Friday, April 25, 2014

ʻAlekoko Fishpond (Menehune Fishpond)

ʻAla ke kai o ka ʻanae.
Fragrant is the soup of a big mullet.
(A prosperous person attracts others. (ʻŌlelo Noʻeau))

‘Anae (ʻamaʻama - mullet) and awa (milk fish) were popular fish raised in Hawaiian walled fishponds.  The cultivation of fish took place in Hawaiian agricultural pondfields, as well as in specialized fresh and brackish water fishponds.

Ponds were built to catch and hold fish; the ponds grew algae that fed the fish.  A natural food chain can be expected to produce a ratio of 10:1 in terms of the conversion of one link by another (10,000-kg of algae make 1,000-kg of tiny crustaceans, which in turn make 100-kg of small fish.  (Kelly)

The Hawaiian walled fishpond stands as a technological achievement unmatched elsewhere in island Oceania.  Hawaiians built rock-walled enclosures to raise fish for their communities and families.  It is believed these were first built around the fifteenth century.  (Kelly)

These fishponds were symbols of chiefly status and power, and usually under the direct control of aliʻi or konohiki. The fish from these ponds often went to feed chiefly households. (Handy)

One significant fishpond on the southeast side of Kauaʻi is known as ʻAlekoko Fishpond (one of the rarest and most significant cultural and archaeological sites on Kauaʻi.)

Just outside Līhuʻe and Nāwiliwili Harbor on the Hulēʻia River, a Scenic Overlook is located just off of Hulemalu Road, about ½-mile from the entrance to the Nāwiliwili small boat harbor.

The fishpond is located in the Hulēʻia National Wildlife Refuge, 238-acres of river valley that is a habitat for thirty-one species of birds, including endangered Hawaiian birds: aeʻo (Hawaiian stilt,) ʻalae keʻokeʻo (Hawaiian coot,) ʻalae ʻula (Hawaiian moorhen,) nēnē (Hawaiian goose) and koloa maoli (Hawaiian duck.)

Although you can see the fishpond and the refuge from the road, the area is not open to the public. Small boats, kayaks, jet skis, windsurfers and water-skiers use the river.

ʻAlekoko Fishpond is located near the mouth of the Hulēʻia River, in the ahupuaʻa of Niumalu; it was formed by walling off a large bend in the river; the stone-faced, dirt wall is over 900-yards long.

The dirt wall is 5-feet above the water level, 4-feet wide on top and the dirt slants out on both sides. The facing wall begins with a single row of stones and then becomes double-thickness as it gets further out into the river and the current.

The stones also become larger until the double layer is 2-feet thick. The stone facing on the outside is five feet high in most places and is quite perpendicular. The stones are very carefully fitted together; the stone facing runs for about two-thirds of the total length of the wall. (NPS)

“That pond, of course, is monumental, monumental stone work.  To me this is the ultimate fishpond.  What makes it kind of special here on Kauaʻi is the way the stones are fitted." (David Burney, paleoecologist; star-bulletin)

Ancient Hawaiians often used lava rock to build walls, but they typically shaped them to fit together instead of cutting them into blocks.  "Hawaiians didn't typically cut rock to build something, (as they did at ʻAlekoko)." (Michael Graves, US archaeology professor; star-bulletin)

The pond did not just hold fish.  In the 1800s, two of the three gaps in the levee were filled in and the pond was used by rice farmers.

In the 1940s, after a tidal wave, the wall was repaired by the man who had the lease at the time. He put bags of cement in the weak spots and now longish "rocks" are visible where the bags deteriorated and the cement hardened.

According to legend, Chief ʻAlekoko asked the Menehune to build two ponds - one for him and one for his sister Hāhālua.  (Menehune, while small in size, were the mythical masters of stone work and engineering; they agreed to build the ponds – with one stipulation: neither should look out of their houses on the night of construction.)

Hāhālua, content with the idea of being able to eat fish from her own pond, did not look; however, her brother could not stand the temptation and he peered out.  Immediately, the Menehune stopped work and washed their bleeding hands in the water – hence the name of the pond, ʻAlekoko (bloody ripples.)

Built by the Menehune, it is also known as Menehune Fishpond.

“Today the lush vegetation on the wall and banks of the pond and the calm blue waters of the Hulēʻia River combine to make Menehune Fishpond an impressive sight, an ideal picture of Polynesia.”

“It is an important historical reminder of the past and a contemporary source of pride for the people of Kauaʻi.”  It was added to the National Register in 1973.  (NPS)  (Unfortunately, it has also been overgrown with invasive plants and silt has filled parts of the pond.)

The image shows ʻAlekoko Fishpond (on the right - 1912.)  (malamahuleia)  In addition, I have included other related images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.

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