked OK in photos and in Google Street View.  The reviews in Trip Adviser, and so on, were good and it seemed to be very good value for money.  But it's not five star.  There's no restaurant, or even a breakfast room, and it's not air-conditioned.  There's no lift (elevator) so probably in view of our age they'd put us on the ground floor.  We asked to change.  The new room on the third floor was much brighter with a view overlooking the bay and the hotel swimming pool.

Across the bay the cruise ships come and go daily, their passengers flocking the local craft market or making a quick dash to the volcano.

 

Reeds Bay Hotel
Reeds Bay Hotel HReeds Bay Hotel
Reeds Bay Hotel Reeds Bay Hotel

Reeds Bay

 

On the plus side the rooms have a private balcony and are adequately large with a very serviceable kitchenette.  Ours had a king size bed, good quality linen and ample hot water in the bathroom and kitchen.  What else can you ask for?  There was also a large screen TV and free Wi-Fi.  The room was airy with insect screens for night-time.  It also had both ceiling pedestal fans but the temperature by the water hovered around 21 degrees so we didn't use them nor did we miss the A/C. A large supermarket, fifteen minutes by car, provided all the food we needed for breakfast and for one or two other meals as well. We also patronised one of the local restaurants within walking distance and a couple of others, not so good, that required the car. 

Most days we were out in the car anyway, often going somewhere via down-town Hilo that also boasts a couple of the island's museums. 

 

Hilo Downtown
Hilo Downtown Hilo Downtown
Hilo Downtown Hilo Downtown

Hilo Downtown

 

Driving around Hilo it's obvious that many people are not financially well off.  Downtown there are a number of men living on the street and many other residents are shabbily dressed with unkempt hair and look like escapees from a commune.  Indeed the whole place has a slightly 'hippie' feel. There are a lot of alternative products on sale and 'organic' is a universal adjective. You can even buy 'organic' milk with a price to match. 

But down the main street pay day loan businesses and a Salvation Army op-shop jostle with the souvenir shops.  And in the side streets shopfronts are empty and empty lots mark ancient demolitions.  Many of the cars have seen better days too.  But then the climate is generally great, so who needs clothes anyway?

Wendy suggested that if we were to do it again we might spend part of out time in a more up-market hotel on the west coast where more tourists go.  Yet there's more to see in Hilo and it's better located to visit the volcano.

 

The Pacific Tsunami Museum

Hilo bay is particularly vulnerable to tsunami due to the shape of the coastline, that has the effect of concentrating the wave.  In the main strip in Hilo is an old bank building that is one of the more robust survivors of several tsunami, including the 1946 disaster and one in 1960 that took most of the port and rail infrastructure and most buildings on the opposite side of the road. This is now the Pacific Tsunami Museum.   

As I suppose everyone now knows tsunami, once called tidal waves, are very long period relatively low waves that embody huge energy.  They were known as tidal waves because when they encounter a coast they are first evident when the sea runs out like a very low tide, due to the trough ahead of the wave, then by the wave crest sweeping inland and inundating low areas.  A second low tide follows and the water inundating the land rushes back. The volume of water can be vast and buildings; vehicles; vegetation; and people are swept into the sea.  Sometimes there are several such waves of increasing then diminishing magnitude so that people can be deceived into thinking that the first one is relatively trivial or even fun. There were seven such waves in Hilo in 1960 and after the first wave a number of those killed had run down to pick up stranded fish.

The afore mentioned local restaurant at Reeds Bay has the heights of the water during the last three tsunami marked on a window.  The highest is close to the ceiling.  But this part of the building was swept away so we were quite pleased that we had moved to the third floor of our hotel.

The waves can be caused by a number of coastal or undersea events like: landslides; earthquakes; and undersea eruptions; but by far the largest have been as a result of meteor impacts.  Those caused by earthquakes might have a tidal range of say two meters and yet cause very serious damage like the 1960 tsunami in Hilo.  It's thought that prehistoric meteor impacts have resulted in long waves over ten times this magnitude, sweeping over entire islands.

