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Mauna Loa Eruption, 1881.

Cover Image: Masthead of Ka Nupepa Kuokoa published on August 20, 1881.

Aloha Nūhou Monday!

On Wednesday the 14th of December, we will switch out the newspaper volume one last time in the Bicentennial of Printing in Hawaiʻi exhibit on the third floor of Hawaiian Hall. We will feature Ka Nupepa Kuokoa from the year 1881. This year was filled with challenges for Princess Liliʻuokalani. King Kalākaua departed on his trip around the world, appointing Liliʻuokalani as Regent. There was a great smallpox epidemic she needed to deal with. And to top it off, Mauna Loa was still very active.

Image: “Ka Weli o Hilo.” Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, August 20, 1881, p. 1.


Volcanic fires devour the lehua and the pāhoehoe lava fields of Mokaulele—Pele’s voice crackles in the Hala Groves of Upeloa—Puʻuhonu and the Forests of Upeloa are covered with sightseers—Pele heats up town—Pele is close to diving into the Waters of Waiolama and roiling amongst the mullet of Waiākea—People attempt to block the Path of Pele—The Regent of the Kingdom speaks at Haili Church.

O “Greatest Prize of the Hawaiian Nation [Ka Nupepa Kuokoa],” the looking glass of mine; Aloha to you.

Exalted one, please allow me to provide some clarity as to the activity of Pele, the earth-devouring woman who is heating up the windward side of beautiful Hilo town, the calm gathering place of birds at Haili, so that your many friends who live from where the sun rises at Haʻehaʻe to where it sets at Lehua will know.

In the evening of Tuesday the 2nd of August, I got on board the deck of the Likelike headed for the Kanilehua Rain of Hilo, in order to tour the areas of Volcanic Fire. And while I was delighted with seeing Pele, I was fortunate to join in on the journey of the Regent of the Kingdom on the very same path, as well as to see the makaʻāinana of Hawaiʻi Island. The time on the Likelike was filled with pleasing music by the National Band, with the sweet tune of their brass instruments. The coast was spread over with heart-stirring songs performed by that group, and this was our sole accompaniment until our feet tread upon the sands of Hanakahi.

On Friday the 5th, I went with Rev. J. S. Kalana, J. H. Kaumialii, and E. P. Hoaai, to see the wondrous deeds of that lively one at that branch of fire that is trampling through the hala groves of Upeloa, and reaching Kalanakamaa. While my companions ran quickly in order to see Pele, we found ourselves atop a hill upland of the residence of S. Kipi next to Upeloa. When I calmed the restlessness of my friends, saying we should stop for a bit and see the actual state of the fires, this was agreeable to them.

And while we stared at the scene projected before our eyes, we understood the nature of the fires all the way up Laumania to the fire before our eyes.

This is the impression we got. The lava upland of Laumania, should it go straight down to the ocean, Piʻihonua, Waiānuenue, and Wailuku River, would be swept away, along with a portion of town adjacent to Waiānuenue Street, and Kaipalaoa would be where it goes underground. But I will say that the fire is very far from town. It is in the forests where it is toppling the ʻōhiʻa and the koa trees. It is perhaps over 6 miles from town. I will put aside talk of this branch of fire rooting through the forests.

And as for the fire spreading over Kukuinui that destroyed the home of John Hall [Keoni Holo], swallowed whole by Pele, I say that is the fire that is surging like water in that section of Puna, that being Puʻuhonu and Hālaʻi Hill. And flowing in the low-lying lehua forests of Mokaulele and the hala forests of Upeloa. This is the fire that is heating up town, and it is believed that Kūkūau and those places will vanish, covered by the fires as it moves about. There are two branches of fire that are headed down to the sea. The first is heading down by way of Alanaio River, its destination being Waiolama.

When I left Hilo for Honolulu, the front of the flow was at the Puna side of Puʻuhonu and it was quietly moving down. I estimate the distace of this branch of fire to be about 1 mile or so from Kūkūau Street going to Kaʻū until the lava. It seemed like it was extinguished, yet there was fire within the pāhoehoe rock.

The second branch of fire was flowing by the branch closest to Kalanakamaa and Kalepolepo. This is the branch closest to the ocean. It would seem that the distance of this fire is only half a mile from the road to Kaʻū and Waiākea Mill. This is the lava that will destroy Waiākea and some other places.

Remember, O Friends, from the first branch I described to the second branch, the distance between the two according to my understanding is a full mile or more. These branches are moving toward the sea and seemingly are going to enclose Kūkūau and some other areas. Should Pele continue to move by way of those rivers, the rivers will be filled and will flood here and there, and that will be big trouble for town. Should the flat foundation be covered over by the first branch and the second, there will be much burning, then Hilo Town will become a pāhoehoe lake for Pele. But God sees Her deeds. Those were descriptions of the lava activity. I returned to Honolulu, and the fire had cooled a bit, but how is it now?

The things people do before the Lava.—In the age of enlightenment, there are many who call Pele a God, and therefore there are those who went bearing gifts to Pele, while saying, “Here is the Gift; you all go back upland.” Some people pray before Pele with ʻawa, a jug of rum, a pig atop a spring, and sacrificing to Pele. Asking Pele to save the spring and to go back to where she came from. But this is what Pele does. The pig is destroyed by Pele’s fire, the ʻawa, fish, and the spring is filled with a great pile of rocks. Pele does not return upland. Pele continues on to the sea and the distance that remains is half a mile. I witnessed some of those doings of man. How slow are you, O Hawaiians, in this Christian era.

