Honolulu’s Canal to Nowhere

“By far the greatest and most admirable form of wisdom is that needed to plan and beautify cities and human communities.”

Ala Wai CanalIn 1917, the deposed former monarch of the Hawaiian Islands, Queen Liliʻuokalani, died and was buried at the Royal Mausoleum of Hawai’i. Not long after, the construction of what would become the Ala Wai Canal, a concept developed by Lucius Pinkham, enabled the development of Waikīkī as a tourist center, and are considered to be one of the most enduring legacies of Pinkham’s tenure as the territorial governor of Hawai’i.

The Ala Wai Canal is a man-made waterway in Honolulu, Hawai’i. It was created for the purpose of draining the rice paddies and swamps which would eventually become the tourist resort area of Waikiki.
Located on the southern boundary of Honolulu, it serves as a physical perimeter between the business and resort components of the Pacific island of Oahu.

The canal runs northwest from Kapahulu Avenue, along the length of the Ala Wai Golf course, parallel to the length of Waikīkī. It then turns southwest to empty into the Ala Wai boat harbor and then into the Pacific Ocean. Bridges cross the canal at McCully Street, Kalākaua Avenue, and Ala Moana Boulevard.

After spending time in and around Waikiki it’s hard to believe that before the canalAla Wai_5 existed, Waikiki consisted of wetlands which were fed by streams running from the Makiki, Palolo, and Manoa valleys, which found their way to the ocean. In the early 1900s, Lucius Pinkham developed the idea of constructing a drainage canal to drain the wetlands.


Construction of the canal began in 1921 and the contractor for the project was Hawaiian Dredging, founded by Walter F. Dillingham. It was completed in 1928.
The original design called for the canal’s two-mile long waterway to have two outlets, one on either end. This would allow sedimentation to be flushed into the ocean. However, engineers decided not to build the eastern outlet when they determined that the contamination from that end would end up on the beaches of Waikiki.

Ala Wai Canal-2

For some reason these engineers ignored the fact that keeping one end closed they were creating a tidal slough. The definition of a slough is a wetland, usually a swamp or shallow lake, often a backwater to a larger body of water. Water tends to be stagnant or may flow slowly on a seasonal basis.

When the city was permitting for new buildings in Waikiki they required builders to build above sea level. In true entrepreneur spirit, Dillingham sold the dirt he had dredged to create the canal so they could build up the newly created land. The canal is still routinely dredged, most recently in 2003.

Ala Wai Canal-8


A concern raised by federal flood experts is that heavy rain could cause the canal to overflow, potentially inundating the area from Diamond Head to Ala Moana and Moiliili with up to five feet of water.

Another major issue is the pollution in the canal brought about by urbanization. In the 1020’s there were no environmental concerns or laws and it was unknown how many residents would inhabit Waikiki. Not accounting for tourists, the 3.4 square mile area known as Waikiki supports a population of about 35,000 people, roughly 10,300 per square mile.

In March 2006, heavy thunderstorms and rains overwhelmed the sewers around the Ala Ala Wai Canal-9Wai Canal, causing a pressurized sewage line to break. Days later, and after the spill was made public, then Mayor Mufi Hannemann decided to divert nearly 48 million US gallons of untreated sewage into the Ala Wai Canal in an attempt to avoid having the sewage back up into hotels and residences. This diversion caused partial overflowing of the canal in some areas, and the sewage then tainted Waikiki and nearby beaches. The beaches near the Ala Wai Canal, including beaches in the Waikiki and Ala Moana districts were closed temporarily due to health concerns. In the weeks after the incident, beaches were eventually reopened, but it took several months before the Ala Wai Canal was determined to be safe and free from major health concerns.

Despite the canal repeatedly falling short of meeting safety standards for paddling and recreational use, there has been no move to prohibit such use. Hundreds of paddlers and boaters make it one of the most used inland waterways in the state.

Ala Wai Canal-10

People don’t swim in the Ala Wai anymore. Contact with its murky water—filled with bacteria, heavy metals, pesticides, and who knows what else—can be hazardous to your health. As the dedicated canoe paddlers who practice on the Ala Wai are well aware, even light splashes can cause rashes, boils and gastro-intestinal troubles.


As scary as the Ala Wai’s waters are, life thrives there. Sure, the canal is a massive drainage ditch for a swath of city stretching from Punchbowl to Diamond Head. But it’s also a tropical tidal estuary, where freshwater and seawater meet, producing a fruitful habitat for a wide variety of pollution-resistant fish, crustaceans and other creatures.

Ala Wai Canal-4

As of 2018 there have been a number of plans devised to clean up this potential amenity to the urban area of Honolulu. Many mainland cities, such as: San Antonio, TX and Reno, NV have turned waterways into major tourist and economic destinations that enhance urban life. The Ala Wai canal has the potential, it just needs to become a priority for Hawai’i.

Ala Wai_3-25-18-12

Watch this video from Honolulu Civil Beat

Ala Wai Canal Video


Honolulu Magazine

Honolulu City Beat




PA Davis-photo card

Ka’ena Point

Print VersionI remember years ago looking at a map of Oahu. I wondered about the surfing beaches along the north shore and I wondered about city of Honolulu. Located so far away from the shores of the US, what was it like to live in the middle of the Pacific? On the map of the island, Ka’ena Point in particular intrigued me. It looked like lands end and today, as I stand looking out from the ruins of the lighthouse that is perched on the dune, it feels like lands end.

