Hawaiians recognize a Floating Island, or an Illusory Land which they call “Ka aina a Kane-huna-moku,” (the land of island-hiding-Kane.)
This appears at times on the ocean fertile green slopes with valleys and streams, and uplands towering up into a cloud-capped summit. Some now living claim to have seen it, and one man at least is said to have visited it and lived there for years.
How this came about was somewhat as follows:
There was once a chief called Keawe-ahu who lived in Kona, Hawaii, who by his exacting disposition and harshness with which he treated his people, won their everlasting hatred.
But the more they complained the more vigorous and exacting became his treatment, until his people made up their minds that they couldn’t stand it any longer and began to cast about for some way to get rid of him.
On a suitable occasion the chief Keawe-ahu was invited to go out fishing, and on his acceptance the old fisherman and his assistant manned the canoe, taking care to hide at either end of the canoe under the little deck and the fishing gear, a couple of extra paddles.
They went far out, trying their luck at various places, but always assured that it would be better farther out. At length when they were so far out that the land was misty and dim in the distance, at a preconcerted signal the two fishermen giving the canoe a vigorous spurt which shot it forward, let the paddles slip from their hands.
The impetus of the canoe left the paddles away behind. Of course the thing to do was to jump overboard and secure them, but this the fishermen were unwilling to do. One claimed that he had a bad cold, the other had rheumatism. Perhaps Keawe-ahu would do it
Keawe-ahu was an excellent swimmer; suspecting nothing, he plunged in without a word. No sooner was he out of the canoe than the fishermen whisked out the hidden paddles and pulled away, never even pausing to look back until they had reached the shore.
When Keawe-ahu realized what had happened, he turned over on his back, ceased swimming and closed his eyes to think. There was a moment of lost consciousness, and when he opened his eyes there before him was a strange, unfamiliar, beautiful land, with fertile green slopes and smiling valleys and limped flowing streams.
He swam to it; landing, he saw near at hand a banana-leaf hut under a big kukui tree, in front of which sat a beautiful maiden. It was at once evident to him that she was a Menehune.
She asked who he was? “I am Kanakao-Kai,” the Man of the Sea, he replied. ”And who are you?” “I am the maiden Ana-like, we live here alone, the three of us together, my father, my mother and I.”
He then inquired more at length concerning the land. He found that it was inhabited by a race of Menehune who lived on the natural fruits of the earth uncooked as they plucked them. Taro and sweet potatoes grew in abundance but were untouched by the people because of the lack of means to cook them.
Keawe-ahu set himself assiduously to two things; winning the favor of the maiden Ana-like, by personal attention and service, and winning the favor of the old folks and people generally by showing them how to make fire, cook food, etc. He succeeded at both.
So Keawe-ahu and Ana-like were married according to such simple custom as was common among the Menehune, and again there was a cooked food ahaʻaina, more generous and wonderful than before.
In due time there came to the new home a son, whom they named Na Maka o ke Ahi – the light of the fireside – equally dear to both the mother and the father.
The years flew by – the son grew up to be like his father and seemed to be drifting away from his mother. Sometimes it seemed as though the father encouraged this; he himself had drifted away from the tenderness of his early affection. In truth he had grown weary of the narrow life and the limited interests.
Keawe-ahu had kept all this to himself, but the keen eyes of his wife had not been blind to the change that had come over him, and suspected the cause of it. She surmised that if the chance of escape ever offered itself he would take advantage of it.
But what about the boy? Would he leave him behind?
His devotion to the lad and his constant and almost exclusive monopoly of him convinced her that the father would never leave him behind. He would either forego his chance of escape or take the boy with him.
At first, naturally and instinctively, she steeled herself against the loss of her son; she would herself carry him off and go into hiding with him. Yet when she came to think of it more carefully she saw how futile this was, Keawe-ahu would certainly find them.
And then too did she want to ruin the boy’s future for the sake of her own enjoyment of him?
He would be better off with his father. On his father’s estates he would be a prince; a prince and a hero in that large and wonderful life that she had heard of. Gradually she became reconciled; if the father went and took the lad, it would break her heart, but it was better so.
Nor was the prospect of their departure so utterly remote. This wonderful floating island was constantly shifting, mostly it drifted in shoreless seas, but sometimes it came within sight of land and several times in earlier years Keawe-ahu had seen the familiar shores of Hawaii; then he didn’t want to leave, now he did.
Any day the chance might come again. And one day, sure enough it did come.
In the early morning at daylight, there they were close to off the coast of Kona. It was the impulse of a moment to seize the lad, throw him across his shoulders, run down the slope and leap into the warm ocean.
It was a long hard swim, but was he not a master swimmer, and had he not, secretly, been training for just this kind of feat? However that may be, they reached the shore safely, though very much exhausted. (This summary is entirely from Legend of the Floating Island, A Kauai version narrated by Mrs S Polani, of Kapaʻa, by JM Lydgate; Thrum.)
It appears that Kane-huna-moku has been seen in many places within the Hawaiian Islands and beyond, which suggests that many instances of coastal submergence in these islands may have been enshrined in oral traditions, sometimes by modifying existing stories.
For example, the occasional reappearances of Kane-huna-moku in Hawaiʻi may be the outcome of a mirage or the appearance of a pumice mat, combined with a perceived need to reinforce some element of tradition. (Nunn; Heggen)