Kīholo (lit. the Fishhook) is a place name that may have been selected as a word descriptive of the coastline along that part of the island where the east-west coast meets the north-south coast and forms a bend similar to the angle between the point and the shank of a large fishhook.
There is no confirmation for this theory, except for our knowledge that Hawaiian place names have a strong tendency to be descriptive. (Kelly)
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.
Samuel M. 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.
It is not known when Hawaiian fishponds began to be constructed, but some fishpond walls have been carbon-dated to the 1400s; in Kona, possibly during the time of ‘Umi.
Kiholo, besides being a place name, was also the name of Kamehameha’s fishpond. Kiholo, besides being the name of Kamehameha’s large fishpond, was also “[a] large hook, formerly made of wood, used to catch the shark and other large fish”. (Kelly)
Kamehameha is said to have ordered the rebuilding of Kiholo pond while he was at Kawaihae, preparing his fleet to attack O‘ahu. Kiholo and other ponds would have supplied food for Kamehameha’s warriors when they sailed off in the great canoe fleet to conquer the chiefs on the Islands of Maui, Molokai and O‘ahu in 1794 and 1795. (Kelly)
Another source identifies 1810 as the year the pond was rebuilt with John Young as the overseer. One note mentions that John Young, Jr. (Keoni Ana) was born at Kiholo while his father was seeing to the rebuilding of Kiholo Pond. In this case, reconstruction
was taking place in preparation for Kamehameha’s return to Hawai‘i Island from O‘ahu. (Ka Hae Hawai‘i, November 1859; Kelly)
The fishpond that once served Kiholo was significant in size. “This village (Kiholo) exhibits another monument of the genius of Tamehameha.”
“A small bay, perhaps half a mile across, runs inland for a considerable distance. From one side to the other of this bay, Tamehameha built a strong stone wall, six feet high in some places, and twenty feet wide, by which he had an excellent fish-pond that is not less than two miles in circumference.”
“There were several arches in the wall, which were guarded by strong stakes driven into the ground so far apart as to admit the water of the sea; yet sufficiently close to prevent the fish from escaping. It was well stocked with fish, and water-fowl were seen swimming on its surface.” (Ellis)
“Aug. 8, 1843. Took the road from Kapalaoa to Kailua on foot. Passed the great fish pond at Kiholo, one of the artificial wonders of Hawaii; an immense work! A prodigious wall run through a portion of the ocean, a channel for the water etc. Half of Hawaii worked on it in the days of Kamehameha.” (Lyons; Maly)
“The fishpond of Kiholo in North Kona, Hawaii, was constantly being threatened by lava flows while Kamehameha was ruler of the kingdom of Hawaii. A flow came down close w the pond of Kiholo; Kamehameha brought a pig and cast it in; the “fires” stopped.”
“The flow had gone down as far as Ka‘upulehu and Mahai‘ula and had almost plunged into the sea. Kamehameha’s bringing of a pig and offering it made the flow stop. There were eyes in the lava to see Kamehameha, and ears to hear his appeals and his words of prayer, and the great blazing lava flow died down.” (Kamakau)
But lava later took the Kiholo fishpond. The 1850s saw several outbreaks of lava from Mauna Loa: in August 1851; in February 1852, when it came within a few hundred yards of Hilo; in August 1855, when it flowed for 16 months; and in January 1859, when it started up again.
Although it began at an elevation of 10,500 feet, the 1859 flow took only eight days to reach the sea, traveling “more than thirty-three miles in a direct line from its source”. The lava continued to flow for about six months at an estimated speed of four to ten miles per hour, destroying the village of Wainānāli‘i and with it, Kiholo Fishpond.
“The flow began to go seaward in the month of February of this year, from the northwest side of Mauna Loa … it turned south to Wailoa, and continued on to the deep sea, smooth lava (pahoehoe) extending into it to about forty chains or more in length. This new point [of land] has been named Lae-Hou.”
“The flow turned on the south side of Wailoa and went to Kiholo where it covered the pond. Then it turned to the west, where a new point is burning now. Lae-Hou is a long point, but this one is shorter. … Kiholo is closed by the lava. It is now only a heap of rocks.” (Eye witness account of flow; Kelly)