July 12, 2003 was an extraordinary day in my life; the experiences that day helped me as Chair of Board of the Land and Natural Resources make the recommendation to the rest of the BLNR (and we then voted unanimously) to impose the most stringent measures to assure protection of the place.
Kuaiheilani, suggested as a mythical place, is the traditional name for what we refer to as Midway Atoll. Described in the legend of Aukelenuiaiku, the origin of this name can be traced to an ancient homeland of the Hawaiian people, located somewhere in central Polynesia. (Kikiloi)
According to historical sources, this island was used by Native Hawaiians even in the late-1800s as a sailing point for seasonal trips to this area of the archipelago.
Theodore Kelsey writes, “Back in 1879 and 1880 these old men used navigation gourds for trips to Kuaihelani, which they told me included Nihoa, Necker, and the islets beyond…the old men might be gone on their trips for six months at a time through May to August was the special sailing season.” (Papahānaumokuākea MP, Cultural Impact Assessment)
Look at a map and you understand the reasoning for the “Midway” reference (actually, it’s a little closer to Asia than it is to the North American continent.)
The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and in particular Midway Atoll, became a potential commodity in the mid-19th century. The United States took formal possession of Midway Atoll in August of 1867 by Captain William Reynolds of the USS Lackawanna.
Shortly afterwards, the USS Saginaw, a Civil War-era side wheel gunboat, was assigned to support improvement efforts at Midway where a coal depot in support of transpacific commerce was to be built.
For six months, she served as a support vessel for divers as they labored to clear a channel into the lagoon. In October 1870, the unsuccessful operation was terminated. Saginaw set course for nearby Kure Atoll to check for castaways before returning to San Francisco. The ship would meet a tragic end on the reef at Kure Atoll where she wrecked in the middle of the night.
Midway’s importance grew for commercial and military planners. The first transpacific cable and station were in operation by 1903. In the 1930s, Midway became a stopover for the Pan American Airways’ flying “clippers” (seaplanes) crossing the ocean on their five-day transpacific passage.
The United States was inspired to invest in the improvement of Midway in the mid-1930s with the rise of imperial Japan. In 1938 the Army Corps of Engineers dredged the lagoon during this period and, in 1938, Midway was declared second to Pearl Harbor in terms of naval base development in the Pacific.
The construction of the naval air facility at Midway began in 1940. At that time, French Frigate Shoals was also a US naval air facility. Midway also became an important submarine advance base.
The reef was dredged to form a channel and harbor to accommodate submarine refit and repair. Patrol vessels of the Hawaiian Sea Frontier forces stationed patrol vessels at most of the islands and atolls
The Japanese planned to assault and occupy the atoll in order to threaten an invasion of Hawaiʻi and draw the American naval forces that had survived the attack on Pearl Harbor out into an ambush against the brunt of the Imperial Japanese Navy.
Midway was of vital importance to both Japanese and American war strategies in World War II, and the raid on the atoll was one of the most significant battles of the war, marking a major shift in the balance of power between the United States and Japan.
As dawn approached at around 0430, June 4, 1942, the American carriers (Enterprise, Hornet, and Yorktown) were about 300 miles north north-east of Midway. Their Japanese counterparts (Akagi, Kaga, Sōryū and Hiryū) were 250 miles northwest of the atoll.
In their attack, the Imperial Japanese Navy lost two thirds of its fleet aircraft carriers (four Japanese aircraft carriers and their accompanying aircraft and crews.) The loss of USS Yorktown was a major blow to the US, but the American wartime production of men and materiel would soon make up the difference and outpace that of the Japanese.
While the primary carrier fleet engagement occurred well to the north of Midway Atoll, much of the “secondary” action occurred within or originated from the atoll.
The Battle of Midway (June 4-7, 1942) is considered the most decisive US victory and is referred to as the “turning point” of World War II in the Pacific. The victory allowed the United States and its allies to move into an offensive position.
