Did you know that the state of Hawaii stretches a distance of 1500 or so miles across the central Pacific Ocean? The Northwestern islands, the oldest in the chain, are now small atolls a thousand miles closer to Tokyo than San Francisco. Those little islands were once volcanoes which over the millennia have eroded to near sea level and someday the main islands will do the same as another island comes from the seam opening in the sea off the Southeastern side of the big island of Hawaii.
Maui, Molokai and Lanai were once a connected mass of separate volcanoes; one big island. The island of Maui is actually two separate volcanic islands connected by the eroded soils from each. Haleakala, the mountain on the large Eastern part, is more than 10,000 feet above sea-level.
Maui is named for the eldest of Hawai’i Loa’s children. Over the centuries he became known as a Polynesian demi-god who dragged up New Zealand and Hawai’i from the bottom of the sea and slowed the sun down so his mother could dry the tapa cloth she made.
The population of Maui has grown more than three-fold since I served as Superintendent of Haleakala National Park in the first half of the 1970s. Condos, suburban housing and hotels have created a boom in the population while entertainers and other wealthy people have built palatial homes and estates.
There are remnants of old Hawaii in the deep valleys of West Maui and on the coast of East Maui from Keanae around to Hana, Kipahulu and Kaupo. People of Native Hawai’ian ancestry are only about 10 percent of Maui’s current population. But the memory of the tens of thousands of people who lived there prior to European contact may be seen in the faces of Hawai’ian elders and children in Hana, a cultural oasis isolated by a difficult road trip from the big hotels at Wailea and Kaanapali. One of the reasons for my novel is to honor the memories of a great civilization and people who settled these islands a millennium and a half ago.
The first third of my novel, Kolea, takes place on Maui and the descriptions of places are as real as I can make them. I have hiked, climbed and ridden horseback over all of the places I describe. But this is a fictional story and I have taken the liberty to shuffle the geography a bit from time to time. I’m a storyteller not a geographer. If you come back tomorrow I’ll give you a tour of Molokai.
Please feel free to share this blog with anyone. Thanks Russ Cahill