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Roger Coryell, February 1947. Bishop Museum Archives.
Roger Coryell, December 31, 1951. Bishop Museum Archives.
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Winter Waves

By: DeSoto Brown

Storms over the Pacific Ocean produce swells that travel long distances to the Hawaiian Islands. When it’s winter in the Southern Hemisphere, waves from storms there will break on Hawaiʻi’s south shores during our summer. The reverse happens during our winter here in the Northern Hemisphere, when we get waves on north-facing coasts.

The regular occurrence of winter surf is why the annual major surf competitions on Oʻahu’s North Shore are scheduled early in the year. For more about surfing, come to Bishop Museum to check out our outstanding surfing exhibit, Mai Kinohi Mai. It’s on view til May 2020.

Big waves can mean more than surfing contests, however, because sometimes waves can be so large that they cause destruction on land. These two photos prove that!

A home has been pushed off its foundation and a car is left wedged against two hala trees by unexpectedly large waves at Keaukaha, Hilo, Hawaiʻi Island, in February 1947. (Roger Coryell, Bishop Museum Archives)

Storm surf has covered Hilo’s Bayfront Highway with rocks on December 31, 1951. Note the wave breaking through the guardrail on the right. To the left are buildings at the intersection of Kamehameha Avenue and Waianuenue Street in downtown Hilo. (Roger Coryell, Bishop Museum Archives)

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