Geologists and vulcanologists tell us that Ka’ena was an active shield volcano, about 5 million years ago. The volcano was likely the first land to poke above the waves in the formation of the island of Oahu. These same scientists tell us that some time in the distant past Ka’ena must have suffered a massive collapse because of its large crater. When it became extinct, which was about 4.2 million years ago, it is thought to have stood 3,000 feet above the waters.Kaena Point+Peacocks-3

In Hawaiian, kaʻena means ‘the heat’, named after a brother or cousin of Pele, the mythological fire goddess of Hawaiian lore, who currently lives inside Kilauea on the Big Island. Pele accompanied her relative here from Kahiki. Some ancient Hawaiian folklore also states that Kaʻena Point is a “jumping-off” point for souls leaving this world.Ka'ena Albatross-16

The place, Ka’ena Point, has an energy, something that Hawaiians call “mana”. The mana of the place increases with the number of bird species, the number of plants, the regular visits by monk seals and turtles, and, during winter, humpback whales offshore. Along with the scenic beauty, it draws people hiking to the area. They too feel the mana of the place.

How to Get There

There are two paths to the westernmost point on the island of Oahu. This part of the Ka'ena Point - Birds-15island can be reached from the east via Mokule’ia on the north shore. There is also access from the west side via the leeward community of Wai’anae. In both cases the paved road ends, leaving the visitor to follow a path along the shoreline through to a beautifully desolate landscape. The track on the Wai’anae side is rugged and washed out in several places. The trail is diverted up the slope and around the wash outs, which requires a little uphill trekking on an otherwise flat path. It is about 2.5 miles in length and includes a good-sized blow hole along the way. Recent storms have damaged the path further and care should be taken taking this route.

From the north shore the trip is a little longer. There are two paths on this side of Ka’ena. Ka'ena Point Albatross Chicks-13One path along the back of the dunes and the other a little farther inland. It’s wide open on this side and much easier to negotiate. The trail passes by a dozen or more coves, each with its own look and characteristics and each its own ecosystem. In both cases, the visitor will find an unspoiled natural terrain made up primarily of sand dunes and ancient lava flows.


Day Trips

Ka’ena Point is a park, hiking and a Natural Area Reserve site. This uncrowded spot has Ka'ena Point - Albatross Mating-4pockets of white sandy beach carved into the lava remnants of the ancient volcano. And then, the land diminishes to a point as it dips beneath the waves.

Ka’ena Point is one of the best snorkeling places on Oahu and it is home to many different fishes, including the Hawai’i State Fish, the Humuhumunukunukuapuaa. This “lands end” sustains an ecosystem that is home to many native Hawaiian plants and animals. Hawaiian monk seals are residents, and the fragile native strand vegetation has been restored and protected by Hawai’i DLNR.

The State of Hawaiʻi has designated the point as a Natural Area Reserve to protect nesting mōlī, better known as Laysan Albatrosses and to the wedge-tailed Shearwaters that inhabit the reserve. This article will address the plight of the endangered albatross.

OR & L Railroad

On the track from Wai’anae, one can see thick wooden slats embedded in the path. My Ka'ena Point - Birds-2first thought on seeing these wood members, that were laid in place with some precision, as part of the access road installed by the military during world war II. Further study revealed that in 1899, the Oahu Railway and Land Company (OR & L), constructed a light-gauge railway that encompassed 70 miles from Honolulu through Kahuku to transport sugarcane. The wood members were the remaining sleepers supporting the steel tracks that the trains ran over. Built by Ben Dillingham, it ran from 1898 to 1947 from Iwilei through Ewa, along the leeward coast. It ran around Ka’ena Point and ran as far as Kahuk. Most of the tracks in the Ka’ena Point area were destroyed due to a tsunami in 1946 Although, today parts of the railroad tracks are still visible along the Ka’ena point trail from both sides.

Albatross Sanctuary

Albatrosses, or Mōlī , as they are called in Hawai’i, are of the biological family Ka'ena Point Albatross-9Diomedeidae. They are large seabirds related to the storm petrels and diving petrels. They range widely in the southern ocean and the north Pacific. Although today they are absent from the north Atlantic, fossil remains show they once occurred in that region.

Albatrosses are among the largest of flying birds, and the great albatrosses have the longest wingspans of any existing birds, reaching up to 12 feet. The birds found at the Ka’ena Point area are Laysan Albatrosses and have wingspans closer to 6 – 7 feet. They Ka'ena Point Albatross-8have a large bill that is strong and sharp-edged, the upper mandible terminating in a
large hook. The bill is composed of several horny plates, and along the sides are the two “tubes” or long nostrils. These tubes allow the albatrosses to measure the exact airspeed in flight; analogous to the pitot tubes in modern aircraft. This sense is necessary for the albatross to carry out dynamic soaring, which is required to cover the huge areas with little effort (Dynamic soaring involves repeatedly rising into wind and descending downwind, thus gaining energy from theKa'ena Point - Albatross Mating-13 vertical wind gradient. The only effort expended is in the turns at the top and bottom of every such loop). Where most birds depend on keen eyesight, the albatross uses a uniquely developed sense of smell to locate potential food sources. Their feet have no hind toe and the three anterior toes are completely webbed.

Albatrosses travel huge distances with two techniques used by many long-winged seabirds: dynamic soaring and slope soaring. This efficient method of long-distance traveling underlies the albatross’s success as a long-distance forager, covering great distances and expending little energy looking for unevenly distributed food sources.

Albatrosses are colonial, nesting for the most part on remote oceanic islands, often withKa'ena Point - Albatross Mating-6 several species, all nesting together. Pair bonds between males and females form over several years, with the use of mating ritual dances, and will last for the life of the pair. A breeding season can take over a year from laying to fledging, with a single egg laid in each breeding attempt. At the time of this writing, it is breeding season for the albatross’s at Ka’ena. The ritual, which I witnessed, consists of: bill clapping, head bobbing, whistling and more (click here to see video).

Numbers of albatrosses have declined in the past due to harvesting for feathers, but today the albatrosses are threatened by introduced species, such as rats and feral cats that attack eggs, chicks and nesting adults. Their numbers are also threatened by pollution and a serious decline in fish stocks in many regions largely due to overfishing and by longline fishing.

