O kane ia Waiʻoloi, O ka wahine ia Waiʻololā
Hanau ka Palaoa noho i kai
Kiaʻi ia e ka ʻAoa noho i uka
Male the narrow waters, female for the broad waters
Born is the Palaoa (whale) living in the ocean
Guarded by the ʻAoa (sandlewood) that grew in the forest
O ke kaʻina a palaoa e kaʻi nei
E kuwili O haʻahaʻa i ka moana
The procession of whales leading forward
To spin to the depths of the sea.
The Hawaiian Chant of Creation, known as the Kumulipo, is a genealogical creation chant composed in Hawaii for the chief, Ka-’I-i-mamao, about the eighteenth century, comprising more than 2,000 lines.
It contains 2,000 names representing 812 generations the sum of linear time in that history is about 22,300 years, or roughly one precession of the equinoxes dating back to around 21,000 BC. (Rubellite Kawena Kinney Johnson)
The koholā or whale was formerly called the palaoa. (Malo) “The whale is the largest ocean creature and a majestic manifestation of Kanaloa.
From the ivory of this creature. The highly prized ‘Palaoa’ or whale-tooth pendant is carved. This palaoa was only worn by ali‘i of highest rank.” (Kanahele)
The scarcity of the palaoa and its connection to Kanaloa brought mana to the carver, to the pendant itself and eventually to the wearer of the pendant.
The aliʻi who possessed this kinolau or body form of the great God would himself/herself acquire the characteristics, intelligence and knowledge of the God. Therefore it would be advantageous for any aliʻi to secure the ivory whale-tooth of this Kanaloa body form. (KIRC)
In the ocean, outside lay a belt called kai-kohola, where swim the whales, monsters of the sea; beyond this lay the deep ocean, moana.
If any large fish – such as a whale – or a log strapped with iron, should be cast ashore, it was to be offered to the gods, (ie, it was to be given to the priests for the use of the king). The whale was not taken by Hawaiian fishermen. (Malo)
The whale species hunted in the 19th century were primarily the North Pacific right, the humpback, the fin and the gray whale; they also caught blue and sperm whale. The right and humpback are baleen species; rather than teeth, baleen plates filter food from water.
Whaling was an integral part of the development of many countries in the early nineteenth century. Whale blubber produced oil that lit the lamps and greased the machines of many of the most “modern” inventions of the time. It was said that whale oil was the illumination and lubrication of the Industrial Revolution. (Bishop Museum)
As the traditional hunting grounds of the Atlantic began to be fished out, whalers turned to the plentiful waters of the Pacific. Some of the most bountiful harvesting grounds were found off the coast of Japan.
Japan’s ports however, were closed to foreign vessels; Hawai‘i became a perfect destination for these whaling fleets needing a place to dock, replenish supplies, repair the ships and rest the crews,.
Whalers began arriving in Hawai‘i in 1819, and by 1822 over sixty ships were docking annually. Honolulu, Lāhainā and Kōloa were the primary anchorage areas for the whalers. By 1846, the number of whaling ships arriving in Hawai‘i had reached 596-ships.
The sailors, and their ships needed supplies, food, tools, liquor and many more commodities that often newly arrived “businessmen” were ready to supply. Hawai‘i became a “gold rush” town that attracted people of all types.
Some of the most influential businesses in modern Hawaiian history got their start from the capitalist opportunities of this period. Hawai‘i also saw the loss of young Hawaiian men who traveled aboard these ships to the northwest coast of America and other destinations. (Bishop Museum)
The whale at Bishop Museum, unlike those that were caught for their oil, is actually a sperm whale. It was the first specimen installed in Hawaiian Hall in December of 1901 and has hung there ever since. It is over 55 feet long and weighs over two tons. (Bishop Museum)