In 2000, Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt designated Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge as the Battle of Midway National Memorial, making it the first National Memorial designated on a National Wildlife Refuge.
Of all the Islands and atolls in the Hawaiian archipelago, while Midway is part of the US, it the only one that is not part of the State of Hawaiʻi.
Today, Midway is administered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge within Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, a marine protected area encompassing all of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
The image shows Sand Island and eastern Islands at Midway, November 1941, before the battle. In addition, I have added other related images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.
Downtown Honolulu used to be known as Kou, a district roughly encompassing the area from Nuʻuanu Avenue to Alakea Street and from Hotel Street to Queen Street (which, then, was the edge of the waterfront) – essentially the heart of the present downtown.
Honolulu Harbor, known as Kuloloia, was entered by the first foreigner, Captain William Brown of the English ship Jackall, in 1794. He named the harbor Fair Haven (some other foreign captains referred to it as Brown’s Harbor.)
The name Honolulu (with numerous variations in spelling) soon came into use. In the 1800s, the City of Honolulu was the area near the harbor which is now referred to as downtown Honolulu.
Today, some of us simply call it “Town.”
OK, so what really makes up the present day City & County of Honolulu … and how big is it?
In expanse, Honolulu is the “largest” city in the world. We know it includes the island of Oʻahu; but that’s not all. Let’s take a look at how and what makes up Honolulu – to get there, though, we first need to wade through some political and legal mumbo jumbo.
The State Constitution states that the area of the State includes the land, reefs and archipelagic waters:
“Hawaiʻi Constitution; Article XV – State Boundaries; Section 1. The State of Hawaiʻi shall consist of all the islands, together with their appurtenant reefs and territorial and archipelagic waters, included in the Territory of Hawaiʻi on the date of enactment of the Admission Act, except the atoll known as Palmyra Island, together with its appurtenant reefs and territorial waters; but this State shall not be deemed to include the Midway Islands, Johnston Island, Sand Island (offshore from Johnston Island) or Kingman Reef, together with their appurtenant reefs and territorial waters.”
The Constitution also gives the legislature the authority to create Counties and other political subdivisions: “Article VIII – Local Government Creation; Section 1. The legislature shall create counties, and may create other political subdivisions within the State, and provide for the government thereof. Each political subdivision shall have and exercise such powers as shall be conferred under general laws.”
State law (Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes) says the archipelagic waters and smaller islands are included when describing districts: Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes – §4-3 Districts include archipelagic waters, etc. Each of the districts includes archipelagic waters and smaller islands adjacent thereto. (Archipelagic means an expanse of water with many scattered islands. (Lee))
So, before we see what “Honolulu” really is, let’s look at the make-up of the State.
Hawaiʻi is geographically an archipelago. It consists of eight main islands, plus a chain of islands extending 1,100-miles to the northwest. Johnston Atoll (Kalama), Palmyra Island and Kingman Reef to the south of Hawaiʻi were part of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, but the Admission Act excluded these from the geographical boundaries of the State of Hawaiʻi. (Van Dyke)
The Main Hawaiian Island group consists of the following islands: Hawaiʻi, Maui, Oʻahu, Kauaʻi, Molokai, Lānaʻi, Niʻihau, Kahoʻolawe, Molokini, Lehua and, Kaʻula.
Papahānaumokuākea (Northwestern Hawaiian Islands) consists of all islands, atolls, reefs and shoals in the Hawaiian Archipelago northwest of Kauaʻi and Niʻihau. All islands, atolls, reefs and shoals in the Hawaiian Archipelago, except for the Midway Islands, are included in the State of Hawaiʻi under the Admission Act, the State Constitution and the Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes.
Nine larger islands, or island groups, in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are: Nihoa, Necker Island, French Frigate Shoals, Gardner Pinnacles, Maro Reef, Laysan Island, Lisianski Island, Pearl and Hermes Atoll, and Kure Atoll (southeast to northwest.)