Unfortunately for Hawaii it lies almost at the centre of the Pacific 'ring of fire' surrounded by tectonic faults with frequent earthquakes and volcanoes and in addition has its own very active volcanos.  It's therefore potentially hit from three sides.  Thus Hawaii is the natural location for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center located on Ford Island at Pearl Harbour, Oahu, of previous fame (see above).  

This museum is one of the most interesting on the big island.  In addition to a film about tsunami and the fortunate survivors (the ones God chose to save) it also provides insight to the movement of the Earth's tectonic plates. 

A fun computer model allows visitors to create an earthquake to simulate a tsunami and decide if a warning needs to be generated, taking into account the financial and psychological cost of a false alarm.  I wondered about the cost of other recent false alarms like a supposed North Korean missile attack that caused panic less than a month earlier.

 


In Hilo there are clearly marked places to run from a tsunami but where does one shelter from an H Bomb?
Warnings of various kinds seem quite frequent
One night a weather warning for high wind hail and snow interrupted our TV viewing.  We decided it was not for us

 

Who might now claim compensation  for post-traumatic stress disorder?

 

Mokupapapa Discovery Center

A few doors down the road is the more relaxing Mokupapapa Discovery Center, an educational centre provided by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) focussing on Hawaii's remote coral reef ecosystem and featuring a compact aquarium pictures and descriptions. 

 

Mokupapapa Discovery Center

Mokupapapa Discovery Center Mokupapapa Discovery Center

Mokupapapa Discovery Center

 

A nice man went out of his way to find a poster about the battle of Midway after I noted that Midway was part of the archipelago covered by the conservation initiative.

 

The Coast

It's possible to drive right around the island.  But from Hilo the populated towns on the western shore are best reached over the saddle road between the two largest volcanoes or around the north coast.  We went around the coast and came back over the saddle.  The coast road runs through lush countryside reminiscent of the Queensland coast.  Once out of Hilo more typically American ranch style houses begin to shoulder out the cheap-looking boxlike single-storey dwellings lived in by many Hawaiians in town, presumably because of the cost of building materials and the risk of earthquakes.

Yet the flora is strikingly unusual, a mix of the unique Hawaiian rainforest and more familiar introduced species.  Traffic was not heavy but the road is often just two undulating and twisting lanes so I generally kept to the speed limit.  On several occasions this was enforced by slow vehicles and the limited opportunities to overtake.  This made it quite a long, attention demanding, drive.  At different places the traveller is rewarded with views out over the Pacific.  To this end we'd decided to go to the Lapakahi State Historical Park, recommended by our guide book. 

To celebrate our arrival the heavens opened and my mood sank.  All that driving for this!  And now I'd have to drive all the way back in the rain.  Wendy was not be disheartened. She had a raincoat so off she went in the downpour to explore. 

 

 

Rain-pixi

Lapakahi State Historical Park Lapakahi State Historical Park

Lapakahi State Historical Park and Rain-pixie

 

Then the rain abruptly stopped.  I walked down to the beach and felt a lot better. 

Afterwards we searched in vain for an elusive shopping mall that took us around some of the more up-market suburbs over there, where it's more touristy.  Coming up blank, we set out up the, much better, saddle-road back to Hilo. 

This made everything worthwhile.  The scenery is spectacular: the scarred countryside, covered in pumice and lava flows is wonderful. There are hundreds of square kilometres of the stuff, interrupted here and there with upthrust hills or pumice mounds(?) like pimples. 

Except for traffic on the road it's virtually uninhabited.  Where it has been crumbled (how?) into huge chunks the pumice is obviously very difficult for a human to walk across (not human friendly).  Yet it's already being colonised by all sorts of plants, in particular a long hairlike grass that in places is so dense that makes the landscape look smooth, like pasture.

 

 

volcanic landscape

volcanic landscape volcanic landscape

Volcanic Landscape

 

We were thankful for the car's climate-control because as the road ascends the temperature falls each time we used this road the weather closed in with fog and once with pelting rain or sleet. 