Human Intervention

An active airstrip at Kaua’i’s Pacific Missile Range facility, run by the US Navy on the island of Kauai, poses problems for the albatross colony that resides nearby. This situation has been the spark for many relocations of albatross eggs from the base.Ka'ena Point Albatross Chicks-4
Over the past 12 years, officials estimate 600 Laysan Albatross eggs have been relocated from the missile range, and some of those eggs have found homes on private properties on Kaua’i. Last year 48 eggs were relocated throughout the entire nesting season.

The nesting birds are an airstrike hazard and the Navy’s long-term goal is to reduce the number of albatross via this humane program. The Ka’ena Point colony also suffered a setback a couple of years ago because of human vandalism.
Fifteen Laysan albatrosses were brutally killed and 17 of their eggs destroyed. I learned of this in December of 2017 and I was devastated. Who does this?
After this incident, others like me were shocked and horrified, demanding justice on behalf of the slain albatrosses. The perpetrators were caught and only one was over the age of 18. He plead guilty to the crime and was sentenced, but the others were under 18 and tried in juvenile courts.

The efforts of the US Navy, Hawai’i DLNR and others will give a little boost to this colonyKa'ena Point Albatross Chicks-14 and get it back to the path of continued growth. Hawai’i DLNR is harvesting eggs on Kaua’i and relocating them to Ka’ena in hopes for a successful transplanted homeland for the birds.
In December 2017, 21 new eggs made their way to Ka’ena Point and are expected to start hatching in February, with the young chicks fledging about five months after hatching.

Most albatrosses range in the Southern Hemisphere from Antarctica to Australia, SouthKa'ena Point Albatross Chicks-7 Africa and South America. The exceptions to this are the four north Pacific albatrosses, of which three occur exclusively in the north Pacific, from Hawai’i to Japan, California and Alaska.

At the time of writing this article, it is early March and some new players at the albatross rookery at Ka’ena Point have begun to appear in the form of feathery fuzz balls. Some nests are located near the path and others can be seen further out in the dunes, but many are close enough to observe the daily routine by the parental birds.

There are pink ribbons tied to the limbs of a bush near each nest and some have an additional blue ribbon. The pink marker indicates a nest location and the additional blue ribbon tells us that the egg in the nest was relocated from Kaua’i.

Ka'ena Point Albatross Chicks-18

This new generation of feathered creatures wait silently for a parent to return with the next meal. Their bodies are covered with a grey down and they observe us as we stop to take a picture and watch them feed and preen. Above us are adult albatrosses, sometimes flying low over our heads and sometimes coming close.

On my recent visits to the natural reserve at Ka’ena Point has shown that the public is aware and interested enough in these great seabirds to trek the paths just to view the birds and their offspring. And once the chicks hatched, it was good to see how many came to enjoy this rite of passage.


Click Here to See Video

Click here to view the print version

Video provided by: Warren Iseke

Photography by: PA Davis Photography

PA Davis-photo card


Hutong’s in Central Beijing

Urban planning in China originated during the urbanization of the Wangfujing-Beijing City_2-2015-12Yellow River valley near the end of the Neolithic Age (4,800-3,750 BC). The process in China, as elsewhere in the world, is similar to the process of centralizing power in a political state. During the Neolithic, several cultures formed competing states and the direct ancestor of the Chinese state was Longshan culture.

The Longshan culture, also sometimes referred to as the Black Pottery Culture, was a late Neolithic culture in the middle and lower Yellow River valley areas of northern China from about 3000 to 1900 BC. The first archaeological find of this culture took place at the Chengziya archaeological site in 1928. The culture is named after the nearby modern town of Longshan (“Dragon Mountain”) in Zhangqiu, Shandong. The culture was noted for its highly polished black pottery (or egg-shell pottery). The population expanded dramatically during the 3rd millennium BC. Although, it decreased in most areas around 2000 BC until the central area of China evolved into the Erlitou culture of the Bronze Age.

The earliest Chinese urban planning was a synthesis of Longshan traditional cosmology, geomancy, astrology, and numerology. This synthesis generated a diagram of the cosmos, which placed man, state, nature, and heaven in harmony. A city was planned in the context of this cosmic diagram to maintain harmony and balance.

China Travel 2015We visited China in 2015. It was the last international location we wanted to drop in on, but today, it is the first place we would like to visit again. Apart from the cultural differences and the pollution, we enjoyed our time in China.

We met our daughter in Beijing, which was our home base, and although life is very Forbidden City_2-2015-47different in the PRC, we found the people to have lives very similar to ours. Young people get together, raise a family (supposed to be only one child) and work to provide for their loved ones. The rules are different, but day to day life is much like ours.

We took daily excursions in and around Beijing. We toured historical sites: the
Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and Tiananmen Square. We visited the Great Wall at Mutianyu and the tomb of emperor Qin. We were in awe of the terra cotta soldiers and we spent a night in the ancient walled city of X’ian.Great Wall-Mutianyu_2-2015-8

There were unexpected adventures during our visit, and one of the more interesting was a visit to the Wangfujing hutong in central Beijing.

Hutong is a Mongolian word meaning water well. In the Yuan Dynasty, Mongolians attached great importance to water. The modern meaning of the word hutong now means a lane or an alley, formed by rows of siheyuan (a compound
with buildings around a courtyard) where old Beijing residents lived. The word “hutong” originates from the word “hottog” which means “a well” in Mongolian. It relates to ancient times when villagers dug a well and then lived around it.Xi'an Clay Soldiers_2-2015-10

In the Ming Dynasty (early 15th century), the center of Beijing was the Forbidden City, which was the location of the imperial palace. This central location was surrounded in concentric circles by the Inner City and Outer City. Citizens of higher social status were permitted to live closer to the center of the circles. Aristocrats lived to the east and west of the imperial palace. The large siheyuan of these high-ranking officials and wealthy Wangfujing-Beijing City_2-2015-7merchants often featured beautifully carved and painted roof beams and pillars and carefully landscaped gardens. The hutongs they formed were orderly, lined by spacious homes and walled gardens. Farther from the palace, and to its north and south, were the commoners, merchants, artisans, and laborers. Their siheyuan were far smaller in scale and simpler in design and decoration, and the hutongs were narrower.

