Wednesday, May 7, 2014


Honu neʻe pū ka ʻāina
The land moves like the turtle.
(Land passes slowly but inexorably from owner to heir.)

From its earliest period of occupation, the Waimānalo Bay region was an extensive agricultural area, featuring taro farms that used the traditional Hawaiian loʻi (pondfield) cultivation system.

Taro was grown in the lowlands, irrigated with water from Waimānalo Stream, as well as on terraced sections that were watered by the small streams and springs flowing out of the Koʻolau Range.

These terraced sections extended for nearly 2-miles in a semicircle at the foot of the mountains around the broad base of the Waimānalo valley. By the 1850s, the area's fertile soil provided not only taro but also breadfruit, mountain apple, kukui and coconut trees, sweet potatoes and sugar cane.  (NPS)

In addition to the agrarian-based economy, several fishing villages dotted the bay’s shoreline. Two of the best-known villages in the area were Kaupō and Kukui. Kaupō was on a small peninsula opposite Mānana Island (Rabbit Island) and just northwest of Makapuʻu Beach Park (where Sea Life Park is located.)

The village may have been depopulated during the early-1800s and probably was repopulated during the early-1850s when a disastrous smallpox epidemic struck Honolulu and Hawaiians settled temporarily in the Waimānalo Bay region to escape its ravages.

The small fishing village of Kukui was further northwest, along the bay in the Kaiona Beach vicinity near Pāhonu Pond (‘Turtle enclosure’) - a prehistoric walled enclosure where it is said that turtles were kept for the use of Hawaiian chieftains.  (NPS)

Before we go there, let’s look at some findings of Dr Marion Kelly where she speaks of three main technological advances resulting in food production intensification in pre-contact Hawai‘i: (a) walled fishponds, (b) terraced pondfields with their irrigation systems and (c) systematic dry-land field cultivation organized by vegetation zones.

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

The general term for a fishpond is loko (pond), or more specifically, loko iʻa (fishpond).  Loko iʻa were used for the fattening and storing of fish for food and also as a source for kapu (forbidden) fish.

Samuel Kamakau points out that “one can see that they were built as government projects by chiefs, for it was a very big task to build one, (and) commoners could not have done it (singly, or without co-ordination.)” Chiefs had the power to command a labor force large enough to transport the tons of rock required and to construct such great walls.

The fishponds just described refer to aquaculture to grow fish – they were found throughout the Islands; however, at Waimānalo, Oʻahu, the only remaining aquaculture of green sea turtle known to have been carried out by the early-Hawaiians involved a coastal pond named Pāhonu that was used to maintain turtles until they were ready to be eaten.  (NOAA)

The green sea turtle is the principal marine turtle species in the Hawaiian Islands.  Common names used in the Hawaiian Archipelago include honu, green turtle and green sea turtle.  They are herbivorous, feeding primarily on seagrasses and algae. This diet is thought to give them greenish-colored fat, from which they take their name. (NOAA)

In Hawaiʻi, as throughout Polynesia and other islands in the pacific, sea turtles have always been a traditional part of the local culture and have historically been revered as special and sacred beings.  (Luna)

“There was once a chief who was so fond of turtle meat that he ordered a sea wall be built to keep captured turtles from escaping.  Every turtle caught by a fisherman was put into this enclosure.  No one else was allowed to partake of turtle meat under penalty of death.  No one dared to eat turtle as long as the old chief lived.”  (Pukui; Maly)

Kikuchi in his “Hawaiian Aquaculture Systems,” notes that “An early visitor to Waikiki area remarked that the ruling chief of Oʻahu, Kahekili, ‘mentioned also some others where he had a quantity of turtle.’”

“… We walked back to Mr. Castle's house, where we sat on a long bench outside, facing the sea.  There Aiona told me the story of Pa-honu, an enclosure for turtles that was once located back of Mrs. Wall’s present home.”  (Pukui; Maly)

Pāhonu, the offshore pond (500 feet long, 50 feet wide,) is just south of Kaiona Beach Park fronting the shoreline; a line of stones, submerged at high tide, but visible at low tide, notes its location.  (Pukui)

Kaiona Beach Park, a small four-acre park at the south end of Waimānalo Bay, is a popular camping site that has also been used for many years as a community boat anchorage.

In 1998, residents of Waimānalo built a boat ramp in the south end of the park, the only paved ramp in Waimānalo. They also placed a monument to Hawaiian fishers from their community near the ramp. Kaiona means “attractive sea.  (Clark)

The beachfront residence named Pāhonu inland of the pond was used from 1980 to 1988 as the base of operations for the popular television series, Magnum PI.  A surf site borders a small channel through the reef and is also known as Magnums. (Ulukau)
Next to Pāhonu is Kaʻakaupapa (shallows at the right.)  The old saying of this place was, “Papa ke kānaka, papa nā mea a pau”—“Multitudes of people, multitudes of gods, all in multitudes.”  (Aiona, Informant, Sept. 14, 1939; Cultural Surveys)

Nearby is the Shriners Club, a private clubhouse that opened on April 20, 1931. Popularly known as Shriners Beach, it is used for a wide variety of events, including wedding receptions, birthday parties and other social gatherings.  (Clark)

The green turtle is listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. In 1978, the Hawaiian population of the green turtle was listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973.  NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have joint jurisdiction for green sea turtles.

State and Federal laws prohibit harassing, harming, killing, or keeping sea turtles in captivity without a permit allowing these activities for research or educational purposes. Divers should be aware that riding turtles is illegal and puts these animals under stress.

The image shows Pāhonu Pond in Waimānalo.  In addition, I have added other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.

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