 

The Maunakea Observatories

On the summit of the tallest, fortunately dormant, volcano, Mauna Kea, is a cluster of the world's largest and most modern optical telescopes, including the famous Keck telescopes that have vastly increased our knowledge of the Universe.  In addition to the W. M. Keck Observatory there's Japan's Subaru Telescope a new 8.3-meter diameter optical/IR telescope operated by Japan; the UK's James Clerk Maxwell Telescope; the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope; and the NASA Infrared Telescope; in addition to a number of smaller optical and radio telescopes.

This was an big attraction for me so we set out with high hopes and as recommended in the guide books stopped at the Visitor Information Station, at 9,200 ft, to get a weather update and to adjust to the change in altitude.

 

 

Visitor Information Station

Visitor Information Station Visitor Information Station

Ay the Maunakea Visitor Information Station

 

Here we learned that: 'Maunakea is one of the only places in the world where you can drive from sea level to 14,000 feet in about 2 hours, so altitude sickness is a high possibility. At 14,000 feet, there is 40% less oxygen than at sea level, so visitors should acclimatize to the altitude before proceeding further up the mountain.'  This would be an interesting trial for my new heart valve I thought. 

I asked the information desk about road conditions to the top and which telescopes are open to the public.  "What sort of car do you have," I was asked. 

I've long been used to driving on the other side of the road so I was quite confident.  As it turned out Hertz had allocated us a VW Tiguan SUV with a nice high road clearance and good tyres.

"Read this," I was told. 

Visitors are advised that only TRUE 4-wheel drive vehicles with LOW range travel above the VIS. About 200 yards beyond the station, the pavement ends and the next five miles are a steep graded-gravel road.
Before proceeding visitors should consult their rental vehicle company or review their contract concerning visiting the summit of Maunakea. Many rental companies do not allow their vehicles on the summit even if they are 4-wheel drive, and if anything were to happen to your vehicle you would potentially be responsible for all towing charges and repairs, which can be thousands of dollars.

If your vehicle becomes disabled, immediately inform the Maunakea Rangers at (808) 961 2180. You will be required to make arrangements for immediate removal or repair. If the vehicle is a hazard to drivers and repair or towing arrangements are not immediately arranged, it will be towed at your (or the rental company's) expense.

 

There was also a warning that people with heart 'conditions' should not go to the summit. 

I was so disappointed that despite the warnings I was tempted to take the risk.  Sure there was snow at the top and more was forecast. But wasn't I an experienced enough driver on unmade mountain roads in Australia to go just five miles up and back. 

Wendy was grandkid shopping in the gift shop so hadn't seen or heard this dire warning.

I sat down to see the movie.  Slowly and sadly common sense took hold.  My experience skiing told me never to drive into the snow without a full tank, in case one needs to keep the engine running to keep warm; chains and a shovel.  We were showing less than half full and had neither chains nor a shovel. What if I did need to push or shove or use the jack at 14,000 feet?  Was there a jack?  How would my heart cope?  And what about Wendy - how would she cope?

The clincher came when I learned from the presentation that only small telescopes are available to the public for star-gazing.  I didn't want to see the local stars.  I wanted to see the telescopes.  But I wouldn't be able to go into any of the large working facilities.

Reality set in. It would be foolish to attempt it for so little. So I was not going to drive to the top of the highest mountain on earth (when measured from its base below sea level).  I had to be content with the very informative movie and other material at the Visitor Information Station.

As it turned out it was probably a wise decision. The weather closed in and there were spectacular thunderstorms on the drive back. As I drove through the sleet and driving rain, then fog, I regretted my lack of courage.  I was so disappointed. 

 

the weather closed in

the weather closed in the weather closed in

As we returned the weather closed in - again

 

The following day I heard on National Public Radio, in the car, that local indigenous people consider the mountain to be sacred and are in dispute with the astronomers about appropriate financial compensation.  On-line I discovered that this particularly affects a new 30 meter optical telescope that has been in legal limbo since 2014, due to the mountain's sacred status as well as the project's environmental and cultural impacts.  A recent proposal to relocate it to the Canary Islands seems to have unblocked the local environmental and cultural objections - now it's just about money. 

I suddenly understood why it's important to assert that native Hawaiians have been here for thousands of years longer than the more recent Asian and European interlopers (see Settlement and European Discovery - above).