Historically, a hutong was also once used as the lowest level of administrative geographical divisions within a city in ancient China, as in the paifang (牌坊) system. The largest division within a paidang of a city in ancient China was a fang (坊), equivalent to current day precinct. Each fang (坊) was enclosed by walls or fences, and the gates of Wangfujing-Beijing City_2-2015these enclosures were shut and guarded every night, somewhat like a modern gated community. Each fang (坊) was further divided into several plate or pai (牌), which is equivalent to a current day (unincorporated) community (or neighborhood). Each pai (牌), in turn, contained an area including several hutongs, and during the Ming Dynasty, Beijing was divided into a total of 36 fangs (坊).

Today a hutong is a gathering place and a residentialdistrict. At nine meters (about 30 feet) wide, it is the name given to a lane or small street that originated during the Yuan Dynasty


(1271–1368). Hutongs are now representatives of local culture.Wangfujing-Beijing City_2-2015-4

Since the mid-20th century, the number of Beijing hutongs has dropped dramatically as they are demolished to make way for new roads and buildings. Although, more recently, some hutongs have been designated as protected areas in an attempt to preserve this aspect of Chinese cultural history.

Our trip to Wangfujing was like ending our day with a tripto a street fair. Items for purchase consisted mostly of souvenir’s and trinkets.


Wangfujing-Beijing City_2-2015-2Although, some of the items for sale were very unusual. We expected most of the unusual items on display and it was a welcome glimpse into the daily life and culture of the people who live in Beijing.

Wangfujing-Beijing City_2-2015-2-2







Click below to view print version

Beijing Hutongs

PA Davis-photo card

PADA logo_2


Koa’e ‘Ula

One of three closely related species of seabird living in tropical oceans, The Red Tailed Red-Tailed-Tropicbird-1Tropicbird has almost all-white plumage with a black mask and a red bill. Most adults have red tail streamers that are about two times their body length, which gives rise to its common name.

There are many exotic birds that find their way to Hawai’i and stay. The Hawaiian honeycreeper, Nene, ‘Apapane and the Hawaiian stilt, to name just a few. All bring beautiful and striking color and many with their unique songs. Indigenous to the Hawaiian Islands, the Red Tailed Tropicbird nests in Hawai’i and other archipelago’s in the Pacific basin. They are also commonly found in tropical and subtropical areas of the Indian Ocean and around the world. Mature birds measure around 36 to 42 inches in length (including the streamers) and can have a wingspan of up to 44 inches.

The Red-Tailed Tropicbird’s are social and nest in large colonies on oceanic islands. 140621 1443 Red Tailed Tropicbird, Koa'e 'Ula (Phaethon rubricauda melanorhynchos)Common in Hawai’i, they are often found away from the main Hawaiian Islands, locations like Easter Island and across to Mauritius and the Reunion Island. In Madagascar they nest on the tiny island of Nosy Ve. In Australia, they nest on Queensland’s coral islands and islands off Western Australia.

This wayfaring bird disperses widely after breeding; birds fitted with leg rings in Hawai’i have been recovered as far away as Japan 140621 1464 Red Tailed Tropicbird, Koa'e 'Ula (Phaethon rubricauda melanorhynchos)and the Philippines. They range from the Red Sea to New Zealand and Chile. The breeding population in Hawai‘i is estimated between 9,000 and 12,000 pairs, with the largest populations on Midway Atoll and Laysan Island in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands.

Red Tailed Tropicbirds are solitary feeders, usually feeding during the day and rarely fish within sight of land. They dive, wings half-folded, into the water to catch their prey. Red-tails consume mostly fish (flying fish, mackerel, dolphinfish, balloonfish) and squid.

During mating, they perform complex aerial courtship displays. They are adept flyers, performing acrobatics in mating season which consist of flying backwards, vertical climbs and flying in complex circles. Birds begin breeding after 4 years of age and they nest year round with peak activity from March through August. Adults generally return to the same nest site each year, usually located in areas sheltered from the sun, at the base of a tree, in shrubs, or next to a structure.140621 1421 Red Tailed Tropicbird, Koa'e 'Ula (Phaethon rubricauda melanorhynchos)

The female lays a single egg, ranging in color from brown to purplish black. Relaying of another egg can occur if the first egg is lost or infertile. Both parents incubate the egg, a period that can last 39 to 51 days and because of their feeding habits, each adult parent averages incubation shifts ranging from 8-9 days.
During the first few weeks after hatching, chicks are attended and fed by one of its parents, both working in shifts similar to those during incubation. Nestlings are brooded almost continuously for the first week. Feeding takes place on an average of every 17 hours.
Chicks reach adult weight in six weeks. In 11 weeks, wing exercising begins and in 12-13 weeks, fledging occurs. Chicks fledge with a dark gray bill and white and gray plumage, which eventually gives way to the red beak, white plumage and the red streamers that give it its name.

Photos: Warren Iseke

Cover Photo: Nathan Yuen
PA Davis-photo card




The Legacy of Kamehameha III

Note to reader: Because of the irresponsible actions of others, this site is off limits and Hawaii DLNR will not hesitate to detain trespassers. Although, many people do come to the site and many bring offerings of lei’s, fruit and flowers. I will intentionally not divulge the location of this treasure in this article or accompanying video, but if you find yourself at the site, please respect this important historical landmark.

