“Go hence to your father,
‘Tis there you find line and hook.
This is the hook-‘Made fast to the heavens’
‘Manaia-ka-lani’ – ‘tis called.
When the hook catches land
It brings the old seas together.
Bring hither the large Alae,
The bird of Hina.”
(Queen Liliʻuokalani, in a translation of the Kumulipo, Hawaiʻi’s creation chant, speaks of Hina’s advice to her son Maui.)
The demi-god Maui is the subject of extraordinary stories throughout Polynesia. In many of the accounts he is a mischievous trickster, stealing the secret of fire and helping his mother to dry kapa by lassoing the sun to slow its progression across the sky. (Bishop Museum)
“The most audacious terrestrial undertaking of the demigod Maui was his attempt to rearrange the Islands of the group and assemble them into one solid mass.”
“Having chosen his station at Kaʻena Point, the western extremity of Oʻahu, from which the island of Kauai is clearly visible on a bright day, he cast his wonderful hook, Mana-ia-ka-Iani, far out into the ocean that it might engage itself in the foundations of Kauai.”
“When he felt that it had taken a good hold, he gave a mighty tug at the line. A huge boulder, the Pōhaku O Kauai, fell at his feet.”
“The mystic hook, having freed itself from the entanglement, dropped into Pālolo Valley and hollowed out the crater, that is its grave.” (Manaiakalani, therefore, formed Kaʻau Crater.)
“This failure to move the whole mass of the island argues no engineering miscalculation on Māui’s part. It was due to the underhand working of spiritual forces.”
“Had Maui been more polite, more observant of spiritual etiquette, more diplomatic in his dealings with the heavenly powers, his ambitious plans would, no doubt, have met with better success.” (Emerson)
Another story of Kaʻau relates to how Helumoa at Waikiki got its name. It involves Kakuhihewa, Maʻilikukahi’s descendent six generations later, ruling chief of O‘ahu from 1640 to 1660 (Maʻilikukahi is honored as the first great Chief of O‘ahu and legends tell of his wise, firm, judicious government.)
It is said that the supernatural chicken, Kaʻauhelemoa one day flew down from his home in Kaʻau Crater in Pālolo and landed at Helumoa.
Furiously scratching into the earth, the impressive rooster then vanished. Kākuhihewa took this as an omen and planted niu (coconuts) at that very spot.
Helumoa (meaning “chicken scratch”) was the name he bestowed on that niu planting that would multiply into a grove of reportedly 10,000-coconut trees.
This is the same coconut grove that would later be called the King’s Grove, or the Royal Grove, and would be cited in numerous historical accounts for its pleasantness and lush surroundings.
Kamehameha and his warriors camped near there, when they began their conquest of O‘ahu in 1795. Later, he would return and build a Western style stone house for himself, as well as residences for his wives and retainers in an area known as Pua‘ali‘ili‘i.
Kamehameha I resided at Helumoa periodically from 1795 to 1809. He ended Waikīkī’s nearly 400-year reign as O‘ahu’s capital when he moved the royal headquarters to Honolulu (known then as Kou) in 1808 (to Pākākā.)
Here’s a little geological background on Kaʻau Crater …
The Hawaiian Islands were formed as the Pacific Plate moved westward over a geologic hot spot. Oʻahu is dominated by two large shield volcanoes, Waiʻanae and Koʻolau that range in age from two to four-million years old.
The younger volcanic craters formed after Oʻahu had moved well off the hot spot and the main shield volcanoes had gone dormant for at least two-million years.
Somewhat more than half of the craters of southeast Oʻahu are arranged in linear groups, those dominated by the craters Tantalus, Diamond Head and Koko Crater. In the Diamond Head group is the main Diamond Head vent, Kaimuki crater and Mauʻumae crater. Kaʻau is an extension of this line of craters up into the Koʻolau range.
The Koko group crater line extends for a distance of about six miles, through the Koko Crater vent and from Mānana Island to Koko Head. It includes no less than fourteen separate vents and dikes, of which most are distant from a straight line but a few yards. (Bishop Museum)
“The Kaʻau tuff and basalt flows were erupted during a high stand of the sea (probably during plus 95-foot (Kaʻena) stand of sea)” (about 1-million years ago – a ‘youthful’ volcanic outburst.) (USGS)
Rising magma encountered groundwater and generated steam explosions. Kaʻau crater was probably blasted out by the explosions. Its walls are Koʻolau basalt, overlain by tuff and mudflow debris.
Toward the end of the eruption, lava rose in Kaʻau crater, probably forming a lava lake. Slight recession of the lava in the crater at the end of the eruption left a poorly drained hollow forming a swamp that sometimes contains an open pond. (Volcanoes in the Sea)
(Kaʻau Crater is reached from the end of the Pālolo valley. The trail (muddy and wet) is a closed trail and is not open to the public – news reports note people are repeatedly rescued from there and a couple people recently died on the trail (portions of the trail involve ascending the waterfalls along the way.)