 

Lyman Museum & Mission House

We still had time to go a short distance out of Hilo to the Lyman Museum & Mission House historic site.  There are set tours of the house. We had arrived too late for the last of the day and got a rain check for a mid-morning tour tomorrow.  Meanwhile we had a look at the mineral collection of Orlando Lyman and the associated natural history museum (as far as I could discover the only natural history museum in Hawaii). 

 

Lyman Museum Lyman Museum
Lyman Museum Lyman Museum
Lyman Museum Lyman Museum

Lyman Museum - the formation of the archipelago and the unique plants and animals that evolved in isolation
 

 

Again we learned of plants and animals evolving in isolation to fill environmental niches that are the province of other species elsewhere.  These include flightless birds and sea snails that have moved ashore to do the duty of land based gastropods of which there were none. 

 

The Volcanos

Sightseers need to be aware that Kilauea is quite high, over 4,000 feet, nowhere near as high as Mauna Kea, that's often snow-capped, but quite a bit colder than Hilo.  Like many tourists I was hoping to see red-hot spurty or runny stuff.  But even the most active of the island's volcanoes, have been fairly quiet since 2015 when flowing larva threatened the town of Pahoa.  Quel dommage!

Yet Kilauea was not entirely uncooperative.  It continuously emits steam and gasses and is hot underfoot in places.  Even without the spectacle of actual flowing rock it's a 'must see'.

 

Kilauea - steam vents
Kilauea - steam vents Kilauea - steam vents

Kilauea - steam vents

 

Kilauea is on the eastern flank of Mauna Loa, the world's largest active shield volcano. Mauna Loa looms low hung in the distance but is presently less exciting than Kilauea as it last erupted in 1984.  A the Kilauea Visitor Center there's a movie of recent eruptions and a lot of photos, books and other information and heading around Crater Rim Drive there's a lookout point at the Jaggar Museum across to the continuously smoking Kilauea crater. 

 

Kilauea Visitor Center
Kilauea Visitor Center Kilauea Visitor Center
Kilauea Visitor Center Kilauea Visitor Center

Kilauea - looking over to the Caldera - and Jaggar Museum

 

The Crater Rim Drive once circled the Caldera, but is presently impassable past this point so we circled back in the other direction to the Nāhuku - Thurston Lava Tube a six to twenty foot high tunnel through which it is possible to walk.

Lava tubes are formed when very hot material is surrounded by a bed of cooling rock so that a kind of drain forms through which molten rock continues to flow.  Provided the downhill end is not blocked, when the source stops flowing, the tunnel drains like a stormwater pipe and the lava tube is left empty.  The 500 year old Nāhuku - Thurston Lava Tube is one of the most accessible examples in the world so it has been somewhat vandalised by lava-stalactite collectors. 

This tube has the added bonus that it is set in an area of tropical rain forest with some extraordinary local plants like: Hapu'u ferns and Ohia Lehua trees; that have evolved in isolation here for several hundred millennia.

 

Thurston Lava Tube Thurston Lava Tube
Hapu'u ferns and Ohia Lehua trees Hapu'u ferns and Ohia Lehua trees

Nāhuku - Thurston Lava Tube  &  Hapu'u ferns and Ohia Lehua trees

 

Continuing around Crater Rim Drive we got to a car park overlooking the Iki Crater lava lake, that formed during the huge eruption of Kīlauea Iki in 1959.  During this eruption lava fountains sprayed rock fragments over a thousand feet into the air.  From one fountain a stream of small lumps fell nearby, devastating the forest and creating a large cinder mound - a sizable hill.  There's now a walking path through this area known as the Devastation Trail. 

From about half way along the trail we headed up the rise of cinders to get a panoramic view over to the main crater, opposite the Jaggar Museum, and noticed that the ground was very hot underfoot.  Is it about to erupt again?

 

Devastation Trail

Devastation Trail Devastation Trail
Devastation Trail Devastation Trail

Devastation Trail

 

Only after we'd retuned to the formal path did we see a faded sign bearing a dire warning of unspecified hazards to hikers. We consoled ourselves that: the sign was obviously very old; we'd returned apparently unharmed; and we had no backpacks or hiking sticks - so the graphic obviously didn't apply to us.