Kam III Summer Palace

Kuniakapupu CoverHave you ever started down a path and immediately felt that something magical was surrounding you? A sense that you entered a realm, a mysterious, otherworldly domain where everything you see has a presence. And when you arrived at the destination, was the scene was more than you could imagine?
I’ve hiked in the Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs and stood on the top of Half Dome in Yosemite. I experienced walking over a live volcano at Kilauea on the Big Island, and I know the rush of adrenalin as I stood on my surfboard, sliding down the face of a big wave in Laguna Beach, California. There is a sense of spiritualism, of something larger than myself with all these experiences and I count myself lucky to have a personal history that includes them and more.
I recently experienced a compelling encounter during a recent unexpected journey.
A friend and I went hiking on a Saturday morning. I was writing an article on WWII pillboxes on Oahu and wanted to visit one of the many sites where they still exist on the island.
My friend is Hawaiian. He was raised in the islands and he promised to take me hiking to some of his favorite places. And he promised to take me to some of the little known points of interest that don’t make it to the tour guides. It was just the combination of circumstances I was looking for.

After we spent several hours scaling cliffs to stand atop the Crouching Lion and visiting the serene beauty of La’ie Point, he said he would take me somewhere special. All he would tell me was that we were going to the summer palace of King Kamehameha III.
I had no sense of what I would see or experience. I read about the summer palaces of Hawaiian royalty, but I had no idea where a summer house to the royalty of Hawaii would be. We stopped alongside the road in a lush landscape and walked to an obscure opening in the thick growth. The journey from the car to the site was short (about 6 minutes) and it was an extraordinary transition from the world of asphalt and machines into a thick bamboo forest. Once off of the roadway it was a spellbinding hike, ending at an old arrangement of construction that had long ago gone to ruins.


Kamehameha III was born Kauikeaouli Kaleiouli Kaleiopapa on August 11, 1813 Kamehamehaiiiat Keauhou Bay on Hawaii Island (Big Island), the largest of the Hawaiian Islands. The second son of King Kamehameha I and Queen Keopuolani, he was the third king of the Kingdom of Hawaii from 1825 until he passed in December of 1854.
His full Hawaiian name was Keaweaweʻula Kīwalaʻō Kauikeaouli Kaleiopapa and then lengthened to Keaweaweʻula Kīwalaʻō Kauikeaouli Kaleiopapa Kalani Waiakua Kalanikau Iokikilo Kīwalaʻō i ke kapu Kamehameha when he ascended the throne.
Kauikeaouli was 16 years younger than his brother Liholiho, who ruled as Kamehameha II starting in 1819. Liholiho (Kamehameha II) and his queen consort, Kamamalu, met an unfortunate demise in 1824 after contracting measles while traveling in Britain.

Under the reign of Kamehameha III, Hawaii evolved from an absolute monarchy to ahawaii constitutional monarchy with the signing of the 1840 Constitution, which was the first Hawaiian Language Constitution. He was the longest reigning monarch in the history of the Kingdom, ruling for 29 years and 192 days, although in the early part of his reign he was under a regency by Queen Kaʻahumanu and later by Kaʻahumanu II. As he grew into the monarchy, his goal was the careful balancing of modernization by adopting Western ways, while keeping the traditions of his nation intact.

Kauikeaouli had a troubled childhood. He was torn between the Puritan Christian guidelines imposed on the kingdom by the kuhina nui (Queen Regent) who was his stepmother Kaʻahumanu, and the desires to honor the old traditions. Under the influence of Oahu’s then governor, Boki, and a young Hawaiian-Tahitian priest named Kaomi, Kauikeaouli’s aikāne partner, he rebelled against his Christian teachings, created the secret order of Hulumanu (Bird Feather), and named Kaomi his co-ruler. By 1835 he had returned to ways of the missionaries.

Kamehameha III married Kalama Hakaleleponikapakuhaili in 1837. They had two children, but unfortunately, both died in infancy. Aware of the need for the continuity of the royal family, Kamehameha III adopted his nephew Alexander Liholiho at birth and named him as his successor.

Following a Declaration of Rights promulgated by Kamehameha III in 1839, the introduction of Hawaii’s first constitution in 1840 established a new era of constitutional monarchy. The 1840 document contained a revised version of the Declaration of Rights (modeled after the American Declaration of Independence) and essentially codified existing governmental structure and practice.
Hawaii’s government, as authored by Hawaii’s chiefs and the king, operated as partially separated executive, legislative and judicial branches. A house of nobles continued to exist with membership based on heredity but an elected house of representatives was added to create a bicameral legislative body. The constitution also created a supreme court for adjudicating legal questions. The document also included a process for constitutional amendment.


In the early 19th century, Honolulu was situated on a dust plain. It was leeward and this arid part of the island lacked water, save for the Nuʻuanu Stream, which prompted many residents to seek reprieve a few miles outside of town in the forested uplands. In this suburb, American missionaries, merchants, and the Hawaiian royals built European-style homes to escape the summer heat.
It was in these uplands where Kamehameha III, and his queen, Kalama, built a summer home.

Kam III Palace

The site was known then as Luakaha (place of relaxation) and it was the summer residence for the king and queen. The palace was built prior to the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii moving to Honolulu from Lahaina (on Maui) in 1845. It was later called Kaniakapupu which refers to the kāhuli (Oʻahu tree snails) which were once abundant in the area. According to Hawaiian folklore, these snails were able to vocalize and sing sweet songs at night.
The new royal residence was built to resemble the royals home, Kam III PalaceMokuʻula, the king’s royal residential complex in Lahaina on Maui. On July 5, 1842, American missionary Amos Starr Cooke, the teacher of Royal School, wrote in his journal that Governor Kekūanāoʻa was in the process of building a “stone house” for the king in Luakaha. The retreat was completed in 1845. It became a place for entertaining foreign celebrities, chiefs, and commoners.
On Hawaiian Sovereignty Restoration Day (Lā Hoʻihoʻi Ea) in 1847, King Kamehameha IIIKam III Palace and Queen Kalama hosted a grand luau at the palace. The celebration commemorated the fourth anniversary of the restoration of Hawaiian independence and sovereignty by British Rear-Admiral Richard Darton Thomas, following a five-month British occupation of the kingdom during the Paulet Affair of 1843.
The palace may also have been the site of an earlier luau, or great ahaʻaina (feast), which was part of the initial ten-day restoration festivities in 1842. Children from the RoyalKam III Palace School, including all of the future Hawaiian monarchs, often visited with their teachers (the Cookes).

