“Soon after James Cook’s visit to Vancouver Island in 1778, non-Natives began fur trading in the Northwest. Trade ships, after stopping in Hawaii, sailed to Vancouver Island to trade manufactured goods for sea otter pelts. … Besides sea otter there were beaver and other furs.” (Holton)
“It did not take long for the Northwest Coast fur traders to discover at Hawaii a new medium for the Canton market. That market was, of course, the prime object of our Northwest fur trade.”
“China took nothing that the United States produced; hence Boston traders, in order to obtain the wherewithal to purchase teas and silks at Canton, spent eighteen months or more of each China voyage collecting a cargo of sea-otter skins, highly esteemed by the mandarins.” (Massachusetts Historical Society)
Practically every vessel that visited the North Pacific in the closing years of the 18th century stopped at Hawai‘i for provisions and recreation.
Edmond Gardner, captain of the New Bedford whaler Balaena (also called Balena,) and Elisha Folger, captain of the Nantucket whaler Equator, made history in 1819 when they became the first American whalers to visit the Sandwich Islands (Hawai‘i.)
A year later, Captain Joseph Allen discovered large concentrations of sperm whales off the coast of Japan. His find was widely publicized in New England, setting off an exodus of whalers to this area.
These ships might have sought provisions in Japan, except that Japanese ports were closed to foreign ships. So when Captain Allen befriended the missionaries at Honolulu and Lahaina, he helped establish these areas as the major ports of call for whalers. (NPS)
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.
In Hawaiʻi, several hundred whaling ships might call in season, each with 20 to 30 men aboard and each desiring to resupply with enough food for another tour ‘on Japan,’ ‘on the Northwest,’ or into the Arctic.
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. Starting with Cook’s arrival, his crew and later the whalers sought and received other pleasures.
Whales were not hunted for food, but primarily for their blubber; the thick layer of fat under their skins that protected them from the freezing cold waters of the far north seas.
Oil could be extracted from the blubber and used to make candles or for burning in oil lamps in the days before electric lights. Whale oil was very valuable and some whale ship owners made huge fortunes from selling the oil.
When the whale was caught it was towed back to the ship where it was “flensed” (cutting away the blubber.) The blubber was hoisted onto the ship’s deck where it was put into barrels and then stored away in the hold.
In 1826, the Wellington, reportedly a British whaling or trading ship, arrived at Lahaina, Maui from San Blas, Mexico. Seeking fresh water, the crew dumped the water they had in a river and refilled the barrels.
Then, “(missionary William) Richards was returning home to Lahaina one evening about dusk and met a native who informed him that there was a new ‘fly’ in the place.”
“He described it as being a very peculiar ‘fly’ that made its presence known by ‘a singing in the ear.’” (the story as told by Prof. WD Alexander; Hawaiian Gazette, April 17, 1903)
Later, “(missionary) Dr. Judd was called upon to treat a hitherto unknown kind of itch, inflicted by a new kind of nolo (fly) described as ‘singing in the ear.’”
“The itch had first been reported early in 1827 by Hawaiians who lived near pools of standing water and along streams back of Lahaina [Maui].” (Warner)
“To the Reverend William Richards, their descriptions of the flies suggested a pestiferous insect, from which heretofore the Islands were fortunately free. Inspection confirmed his fears. The mosquito had arrived!”
“Investigation back-tracked the trail to the previous year and the ship Wellington, whose watering party had drained dregs alive with wrigglers into a pure stream, and thereby to blot one more blessing from the Hawai‘i that had been Eden.”
“Apparently no attempt was made to isolate and destroy the hatchery, nor to prevent spread of the pest throughout the archipelago. The pioneer was Culex quinquefasciatus, the night mosquito. (Warner)
“All evidence pointed to the ship ‘Wellington’ as the carrier of the pest. This story was later corroborated by Mr. Henry A. Pierce, late US Minister to Hawaii in the seventies.”
“Furthermore, up to the year 1826 there was no word In the Hawaiian language for mosquito. The native name for mosquito is makika, a corruption of the name mosquito.” (the story as told by Prof. WD Alexander; Hawaiian Gazette, April 17, 1903)
The rest is history – so has it been for Hawaiʻi’s native birds.
Sure, mosquitoes are annoying to us (and they can be vectors for things like dengue and other diseases that affect humans.)
But, they are devastating to Hawaiʻi’s native birds.
Introduced mosquito-transmitted diseases, avian malaria and avian pox, are thought to be one of the main factors driving loss of native forest birds.
Many of Hawaii’s native birds suffered drastic population declines once introduced mosquitoes began transmitting avian malaria between birds.
Look closely at the picture of the ʻApapane bird – there is a mosquito on the upper-right side of its eye (not a good thing.)
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