So said the visitor to Ke Awa Lau o Puʻuloa – but he wasn’t speaking of crustaceans, he was speaking of the fishermen he saw as “fat crabs”, that is, a dainty morsel.
He was Mikololou, a man-eating shark from the Kaʻū district on the Island of Hawaiʻi.
He was part of a large company of sharks who came to visit from Hawaiʻi, Maui and Molokaʻi. Most of these had human relatives and were not desirous of eating human flesh, but among them were some who disregarded the relationship, and learned to like them.
The sharks had planned to make a circuit of the islands and perhaps later to visit Kahiki. They stopped at Puʻuloa (Pearl Harbor.)
Kaʻahupahau, hearing those words, knew at once that some of the strangers were man-eaters. Guardians of the area, she and her brother Kahiʻuka went into action to protect the fishermen.
But Kaʻahupahau could not distinguish between the good and the bad sharks; she then she changed into the form of a great net and hemmed in her visitors while the fishermen who answered her signal came to destroy them.
Her brother Kahiʻuka struck at intruders with his tail, one side of which was larger than the other; the fishermen hauled in the nets to shore and Mikololou was cast upon the shore with the evil doers, where they were left to die of the intense heat.
All but Mikololou were soon dead; though his body died his head lived on and as the fishermen passed to and from their work, his eyes followed them and tears rolled down his face. At last his tongue fell out. Some children playing nearby found it. They picked it up and cast it into the sea.
Now Mikololou’s spirit had passed out of his head into his tongue and as soon as he felt the water again he became a whole shark. With a triumphant flop of his tail, he headed for home to join his friends again. When Kaʻahupahau saw him, it was too late to prevent his departure.
“Mikololou lived through his tongue,” or, as the Hawaiians say, “I ola o Mikololou i ka alelo.” This saying implies that however much trouble one may have, there is always a way of escape.
Kaʻahupahau lived in an underwater cave in Honouliuli lagoon (West Loch.) Kahiʻuka lived in an underwater cave off Mokuʻumeʻume (Ford Island) near Keanapuaʻa Point at the entrance of East Loch
Kaʻahupahau may mean “Well-cared for Feather Cloak” (the feather cloak was a symbol of royalty). Kahiʻuka means “Smiting Tail”; his shark tail was used to strike at enemy sharks; he also used his tail to strike fishermen as a warning that unfriendly sharks had entered Puʻuloa.
Such guardian sharks, which inhabited the coastlines of all the islands, were benevolent gods who were cared for and worshiped by the people and who aided fishermen, protected the life of the seas, and drove off man-eating sharks.
Pukui notes Kaʻahupahau in ʻŌlelo Noʻeau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings, No. 105: “Alahula o Puʻuloa, he alahele na Kaʻahupahau”: “Everywhere in Puʻuloa is the trail of Kaʻahupahau.”
“Said of a person who goes everywhere, looking, peering, seeing all, or of a person familiar with every nook and corner of a place.” Kaʻahupahau was noted for traveling about, vigilantly guarding her domain against man-eating invaders.
Puʻuloa also was home to Komoawa, (or Kamoawa,) a large shark who was Kaʻahupahau’s watcher. His cave, called Keaaliʻi, was at the entrance of Puʻuloa. (Thrum, Hawaii-edu) Kualiʻi guards the entrance to Pearl Harbor, while the home of Kaʻahupahau is deeper into Honouliuli lagoon.
Years later, the US Navy, having acquired Pearl Harbor, was working to expand the facilities. This included dredging the channel, adding a coal station and construction of a drydock.
“The dredging of the Pearl Harbor channel was begun long before the drydock was more than desultorily talked of – in 1900. It took many years to deepen, straighten and widen the channel into the lochs sufficiently for a man of war to enter.”
“But the work progressed steadily if slowly, and on December 14, 1911, the cruiser California steamed from Honolulu to the entrance to Pearl Harbor, and then, turning her gray nose inward, proceeded majestically through the still tortuous channel and dropped her anchor off the dry dock site.” (Hawaiian Gazette, November 24, 1916)
The drydock was to be the “Largest In (the) World – Less than a decade will have elapsed between the beginning of the great work and its completion.”
“And when the Pearl Harbor drydock is finished it will be the largest and the finest in the world, capable of accommodating any vessel now built or building, or that probably ever will be built by the United States.” (Hawaiian Gazette, November 24, 1916)
But, during construction, disaster occurred. “Much progress had at that time been made on the construction of the drydock, and success seemed assured. But the contractors had been having trouble with the bed of the drydock … it suddenly blew up with a tremendous explosion. No lives were lost, although there were several narrow escapes.”
“But the work of years had been wrecked … pressure had forced the bottom of the drydock up until it literally burst (on February 17, 1913.”) (Hawaiian Gazette, November 24, 1916)
“For a time it was feared that the entire project might have to be abandoned. But Uncle Sam’s engineers refused to be defeated by natural forces, and finally, after long experiment, mean were found for anchoring the bottom of the drydock.”
“Admiral Harris was one of the board that came to Hawaii to investigate the causes for the explosion and try to find a way of preventing future disasters of similar nature.” (Hawaiian Gazette, November 24, 1916)
They cannot say they were not forewarned. “While at work three Hawaiian fishermen come to where we were working, one of whom was aged, who asked me what we were doing there.
‘Digging a hole 50 feet deep’ was the reply. He then told me to move away from there; and when asked why, he said, ‘These places are tabu; they belong to shark god, name Kaʻahupahau.’” (Richards (a worker on the drydock project,) Navy-mil)
“The old man was watching my men working, and talking to them. Again he came over to me with tears in his eyes and asked me to quit digging ‘til my boss came. “I told him, I can’t do that.” They stayed there several hours, then he said to me that, ‘You people will be punished severely.’” (Richards, Navy-mil)
“Several years ago, some will remember, when work started on the Pearl Harbor naval dry dock, some of the Hawaiians said the location chosen would disturb a “shark god” who would be affronted and they prophesied dire disasters.”
“The work was started and there came a collapse. The forecasters of trouble were prophets. Changes were made in plans and locations.” (Maui News, June 9, 1922)
Merely a coincidence? Some think not.
One of the workers on the project noted, “As we went along pumping the water out of the dock, we pumped out five feet and cleaned the side and plastered and corked all the leak, 15 to 20 days and then pumped till we got to the bottom which was full of mud and in the middle of the dock where I went through a cave of nine feet diameter.”
“Mr. Hartman, assistant boss, found a backbone of a big shark, 14′ 4″ long. I came by where they were working when Mr. Hartman said to me, ‘You certainly got the shark. Here it is.’” (Richards, Navy-mil) (The Story of Mikololou is from Wiggins, Beckwith)