Kaimū literally means ‘gathering [at the] sea [to watch surfing].’ This land section and village, at Kalapana, Hawaiʻi, was noted for its surf and its black sand beach. The black sand was formed by steam explosions that occurred when a lava flow entered the ocean in about 1750. (Pukui) “It has a sandy beach, where canoes may land with safety; and according to the houses numbered to-day contains 725 inhabitants. Including the villages in the immediate vicinity, along the coast, the populations would probably amount to 2,000”. (Ellis, 1823)
“The most important reason that settlement in the Kalapana area was on the coast was the availability of fresh food from the sea. Fishing was on the shore, which also hosted gathering of shellfish, crabs and limu, and from canoes. Taro and breadfruit were major crops of the better watered coastal areas in the east but especially in the forested uplands. Bananas, sugar cane, and ‘awa were also grown in the uplands.” “Less than a mile further on, westwards, lies the village of Kalapana, one of the largest Hawaiian villages in the Islands.” (Kinney, 1913) In March 1990, Kīlauea’s ongoing Puʻu ʻŌʻō-Kupaianaha eruption (that began on January 3, 1983) entered its most destructive period of the 20th century when lava flows turned toward Kalapana, an area cherished for its historic sites and black sand beaches. By the end of the summer, the entire community, including a church, store, and 100 homes, were buried beneath 50-80 feet of lava.