By 1874, a map of the region labeled the area as the “Old Ruins”, implying a dilapidated state. No records exist as to when and why the site was abandoned. Research is being conducted by archaeologists and historians, but the mystery has proved elusive.

Today, the site is managed by the State Historic Preservation Division of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) with the help of the Historic Hawaii Foundation and other local preservation organizations. Kaniakapūpū was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966 as site number 66000293.

I was thankful to my Hawaiian hiking guide because the trail that leads to the ruins is inconspicuous and is easily missed by those who are unaware. Located in a protected watershed, the remnants of the king’s summer retreat are officially off-limits to the public, although state DLNR officials do not regularly monitor the site. Trespassers are subjected to citations if caught. For that reason, my description of the location is discrete. For those who do find their way, be respectful, appreciate the grounds for what they represent. Take an offering (a piece of fruit, a lei or single flower) and leave it at the base of the plaque erected at the front of the residence. And if you find others at the site, especially those who might have come to say a prayer or sing a chant, be gracious and allow them their time as well.


On June 6, 1825, Kauikeaouli was proclaimed king of Hawaiʻi. To the people he said, “Where are you, chiefs, guardians, commoners?  I greet you.  Hear what I say! My kingdom I give to God.  The righteous chief shall be my chief, the children of the commoners who do you right shall be my people, my kingdom shall be one of letters.”  (Kamakau – Kamehameha Schools Press)

June 7, 1839, he signed the Declaration of Rights (called Hawai‘i’s Magna Charta) that, in part, noted, “God hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on the earth, in unity and blessedness. God has also bestowed certain rights alike on all men and all chiefs, and all people of all lands.”

June 17, 1839 he issued the Edict of Toleration permitting religious freedom for Catholics in the same way as it had been granted to the Protestants.

June 28, 1839 he founded Chief’s Children’s School (The Royal School;) the main goal of this school was to groom the next generation of the highest ranking chiefs’ children of the realm and secure their positions for Hawaiʻi’s Kingdom.

October 8, 1840 (the King was about 27-years-old) he enacted the Constitution of 1840 that, in part, changed the government from one of an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. It provided for a separation of powers between three branches of government, with executive power in the hands of the king, the kuhina nui (similar to a prime minister) and four governors; a bicameral legislative body consisting of a house of nobles and a house of representatives, with the house of representatives elected by the people; and a judiciary system, including a supreme court.

April 27, 1846 he declared that “the forests and timber growing therein shall be considered government property, and under the special care of the Minister of the Interior.” effectively starting the process of protecting the mauka watersheds.

January 27, 1848 through March 7, 1848 he participated in what we refer to as the “Great Māhele” that was a reformation of the land system in Hawaiʻi, the result allowed private ownership of land.

June 14, 1852 he enacted the Constitution of 1852 that expanded on the Declaration of Rights, granted universal (adult male) voting rights for the first time and changed the House of Nobles from a hereditary body to one where members served by appointment by the King. It also institutionalized the three branches of government and defined powers along the lines of the American Constitution.

Toward the end of Kauikeaouli’s reign there were 423 schools in Hawaiʻi with an enrollment of over twelve-thousand-students. Most of the schools were elementary schools using Hawaiian as the language of instruction.

See the video at: Kaniakapupu Video

View the print version of this story: Kaniakapupu


The Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii
by: S.M. Kamakau

Kamehameha II: Liholiho
and the impact of change.
by: Kamehameha Schools Press


Photography & Videography  by:

