One-and-a-half-million years ago, two large volcanoes emerged and created the island of Molokaʻi, Kamakou in the east and Maunaloa in the west. Somewhat later, a third and much smaller caldera, Kauhako, rose to form the Makanalua peninsula on the north side.
Over eons, the north side of the island eroded and fell into the sea, leaving behind the vertical sea cliffs which today make up most of Molokaʻi’s impressive North Shore.
It’s the fifth largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago; 260 square miles in area, 38 miles long and ten miles wide at its widest point.
Situated in the center of the 8 major Hawaiian Islands, Molokaʻi is 25-miles southeast of Oʻahu, and a 25-minute flight from Maui. From the eastern end of the island, it’s only 8-miles across the Pailolo Channel to Maui.
According to the experts, Hawaiians first came to live on Molokaʻi about 650 AD. Those first settlers most likely originated from the Marquesas, with later migrations from Tahiti and other areas in the South Pacific.
The oldest known settlement on Molokaʻi occurred in Hālawa Valley, at the eastern end of the island. This side of the island was heavily populated in pre-contact Hawaii, a result of ample water from the mountains, fertile and level land for farming, and a rich and abundant ocean.
In November, 1778, Captain James Cook sighted Molokaʻi on his first visit to the Sandwich Islands (as he named these islands,) but it wasn’t until 1786 when Captain George Dixon anchored off Molokaʻi’s coast, that Europeans first visited this island.
Lot Kapuāiwa, who later became King Kamehameha V, gained the title to land on the western side of the island. He had a summer house and began raising cattle. Title later passed to Princess Ruth Keʻelikōlani and then to Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop and then (with additional land purchased by Charles R. Bishop) became part of the Bishop Estate
In 1897, a group of Honolulu businessmen (including Judge Alfred S Hartwell, Alfred W Carter, and AD McClellan) purchased 70,000 acres from the trustees of the Bishop Estate and leased another 30,000 acres from the Hawaiian government. Molokaʻi Ranch was formed. At that time, American Sugar Company began sugar cane production on the lands.
About 10 years later, the land was bought out by Charles M Cooke and under his son, George P Cooke, they raised cattle, planted sweet potato and wheat crops and produced honey. It became the second largest cattle ranch in Hawaiʻi and a major producer of beef.
In the early days, the focus was on raising beef cattle for market, plus horses and mules for use and for sale elsewhere. Over time, other ventures were tried, with varying degrees of success. Some of these included raising sheep for market, honey production, a small dairy, and various grains and row crops.
Between 1923 and 1985, several thousand acres were leased to Libby and Del Monte for pineapple cultivation. During those years, pineapple was an economic mainstay for Molokaʻi.
The Cooke family owned Molokaʻi Ranch for almost 80 years until the late-1980s. It was operated as a family corporation separate, from Castle and Cooke.
More recently, activities related to the visitor industry were tried. However, in May 2008, the Ranch reduced its operations on the island.
Today, Molokaʻi Ranch encompasses about 53,000-acres which is roughly one-third of the island. In 2012, under new management, Molokai Ranch announced plans to develop a new strategy focusing on four strategies: animal husbandry, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy and green improvements to existing infrastructure.
Last month, several reports noted that Molokaʻi Ranch will not renew an agreement with Moloka‘i Renewables for a controversial wind farm on its property.
In a statement related to this, a Ranch representative noted, “Our focus is currently on ensuring the success of our newly re-launched ranching operations and our efforts to re-open existing facilities, such as the Maunaloa Lodge, in an effort to create opportunities for the island.”
The image shows a USGS map of the west end of Molokaʻi. In addition, I have added other related images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.