Many of these islands, or groups of islands, actually consist of many islets; for example, French Frigate Shoals contains 13 specific islets. The nine major islands, or groups of islands, range in size from Maro Reef with less than one acre to Laysan Island with 913 acres.
OK, some more political and legal mumbo jumbo. The origin of county government within the American context is found in the Organic Act (June 14, 1900) which created the Territory of Hawaiʻi and which gave it the authority to establish municipalities.
The Territorial Legislature made a first attempt at creation of the four counties in 1903 (Act 31;) however, in 1904, the Territorial Supreme Court voided that effort on procedural grounds. The Legislature’s second attempt in 1905, “The County Act” (Act 39,) was successful, though it required an override of a veto by the Territorial Governor. (Konishi)
The City and County of Honolulu consists of the island of Oʻahu, all other islands not included in any other county and adjacent waters thereto. (Legislative Reference Bureau) Essentially, this means the City and County of Honolulu (“Honolulu”) covers all of Oʻahu (and its surrounding islets) plus the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (except Midway.)
As an example of the expansive size of the archipelago, if you put the Big Island on Washington DC, Kure Atoll would be in Bismarck North Dakota. San Francisco to New York is 2,800 to 2,900 miles; the entire Hawaiʻi chain stretches over 1,500 miles – more than halfway across the continent. (Much of that is “Honolulu.”)
While Hawaiʻi is the world’s most-isolated, populated-place, we are about: 2,500-miles from the US mainland, Samoa & Alaska; 4,000-miles from Tokyo, New Zealand & Guam, and 5,000-miles from Australia, the Philippines & Korea. We sometimes overlook the size of our largest City, Honolulu.
There are some things that get in the way of determining the actual “area” of Honolulu. In part, there is disagreement on the status of the archipelagic waters (and whether it is appropriate to include these in the “area” of Honolulu) – especially in the marine expanse between Kure and Kauaʻi.
The international community has recognized the special links between coastal peoples and their adjacent waters repeatedly, and the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone and the expanded 12-nautical-mile territorial sea are premised upon these links. (Van Dyke)
Some have suggested the linkage of “historic waters” (in and around the islands, including the connecting channels in between.) The linkages are clearer within the Main Hawaiian Islands, maybe not so much to the northwest. If not in overall area (land and connecting water,) Honolulu is clearly the largest city in expanse from Kure to Oʻahu.
The image shows the Hawaiian Islands over the North American continent. In addition, I have included other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.
Mokupāpapa (literally, flat island) is the name given to Kure Atoll by officials of the Hawaiian Kingdom in the 19th century. (Papahānaumokuākea) It is approximately 1,200-miles northwestward of Honolulu and 56-miles west of Midway Islands. The International Date Line lies approximately 100-miles to the west.
Kure Atoll is the most northwestern island in the Hawaiian chain and occupies a singular position at the “Darwin Point:” the northern extent of coral reef development, beyond which coral growth cannot keep pace with the rate of geological subsidence. Kure’s coral is still growing slightly faster than the island is subsiding.
“The Island in Lat. 28 degrees 23’ N and Long. 178 degrees 30’ W … is about three miles in circumference. It is composed of broken coral and shells and is covered near the shore with low bushes. In the season it abounds with sea birds and at times there is a considerable number of hair seals (monk seals.)”
“There is always an abundance of fish and in a great variety. The highest part of the island is not more than ten feet above the level of the sea. The only fresh water is what drains through the sand after the heavy rains. From the specimens of dead shells lying about the beach, there appears to be a great variety of shells.” (Captain Brown, Hawaiian Gazette, September 21, 1886)
Kure Atoll was found in 1823 by Captain Benjamin Morrell, Jr. of the schooner Tartar, who claimed Kure to have an abundance of sea turtles and sea elephants. In 1827, the Russian ship Moller, under Captain Stanikowitch re-discovered the atoll; he named it “Cure Island” to honor a Russian navigator. (cordell-org) It is more generally known as ‘Kure’ today.