P A  Davis Photography

PA Davis-photo card

PADA logo_2

Honolulu Chinatown

ChinatownIt’s early Saturday morning, just after 6:30 am. I parked in a municipal lot in the center of downtown and after escaping the bowels of the multi-story parking garage, I began walking up Hotel street toward Bishop street. The soaring megaliths of the financial district cast long shadows and the normal weekday crowds ebbed to a scattering of citizens. Business owners and shop workers were out, as was the normal congregation at the transit stop on Hotel street at the Fort street walking mall, but the workday masses of office workers that flooded the wide promenade were absent.
It’s December and Christmas lights were still lit and the weather was cooler (in the upper 60’s) and it was dry, but the forecast was for showers. Afternoon squalls are the norm for this territory.
ChinatownThe Chinatown Historic District is located in Honolulu on the island of Oahu. Honolulu is the center of government and commerce in Hawaii. One of the eight main islands in a chain that spreads 2500 miles across the central Pacific ocean, Oahu is suffused with interesting and historical landmarks and my destination is one of them.
Chinatown is located in the northern quarter of
Honolulu, bordered by Beretania street, Nu’uanu Stream, Nu’uanu avenue, and Honolulu ChinatownHarbor. The Hawaiian language newspaper Nupepa Kuokoa describes it as .”..that place Chinatown is that whole area from West side of Kukui street until the river mouth called Makaaho, then travel straight until reaching Hotel street; and travel on Hotel street on the West side until reaching Konia street, and travel until you reach King St.” The edges of the boundary are not as finely defined, but the newspapers description defines the general area.
Regardless of the description, Chinatown is notable for its Chinese American heritage. In Chinese it is known as 檀香山 (Tánxiāngshān), meaning Sandalwood Mountain, and it is one of the oldest Chinatowns in the United States.
ChinatownChinese immigrants arrived on the shores of Hawaii in 1788 to work on the sugar plantations as laborers. When their service was complete they stayed and became merchants, opening markets, restaurants, curios shops and more. Filling a much needed cultural niche in this waypoint of the Pacific.
Today, Honolulu Chinatown covers 15 blocks and has become a vibrant community for Hawaiians, Koreans, Filipinos, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and many others from around the Pacific Rim. And it is a window into a foreign world for travelers from outside the world of Oceana.
While Honolulu downtown sleeps in on weekend mornings, Chinatown bustles with crowded Asian markets. Early morning patrons visiting a favorite shop hoping to get the freshest catch for tonight’s dinner, or vegetables from local farms, still coated with the earth they were grown in. ChinatownThe fragrance of cooking meats and spices share the air with greetings from shop owners to familiar patrons, and friends greet each other on the sidewalks. As I raised my trusty Canon to compose another image across from the Maunakea Market, a woman called to another, who turned to see who sang out her name. They hugged and laughed and hugged again. A warm reunion right there in the middle of the sidewalk.
ChinatownIn times past, the area was likely used by fishermen in ancient Hawaii. The nutrient-rich water of the estuary of Nu’uanu stream still attracts fish at the harbor, but no fishing occurs there today and little evidence of those days remain. Many europeans also came to Hawaii for various reasons. Among them was Don Francisco de Paula Mara­n, who came from Spain. He settled in the southern end of the area in the early 19th century, and planted a vineyard, for which Vineyard Boulevard is named.
ChinatownTwo major fires destroyed many buildings in 1886 and 1900. The 1900 fire was started in an attempt to destroy a building infected with bubonic plague, which had been confirmed in December of 1899. Schools were closed and 7,000 residents of the area were put under quarantine. After 13 people died, the Board of Health ordered structures suspected of being infected to be burned. Residents were evacuated, and a few buildings were successfully destroyed while the Honolulu Fire Department stood by. However, in January of 1900 the fire got out of control after winds shifted. Most of the neighborhood was destroyed.
After World War II the area fell into disrepair and became a red-light district. In recent years there has been a revitalization and things are getting better. About 36 acres of the district was added to the National Register of Historic Places listings in January of 1973. During the administrations of mayors Frank Fasi and Jeremy Harris the area was targeted for revitalization. Restrictions on lighting and signs were relaxed to promote nightlife. Special zoning rules were adopted to allow the cultural heritage to remain. The Hawaii National Bank was founded in the district in 1960, and still has its headquarters there.
Today, Chinatown is teeming with activity. There are traditional dim sum restaurants, noodle shops and hip bars and converted lofts. These have become additive to crowded Asian markets full of foodstuffs, antiques and stalls selling lei flower necklaces. The area is also an artistic hub, home to indie art galleries and the art deco Hawaii Theatre Center, which stages concerts, musicals and comedy. Temples in the area include the Buddhist Kuan Yin Temple, with its striking green roof.
At the eastern edge of the district, the Hawaii Theatre was restored and re-opened in 1996. The area around the theatre is called the Arts District. In 2005 a small park near the theatre at the corner of Hotel and Bethel streets was opened and called Chinatown Gateway Park. In November 2007 the park was named in honor of Sun Yat-Sen who came to Chinatown in 1879 where he was educated and planned the Chinese Revolution of 1911.
ChinatownA trip to Chinatown in Honolulu is not complete without checking out its marketplaces. Head to Oahu Market for a tantalizing display of exotic tropical fruits, such as watermelons, pineapples and many others. It has been at the corner of King and Kekaulike since 1904.
On just about every corner there is a market brimming with local fare. And fans of Filipino, Korean, Chinese and Thai cuisines will love the food court at nearby Maunakea Marketplace.
A squall moved over Honolulu near the end of my journey, and like many others, I took cover under one of the many awnings that line the sidewalks. In Honolulu the rain is usually short-lived, but it gave me a few more short moments to watch the activity and appreciate the distinctive blending of cultures in this quarter of Honolulu known as Chinatown.

Click Below for Print Article


PA Davis-photo card

PADA logo_2

Lanakai Pillboxes

Lanakai Pillboxes-7The Ka’iwa Ridge Trail, also known as the Lanikai Pillbox Trail provides one of the most beautiful and panoramic views I’ve had the opportunity to witness. The climb to the ridge and the reward are in the same class as my trek to the granite summit of the Yosemite icon of Half Dome. Once on the ridge the views of windward Oahu are stunning.

Lanakai PillboxesConstructed on the narrow ridge in 1943, overlooking what is now Lanakai, this pair of outposts tell a story about America’s decisive entrance into World War II. America was fearful of more attacks, more unknowns. Until the surprise of December 7, the people of the US were ambivalent as Hitler marched across and terrorized the European continent. This invasion was the first attack on American soil since the Attack of Orleans in 1918 when a German U-boat fired several rounds toward the town of Orleans, MA.

Lanakai Pillboxes-8

In military terms, a pillbox actually refers to a defensive site such as a machine gun pillbox, which is not the case here. This pair of concrete structures perched on the top of the ridge, and often referred to as the “Lanakai Pillboxes”, functioned as coastal artillery observation stations. They were not equipped with defensive armament. The raised platforms found within the stations did not mount machine guns, rather, they were equipped with high-powered observing instruments used to fix a maritime vessel’s position from the station.

The uneasiness experienced by Americans in the days and years after December 7, 1941 has been obscured over the ensuing years. Life went on after the armistice. Many, like my parents, joined into military service and contributed to the successful outcome for America and the allies. My mother and father both joined the Marines, her from Illinois and him from Ohio. They were anxious to be a part of something larger than themselves. They met in Honolulu, and, after the fighting was finally over, like so many of that era, life went on. But few remember, or realize, the apprehension, the concern that the jewel of the Pacific, one of the most strategic ports in the world, might be attacked again.