Back at the car park we took a closer look at the unusual flora.  Odd tree ferns and feather-like ferns were colonising trees like mistletoe, again the outcome of several hundred millennia of isolated evolution. Very interesting. 

 

Adaptive plants Adaptive plants
Adaptive plants Adaptive plants

Adaptive Plants

 

The lava lake, filling the Kilauea Iki crater, is vast and more intrepid hikers, with three hours on their hands, can climb down 400 feet; cross it; and then climb up the other side.  Kilauea's still very active so it might be time to run then climb very fast if, as in 1950, a series of earthquakes heralds another eruption.

 

lava lake, filling the Iki crater

lava lake, filling the Iki crater lava lake, filling the Iki crater
lava lake, filling the Iki crater lava lake, filling the Iki crater

The lava lake in the Iki crater

 

When we returned the car, before catching our flight to Oahu the following day, the odometer readings indicated we'd travelled well over 400 miles. Yet there were still places unseen on the west coast. Perhaps another day? 

 


May 2018 Addendum

It certainly was hot underfoot on Kilauea. 

Less that 100 days later, on May 3, a 6.9 level earthquake shook the Island, damaging buildings we had stood in in downtown Hilo, including the Post Office.  Several lava vents simultaneously opened downrift of the summit and 2,000 people had to be quickly evacuated as poisonous gasses belched out. 

Then on May 17, 2018 at 4:17 AM, the volcano erupted explosively throwing ash 30,000 feet into the air.  Further eruptions followed ejecting dense clouds of ash.  Magma is draining from the lava lake at Kilauea’s summit which is sinking. It's flowing east, underground for about about 40km (25 miles), before emerging from fissures (lava vents), to flow overland for just over five kilometres (3 miles) to the Pacific Ocean. Rivers of lava are finding the route of least resistance, like roads, down the slope and to date (May 26) 83 homes have been destroyed. Another 37 are 'lava locked' or inaccessible due to surrounding fields of lava.  Residents have been warned to leave immediately.  So far an estimated 5,000 people have been displaced.

Although the present lava destruction is confined to a roughly 10-square-mile (26 sq km) area, ash fall and volcanic smog have resulted in a fall in tourist enthusiasm, resulting in the cancelation of port visits by a number of cruise ships. Meanwhile the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park has been closed.  And I was disappointed by the lack of: 'red-hot spurty or runny stuff' when we visited.

According to Ross Birch, head of the island’s tourism board this is expected to have a $3m impact on the island’s tourist-driven economy. 

 

 


Oahu (the main Island)

 

 

Beaches and Shops

As I indicated at the outset Oahu is a beachy place.  Honolulu is the main administrative centre and Waikiki is the principal beach suburb.  Australians might think of Bondi or Manly or perhaps the Gold Coast without being too far from reality. 

We live close to Balmoral beach in Sydney so going to a beach on holidays is like carrying coals to Newcastle.  We generally don't. 

 

Waikiki and nearby Fort DeRussy Beach

Waikiki and nearby Fort DeRussy Beach Waikiki and nearby Fort DeRussy Beach
Waikiki and nearby Fort DeRussy Beach Waikiki and nearby Fort DeRussy Beach

The north end of Waikiki is rather over-crowded
Less trendy Fort DeRussy Beach seems to be preferred by the locals

 

The north end of  Waikiki has beach front hotels and is to my mind unpleasantly over-crowded.  If I had that kind of skin that tanned and I wanted to sunbake undisturbed by kicked-up sand I would not choose to lay my towel here.  I suppose the milling crowd has more to do with seeing and being seen than actually enjoying the beach.

Nor would I choose this as a place to swim.  The shelf off Waikiki beach is shallow a long way out and so it's more for wading than swimming.  Fortunately, most or all the hotels have a pool? 