Hawai‘i’s whaling era began in 1819 when two New England ships became the first whaling ships to arrive in the Hawaiian Islands. At that time, whale products were in high demand; whale oil was used for heating, lamps and in industrial machinery; whale bone was used in corsets, skirt hoops, umbrellas and buggy whips.
Rich whaling waters were discovered near Japan and soon hundreds of ships headed for the area. The central location of the Hawaiian Islands between America and Japan brought many whaling ships to the Islands. Whalers needed food and the islands supplied this need from its fertile lands.
One such ship, the British whaler Gledstanes, under the command of Captain JR Brown, was crossing these waters and just before midnight on June 9, 1837, the Gledstanes struck the reef on Kure Atoll (only one of the crew was lost, he having jumped overboard in a state of intoxication.)
The Captain and rest of the crew launched three ships’ boats and made landfall on ‘Ocean Island’ (now known as Green Island.) The following day, crew returned to the vessel and, after cutting away the masts, were able to salvage some provisions. The next day the wreck broke apart in the heavy surf. (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, January 29, 1838)
The crew established a makeshift camp on the island and passed their time picking up pieces of the wreckage that had been washed over the reef and into the lagoon with the intention of constructing a vessel from the salvage.
After assembling axes and adzes, necessary for building the craft, from whale spades and augers and chisels from lances, using the salvaged material, the keel of a 38-foot boat was laid two weeks after the loss of Gledstanes.
Within several months, the vessel was completed and determined to be seaworthy; it was named ‘Deliverance.’ Captain Brown and eight others set sail for the Main Hawaiian Islands, while the rest of the crew remained on the island.
While en route, Deliverance encountered the American ship Timoleon, who supplied them with much needed provisions. Deliverance arrived at Honolulu sometime in November, 1837, while the remaining crew on the island was rescued several months later.
Researchers discovered evidence of the Gledstanes wreckage in 2008. The site consists of mainly large heavy artifacts scattered over a 200-foot section of the reef at depths ranging from 6 to 20-feet.
Artifacts include four large anchors, what appear to be two cannons, a try pot (a cauldron for rendering whale oil,) a pile of anchor chain, approximately 50-pig iron ballast bars and copper fasteners of various sizes.
Some of the artifacts are extremely eroded, suggesting that they are affected by scouring due to wave and current activities. The distribution of the site suggests that the vessel hit the fringing reef and broke up, leaving artifacts resting on the reef top and cuts in the reef.
Unlike all other islands and atolls in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Kure Atoll is the only land area owned by the state of Hawaiʻi – all of the other Northwestern Islands are owned by the US government.
While I was at DLNR, we created Refuge rules that established “a marine refuge in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands for the long-term conservation and protection of the unique coral reef ecosystems and the related marine resources and species, to ensure their conservation and natural character for present and future generations.“
This started a process where several others followed with similar protective measures. The BLNR unanimously adopted the State’s Refuge rules, President George W Bush declared it a Marine National Monument and UNESCO designated it a World Heritage Site.
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is administered jointly by three co-trustees – the Department of Commerce, Department of the Interior and the State of Hawaiʻi – and is one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world, encompassing nearly 140,000-square miles of the Pacific Ocean. (Lots of information and images here are from a summary on the Monument website.)
The image shows an anchor from the Gledstanes wreckage (NOAA.) In addition, I have included other related images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.
Around 7:20 Sunday morning, a single-engine Japanese reconnaissance plane entered the cloud-streaked airspace over Pearl Harbor. Launched earlier that morning from the heavy cruiser Chikuma, the plane circled as the pilot studied the ground below.
Having seen all he needed to see, at precisely 7:35 the recon pilot radioed his report to the striking force, which quickly relayed the information to the Japanese planes now approaching Oahu from the north: “Enemy formation at anchor; nine battleships, one heavy cruiser, six light cruisers are in the harbor.”
