“Wai o ke ola! Wai, waiwai nui! Wai, nā mea a pau, ka wai, waiwai no kēlā!” (Water is life! Water is of great value! Water, the water is that which is of value for all things!) (Joe Rosa; Maly)
Water was so valuable to Hawaiians that they used the word “wai” to indicate wealth. Thus, to signify abundance and prosperity, Hawaiians would say waiwai.
“Kekaha wai ‘ole na Kona” (“waterless Kekaha of the Kona district”) speaks of Kekaha, the portion of North Kona extending north of Kailua Bay from Honokōhau to ʻAnaehoʻomalu. It is described as “a dry, sun-baked land.”)
Kamakau notes during the 1770s, “Kekaha and the lands of that section” were held by descendants of the Nahulu line, Kameʻeiamoku (living at Kaʻūpūlehu) and Kamanawa (at Kīholo,) the twin half-brothers of Keʻeaumoku, the Hawai‘i island chief.
It is the home of Kamanawa, at Kīholo, and its fresh water resources that we look at today.
Situated within the ahupuaʻa of Puʻuwaʻawaʻa, this area has ancient to relatively recent (1801 Hualālai eruption and the 1859 Pu‘u Anahulu eruption.)
Kīholo (lit. the Fishhook) refers to the legend which describes how in 1859 the goddess Pele, hungry for the ‘awa and mullet, or ʻanae, which grew there in the great fishpond constructed by Kamehameha I, sent down a destructive lava flow, grasping at the fish she desired. (DLNR)
This place name 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)
While only a handful of houses are here today, in ancient times, there was a village that with many more that called Kiholo home.
“This village exhibits another monument of the genius of Tamehameha (Kamehameha I.) 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, 1823)
Where it was feasible, sometimes in small embayments, and other times directly on the coastal reefs, Hawaiians built walled ponds (loko kuapā) by building a stone wall, either in a large semicircle – from the land out onto the reef and, circling around, back again to the land—or to connect the headlands of a bay, they enclosed portions of the coastal waters, often covering many acres.
These ponds provided sanctuaries for many types of herbivorous fish. One or more sluice gates (mākāhā) built into the wall of a pond allowed clean, nutritious ocean water and very young fish to enter the pond. This was the type of fishpond that was reported to have been built at Kīholo by early visitors to the area. (Kelly)
While Ellis credits Kamehameha with building Ka Loko o Kīholo (The Pond of Kīholo,) it is more likely that the fishpond was built in the fifteenth to the early part of the seventh centuries and that Kamehameha later repaired and rebuilt it. (Kelly)
It was in operation well after that. “Took the road from Kapalaoa to Kailua on foot. Passed the great fish pond at Kīholo, one of the artificial wonders of Hawaiʻi; 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.” (Lorenzo Lyons, August, 8, 1843; Maly)
Fishing and fish from the pond provided much of the food for the villagers. In addition, due to the limited rainfall and no surface streams, they also planted sweet potatoes, at least seasonally (probably just before the winter rains were expected, whatever soil was available was piled in heaps and nourished with leaves and other vegetable matter.) (Kelly)
Kīholo and other ponds (ie Pā‘aiea (once where the Kona Airport is situated)) 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, Moloka‘i and O‘ahu in 1794 and 1795. (Kelly)
“The natives of this district (also produced) large quantities of salt, by evaporating sea water. We saw a number of their pans, in the disposition of which they display great ingenuity. They have generally one large pond near the sea, into which the water flows by a channel cut through the rocks, or is carried thither by the natives in large calabashes.” (Ellis, 1823)
“After remaining there some time, it is conducted into a number of smaller pans about six or eight inches in depth, which are made with great care, and frequently lined with large evergreen leaves, in order to prevent absorption. Along the narrow banks or partitions between the different pans, we saw a number of large evergreen leaves placed.”
“They were tied up at each end, so as to resemble a shallow dish, and filled with sea water, in which the crystals of salt were abundant. … it has ever been an essential article with the Sandwich Islanders, who eat it very freely with their food, and use large quantities in preserving their fish.” (Ellis, 1823)
“Salt was one of the necessaries and was a condiment used with fish and meat, also as a relish with fresh food. Salt was manufactured only in certain places. The women brought sea water in calabashes or conducted it in ditches to natural holes, hollows, and shallow ponds (kaheka) on the sea coast, where it soon became strong brine from evaporation. Thence it was transferred to another hollow, or shallow vat, where crystallization into salt was completed.” (Malo)
The 1850s saw several outbreaks of lava from Mauna Loa: in August 1851; in February 1852 (it came within a few hundred yards of Hilo;) and in August 1855, when it flowed for 16-months.
Then, in 1859, activity shifted to the northwestern side of the mountain. A flow started on January 23rd at an elevation of 10,500 feet; it came down to the sea on the northwest coast in two branches, at a point just north of Kīholo. On January 31st the stream had reached the sea, more than thirty-three miles in a direct line from its source – the first eruption in historic times from a high altitude to accomplish the extraordinary feat. (Bryan, 1915)
The 1859 flow basically destroyed Kīholo and transformed it from a former residence of chiefs to a sparsely populated fishing village. In the early 20th century, Kīholo became the port for Puʻuwaʻawaʻa Ranch, some 10 miles inland near Puʻuanahulu. Cattle were shipped from Kīholo to Honolulu until 1958. The construction of Queen Kaʻahumanu Highway in 1975 ended Kīholo’s former isolation. (Kona Historical Society)
What about the water?
Today, evidence remains of the fresh groundwater flow through subterranean lava tubes and chambers out into the bay. There is a series of caves in Puʻuwaʻawaʻa that was formed from lava tubes. The ceilings of lava tubes often collapsed in some places and were left intact in others, forming caves with relatively easy access through the collapsed areas.
Such caves were used for shelters by Hawaiians, perhaps during the summer months when they came to gather salt or to fish. The place name Keanalele (the discontinuous cave) is descriptive of caves found just inland of the coast in the ahupua‘a of Pu‘uwa‘awa‘a between Kīholo and Luahinewai (more on this in another post.)
Some of the caves contain fresh or brackish water, particularly those located toward the makai (seaward) end of the cave series. Caves that contained water were precious to the inhabitants of the area, even if the water in them was slightly brackish. (Kelly) One of these is identified as Wai O Keanalele, with three feet of almost fresh water..
On January 25, 2002 the Board of Land and Natural Resources transferred responsibility for State-managed lands within the ahupua‘a of Pu‘uwa‘awa‘a and Pu‘u Anahulu from its Land Division to the Divisions of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) and State Parks.
The portion that was made the responsibility of the Division of State Parks was designated the Kīholo State Park Reserve. The Kīholo State Park Reserve is comprised of 4,362 acres and includes an 8-mile long wild coastline along the Kona Coast of the Island of Hawai‘i (bounded by Queen Kaʻahumanu Highway on the east, the Pu‘uwa‘awa‘a/Kaʻupulehu district boundary on the south, the shoreline on the west and the Pu‘u Anahulu/ʻAnaehoʻomalu ahupua‘a boundary on the north.)
The image shows the Kīholo water cave of Wai O Keanalele (Moore.) In addition, I have added others similar images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.