Elsewhere around the coast the Island is famed for some spectacular waves, beloved by surfers, but that's not Waikiki.  Here the surf is virtually non-existent, with some desultory waves at the far south end.  On a more positive note the sand is kept very clean despite all the people, not a wrapper, syringe or cigarette butt in sight, and the water is pristine, beautifully clear.

 

Waikiki - south end

Waikiki - south end Waikiki - south end
Waikiki - south end Waikiki - south end

Waikiki - south end - almost a wave

 

Apart from the beach there are the shops. A lot of shops. Most sell up-market clothes and jewellery. You might imagine it's a bit difficult selling a luxury car to tourists in the middle of the Pacific but there's even a Tesla dealership.  There are also bargains to be had at the outlets beyond Pearl Harbour, an hour by the regular shuttle bus from Waikiki.  At tourist information stands these shopping trips compete with Pearl Harbour tours and Luau evenings for top billing, with pineapples coming in fourth.

 

Museums

Those of you who read the history above will notice that a good deal of information came from the excellent, and free, US Army Museum at Fort DeRussy.  I can commend this to anyone considering a holiday on Oahu. 

I also spent several hours at the Honolulu Museum of Art.  It has an interesting collection of Asian religious objects and two exhibitions with a Japanese theme.  It's café is convenient for a light lunch; pleasant but rather expensive.  Yet I was a trifle disappointed.  There were few contemporary; twentieth century; or even nineteenth century; paintings or sculpture of the sort I like to spend time with. 

 

Waikiki - south end

Waikiki - south end Waikiki - south end
Waikiki - south end Waikiki - south end

Honolulu Museum of Art - click on the entrance image above to see more of the collection

 

The Museum's collection is good for a small gallery but not a patch on many other free to enter US galleries, like several we visited last October, so I thought the $20 entrance fee was a bit excessive.

 

Pearl Harbour

That there should be Japanese oriented exhibitions was not a surprise.  As I remarked on in the history, above, by the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour half of the entire population of Hawaii was of Japanese descent. This was a matter of great concern to Washington and a reason to immediately declare martial law.  It turned out that they shouldn't have worried.  The great majority were by then loyal Americans, despite their rebellion over the American coup against the monarchy nearly half a century earlier.  And then they had simply shown themselves to be loyal Hawaiians.  After the Japanese attack many promptly joined up to fight against the ancestral kinsmen.

Although English is the first language of the great majority of Hawaiians, some third of them retain Japanese cultural attachments.  As a result Hawaii became the first choice of Japanese tourists, once their economy recovered from the war.  JAL has very regular flights into Honolulu and many Japanese tourists still throng the streets and restaurants.  Taiwanese and Chinese also have historical ties.  Chinese tourism is on the increase here, as everywhere. 

There are many Asians, some Japanese, visiting Pearl Harbour where anti-Japanese sentiment is juxtaposed with a surprisingly conciliatory exploration of Japan's motives leading to war and the brilliance of their preparations and attack.  I discussed the modified torpedoes at some length above.  But we learned that the Japanese pilots had also practiced attacking battleships with armour piercing bombs.  If they were too high the bombs went right through and detonated under the ship.  Too low and they bounced off.  Just right and the bomb exploded within the hull.

At the USS Arizona Memorial we are reminded that below the waves lie the remains of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed on USS Arizona when such a perfectly dropped Japanese bomb penetrated the deck armour and exploded within her forward magazine during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec 7th 1941.  The ship was destroyed and almost everyone on board was killed instantly when her own munitions detonated in a massive explosion. Others died in the subsequent fire or drowned. 

Most Japanese seemed to be staying clear of this one.  I could imagine emotions running high from time to time.

 

USS Arizona Memorial

USS Arizona Memorial USS Arizona Memorial
USS Arizona Memorial USS Arizona Memorial

USS Arizona Memorial - 1,102 names on the wall and more added to the side as the survivors died

 

On the other hand, on Battleship Missouri there is an exhibition remembering the kamikaze attacks on the 'Mighty Mo' that actually honours the many young Japanese pilots who gave their lives in these suicide attacks. Their photographs line the walls. 