The attack on Pearl Harbor set in motion a series of battles in the Pacific between the Japanese and the United States.
With the fall of Wake Island to the Japanese in late-December 1941, Midway became the westernmost US outpost in the central Pacific.
Midway occupied an important place in Japanese military planning. According to plans made before Pearl Harbor, the Japanese fleet would attack and occupy Midway and the Aleutian Islands in Alaska as soon as their position in South Asia was stabilized.
Defenses on the atoll were strengthened between December and April. Land-based bombers and fighters were stationed on Eastern Island. US Marines provided defensive artillery and infantry.
Operating from the atoll’s lagoon, seaplanes patrolled toward the Japanese-held Marshall Islands and Wake, checking on enemy activities and guarding against further attacks on Hawaiʻi.
The turning point in the Pacific came in June 1942, when the US surprised and overpowered the Japanese fleet in the Battle of Midway.
That victory was possible, in large part, because of the work of a little-known naval codebreaker named Joe Rochefort. (Rochefort, responsible for the Pacific Fleet’s radio intelligence unit at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, felt immense guilt at the failure to predict the Pearl Harbor attack.)
The Japanese Combined Fleet depended on a complex system of codes to communicate by radio. The codes were regularly modified to avoid detection, but in the confusion of the rapid Japanese expansion in the South Pacific the change scheduled for early-1942 was delayed.
The course to Midway started not on a map in a top secret chart room with top strategists and tacticians contemplating Japan’s next move, but was set by the deciphering of messages from the Japanese Fleet.
This was done by a handful of US Navy intelligence officers stationed at Pearl Harbor.
In the spring of 1942, it took cryptanalysts in Australia, Washington, DC and Hawai‘i to achieve the breakthrough that made an American victory at Midway possible.
The Japanese naval code, known as JN 25, consisted of approximately 45,000 five-digit numbers, each number representing a word or a phrase.
Breaking this code, which was modified regularly, meant finding the meanings of enough of these numbers that a whole message could be decrypted by extrapolating the missing parts.
According to one of the leading codebreakers involved, it was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle with most of its pieces always missing.
Leading the codebreaking effort was Station Hypo, the code name for the combat intelligence unit at Pearl Harbor under Commander Joseph Rochefort.
Rochefort included members of the band from the battleship ‘California,’ damaged at Pearl Harbor. He thought their musical skills might make them adept codebreakers in much the same way that Marine bandsmen used to serve as fire control technicians on ship — the ability to quickly read and play music made them excellent mathematical problem solvers.
By May 8, Rochefort knew that a major enemy operation, whose objective was sometimes called AF, was in the offing and that it would take place somewhere in the Central Pacific.
When they checked this against their partially solved map grid, the found that “A” represented on coordinate of Midway’s potion and “F” represented the other.
His superiors in Washington weren’t convinced; they devised a test that would flush out the location of AF.
The radio station on Midway dispatched an uncoded message falsely reporting that the water distillation plant on the island had broken, causing a severe water shortage. Within 48 hours, a decrypted Japanese radio transmission was alerting commanders that AF was short of water.
Several days later, he was sure the target was Midway. As a result, the Americans entered the battle with a very good picture of where, when and in what strength the Japanese would appear.
On June 4, 1942, armed with information from Rochefort and his team, American planes caught the Japanese by surprise and won the decisive battle – it marked the turning point in the war in the Pacific.
In the four-day sea and air battle, 292 aircraft, four Japanese aircraft carriers – Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu, all part of the six carrier force in the attack on Pearl Harbor six months earlier – and a heavy cruiser were sunk. There were 2,500 Japanese casualties.
The US lost the carrier Yorktown, the destroyer USS Hammann, 145 aircraft and suffered 307 casualties.
The image shows Midway in November 1941. (The inspiration and information in this summary comes from NPS, NPR and Naval History) In addition, I have included other images and maps related to the Battle of Midway in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.