History reminds us that the words “Pearl Harbor” refers to the Japanese surprise attack on the home of the US Pacific Fleet on the morning of December 7, 1941. Early that Sunday morning the aircraft carrier, Enterprise, left the islands to deliver F4F Wildcat fighters to Wake Island, and hours later 2,400 died and 1,200 were wounded, and that most of the battleships berthed at the naval station were either sunk or badly damaged. This was the onset of American participation in World War II and given the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, maintaining a naval force was paramount in this location.

Lanakai Pillboxes-11

Lanakai Pillboxes-15To protect the strategic port, a monumental re-building task was undertaken. The islands were hastily fortified with armaments. A prodigious influx of military personnel descended upon the islands. Buildings were built and roads were constructed and such a force would require supplies and repairs on a constant basis. The island of Oahu offered the best natural port in the Hawaiian Islands.

Once the US Navy committed to establishing a major base in the islands, the Army was assigned the mission to defend the port against all known threats.

The Army’s mission was to ensure the safety of the military assets in Hawaii. With little time to lose, America’s Army built an island fortress with sophisticated artillery defenses, multiple airfields, underground command centers, beach defenses, mobile troop formations and large supply center. The facility was designed to provide the Navy with a protected naval station to support the US Pacific Fleet.
For seven years after the initial attack, beyond even the end of the war, the hard lessons learned manifested itself in the increased pace of construction of Oahu’s defenses. By the time the Japanese surrendered in September of 1945, this small island was arguably the most heavily defended place in the world.

By the end of December 1941 the American military began to dismiss the likelihood of another Japanese attack on the islands. Additional raids were still possible, but it was obvious that the majority of the Japanese resources were being deployed to the southwestern Pacific. For the balance of the war though, the Hawaiian Islands and particularly Oahu, were still seen as an exposed base that could receive enemy attention with little or no warning. Allied successes drove the Japanese further away, but the active defense of the island community and the major operating base never ceased. Until the end of the war, and for some time afterward, the coast defense batteries, the coast defense batteries and the Army’s infantry regiments stayed alert.

Lanakai Pillboxes-17The significant impact of the Japanese attack on the American military at Pearl Harbor, and the tactical thinking of the day, brought rise to some thinking outside the box. The coastal artillery batteries for Oahu are among the most interesting and technically sophisticated fortification projects ever launched by the US government. Fortifications to guard the shores and interests of America.
While the Army was was actively looking for ways to quickly augment the artillery defenses of Oahu following the attack, the Navy offered a prize that seemed to solve the problem. Excess heavy artillery in the form of naval turret mounts were soon to become available. The Navy offered heavy weaponry for use as the coastal defense of Oahu.
Eight dual 8 inch gun turrets were to be removed from the aircraft carriers USS Lexington and the USS Saratoga in February of 1942.

Lanakai Pillboxes-20It was also deemed possible that one or more of the turrets from the sunken battleship Arizona could be salvaged and turned over to the Army.

Both offers were quickly accepted.

The Washington Naval Treaty, enacted in 1922, allocated tonnage for aircraft carriers and at the same time restricted new battleship and battlecruiser construction. Warfare aviation was making huge strides in aircraft speed, maneuverability and armaments. Prevailing naval doctrine foresaw that carriers might have to defend themselves against marauding cruisers.

Prior to December 7, 1941, aircraft carriers were fitted with four dual 8 inch gun mounts. By mid-1941 a decision had been made to remove these mounts and to use the space to provide a like number of 5 inch / 38 caliber, dual-purpose guns to significantly enhance the ships anti-aircraft capabilities. The Saratoga had new 5 inch guns installed in Bremerton, but the Lexington was lost at the battle of the Coral Sea before her new guns could be mounted.
The Hawaiian Department accepted the two pairs of 8 inch guns in January of 1942. The decision included the mounting of these guns as four two-turret batteries (four guns per site). With an 18 mile range, all were placed well back from the shoreline. One pair at Brodie Camp, 775 feet above sea level, and one at Salt Lake, 190 feet above sea level, covering the north and south shores. Another pair of guns was at Opaeula, roughly five miles ESE from the village of Haleiwa at 1,120 feet above sea level. The last pair was installed at 1,200 feet above sea level at Wiliwilinui Ridge, about 3.3 miles NE of Diamond Head Crater.

Sometime after WWII, the military sold the ridge to a private individual, and then it was subsequently resold one or perhaps two more times to private individuals until the late 1980’s.  The last private owner submitted plans to build a house on the site and drill a hole through the rocks to provide ventilation for the house.  Around this time the State was promoting it’s Na Ala Hele trail system, and the Lanikai Association proposed the State buy the property, since it was an historic site and was already a well-publicized trail. The State then incorporated the trail into their trail system with two public easements to the top.
Today the pair of structures adhere to the narrow Ka’iwa Ridge, incorrect moniker still intact. Part of another era, another set of circumstances. Painted with colorful graffiti inside and out, these isolated and somber outposts represent a part of the trodden pathway we have traveled as a nation.
Although never tested, the armaments provided a sense of security for the residents of this isolated island community.Lanakai Pillboxes-19
Today this pair of historic sentinels keep watch over the windward communities of the island of Oahu. Keeping watch over the tranquil beauty these islands are known for. And all of those who come are rewarded to enjoy two little concrete bunkers who found another life.

Lanakai Pillboxes-14Today the sharp angular forms of their exteriors and spartan interiors are coated with bright-colored murals. Splashed one over the other in a colorful array of street art. Each carries a message of its own, and collectively, they speak a language of a free people.

Not military issue, not meant for the local art museum. Rather, a favorite art form of mine. Something I like to call urban art – all the way out here in the middle of the Pacific.

View the print version- click on the link below.

Lanakai Pillboxes




PA Davis-photo card