 

 

Battleship Missouri

Battleship Missouri Battleship Missouri
Battleship Missouri Battleship Missouri
Battleship Missouri Battleship Missouri

Battleship USS Missouri - Kamikaze remembrance and the location of the Japanese Surrender on September 2nd 1945

 

As for everything that past before my birth, I reminded myself that all this slaughter was necessary for me to be here, sharing the remembrance of it.

 

Luau

The Hyatt Place was very comfortable.  But despite a large corner room on the eleventh floor with a wrap-around balcony and a separate sitting room we no longer had a kitchenette, nor the free and easy parking we'd enjoyed at Reed's Bay. So each night we found a local bar/restaurant featuring live music for dinner, preferably within a short walk back, after a wine or three. 

On our second-to-last night it was time to vary this evening entertainment.  As this was Oahu a Luau was called for.  The Waikiki Aquarium is in easy walking distance of the Hyatt and plays host to just such an evening.  Traditional island food and dance with some local handcraft and a range of cocktails were included in the price. 

Although it was a regularly staged 'event' and nothing like a spontaneous celebration, we soon got into the mood, or was it the booze?  Anyway, we enjoyed a generous smorgasbord of ethnic food while being entertained by performers on stage, then had a thoroughly good time watching the sun go down. After dark a young boy came on spinning fiery torches, soon joined by another, before more folk-dancing.  Bare-chested men and boys made several additional appearances but 'hula girls' (more properly hula women), in various costumes, non of them authentically bare-chested, dominated the entertainment. 

 

Luau

Luau Luau
Luau Luau

Luau - ethnic food; nocturnal, folk-dancing; boys spinning fiery torches and women with coconut braziers

 

Later we got to roam around the, by then, rather surreal aquarium before a pleasant stroll back to our hotel.

 

Waikiki Aquarium

Waikiki Aquarium Luau
Waikiki Aquarium Waikiki Aquarium

Waikiki Aquarium - surreal after a spiked drink or two

 

 

Honolulu Zoo

Here it was our last day and Wendy had some shopping to do so I went to the Zoo.  It's very close to the Hyatt Place.  I'd been here before.  I've got super 8 movie footage of Emily as a toddler at this zoo.  Another $20 to get in but I quickly decided it was worth it.  It's much better than I remembered it.  But I quickly realised that Wendy was better off shopping.  She has a bird phobia and peacocks and other birds abound, stealing food at the cafeteria and generally making themselves a nuisance. 

 

Honolulu Zoo

Honolulu Zoo Honolulu Zoo
Honolulu Zoo Honolulu Zoo
Honolulu Zoo Honolulu Zoo

Honolulu Zoo

 

I spent several hours roaming about at my own pace, watching the animals. I even had a very acceptable hamburger for lunch.

 

More Photos

 

If you would like to see the whole Hawaii album, click on the photo below:

 

 


Click the photo to see more

 

 


Lessons

 

 

As I've already mentioned, we might have seen more of the west coast of Hawaii - for example the Captain Cook obelisk - had we spent a night or two over there. 

Like the big island, there are obviously lots of out-of-town things to see on Oahu.  But it's difficult to get out of Waikiki / Honolulu without a car. 

Certainly public transport is cheap around town.  A day bus pass costs $2.50 (correct change only on busses) but the traffic is slow and the stops frequent and then there are the ponderous traffic lights. Why are the cycles so long?  So its interminable to get anywhere.  It's made more difficult to use the busses if you're unfamiliar with the routes.  There are no maps on the busses and several different providers. Using a mobile phone to check Google Maps is a solution but requires mobile data. 

So it's easy to spend an extra hour, beyond the actual travel time, waiting and/or walking to bus stops.  And unlike driving, riding a bus is boring and it's often uncomfortable, particularly if you have to stand.

Uber is an option if you can find an open Wi-Fi spot to call, but it's not really practical for a casual drive around to see what one can see or along the coast or to take a look at pineapples growing.

Looking back we agreed that it was a big mistake not to rent a car on both islands and to simply pay the additional cost of hotel parking in Oahu.  As it was our visit to Pearl Harbour was cut short due to our dependence on a shuttle bus to come and go.  And we would certainly have seen a lot more of the island with a car. 

 

 

 

 

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