The Head of the Waiākea Sugar Plantation is trying to block off the lava, while the fiery lava was approaching with its intense heat. I saw the laboring of this haole and his workers with my own eyes, and it was astonishing for me and the crowd to see this. When I left Hilo, the lava flowed up against the wall. The lava was filling it with rocks. There was but two feet of the wall left, and lava seeped into the wall, but how is it now? Has the Sugar Plantation Owner won and Pele has fled? We will hear later as to the victor of the two. It was presumed that only Hawaiians were slow, but that clever one will also be destroyed by his misjudgement.

Because of the extreme heat of the lava at the back of the houses, rubbish was gone beforehand and the belongings of some were taken away, while some just remained in their homes watching the activity of the lava and where it was coming.

All around the outside of the Jail of Hilo was dug, and filled with dirt, and the height of the filled in dirt was almost to the height of the walls, so that the jail would not be destroyed by lava. I heard that the work was by the order of the Sheriff of Hawaiʻi. There was not caring lest it be destroyed by rats; perhaps that was the right thing.

There are two groups of people who are seen often at the lava fields. The first group stands behind Jehovah, the true God. The second group stands behind Baal. It is only because of Pele that we clearly see the nature of men. How good is God’s kindness to man! Yet man’s provocation grew before God. It would do them well if the Hawaiian people and others would look back to the time of the beautiful town of Sodom and Gomorrah. In a very short time they were consumed by the raging ovens due to the obstinacy and the evil deeds of man before God. How about Hilo? At the gatherings in Haili, only a minority of the youths show up to worship God, and as for the rest, where are they? The children of the Boarding School are better.

At the top of Puʻuhonu Hill stood a tent for the aliʻi Keʻelikōlani. That was a very good place to observe the lava’s activity, and night time is the best time to see it. My companions and I climbed up the hill at night, and I witnessed the beauty.

The burning was like the lights of a large city, perhaps like California, and other places. There you could watch the lava flowing, and the lava made noises like a gun being shot. The hill was crowded with sightseers, as well as in the forest of Upeloa.

Speech of the Regent of the Kingdom at Haili Church.

On Saturday the 6th of August, at 4 o’clock, people gathered at Haili Church to listen to the royal voice. The program began with a prayer by Rev. T. Coan, and following this, Governor Kekaulike of Hawaiʻi stood and gave encouraging words and asked of the assembly to “Take in the words of the Aliʻi whereas She came to see you, the makaʻāinana.” Then his speech was over.

The Aliʻi, the Regent of the Nation, stood and read the speech which was prepared on a handwritten document. From her speech, some of Her words entered my heart and this was something that made me truly believe that they were the foundation for Hoʻoulu Lāhui (Increase and Preserve the Nation), and that the land will flourish should those words be taken by the high ranking ones of the land as well as the makaʻāinana, and cared for and followed through on, that being this:

“May the people live a clean life and care for their family.”

That is the desire of the King, the Motto of His Kingdom Hoʻoulu Lāhui. These once again are the statements that I hold dearly from the royal speech, and the people of Hilo and the other places are blessed because of them:

“Whereas the lava is very close to Hilo town, and there is much being said and heard, many people went up on the Sabbath days and did inappropriate things. Therefore, I say to the makaʻāinana of the King, ‘Do not do improper things that oppose the peace of the Sabbath.’”

There were many more valuable statements, but those above were mine. The royal one’s words were responded to with some from G. W. Akao representing the makaʻāinana; and after he was done,

Hon. J. M. Kapena stood and spoke his awe-inspiring words, inviting the makaʻāinana to take the royal words and to brand them in their hearts, and he moved on to talk of the next legislative session, being that it will be one of the important sessions. And also because here among the people of Hilo there are some learned ones. Therefore now is the time to think whereas a vision of that session has been seen, and it will arrive with important work. He had much more to say, but I am satisfied with this. And that was the end of the program.

While the Likelike was circling Hawaiʻi Island last week, the Aliʻi, the Regent of the Kingdom, and Her attendants got on board once more to go and see Her makaʻāinana. The Aliʻi got off at Keauhou, Kona to present a speech, and at Hoʻokena, and at Māhukona in Kohala, She will again disembark to see Her makaʻāinana, and perhaps remain there for a number of days, and then go on to Hāmākua.

Friends, forgive me, for we will not see excerpts of her royal words in this article from the final places where She went to speak, because the passengers were not allowed by the officers of the ship to disembark, only those of their liking.

Here I shall set aside the drinking of my pen nib from the dark liquid of the ink, for my feet have tread upon the sands of Kākuhihewa, and the tires of the carriage are spinning towards my home.

My aloha to the Editor, and to the lead type setting boys my adoration.


David Keaweamahi.

Honolulu, Aug. 15, 1881.

Hilo, August 4, 1881.

O Nupepa Kuokoa, Aloha to you:—

Would you kindly make known the activity of the land-devouring fires in the district of Hilo these days.

We living here are distressed; the fire is close to overrunning a side of a village and town greatly beloved by malihini from other lands.

On the 3rd of this month, the raging fire was clearly seen. It was like 300 feet per hour that it was speeding toward the sea, that being on the southern side, from Puʻuhonu, in the uplands of Kalepolepo, the third of the fishponds.

Here is something remarkable. The haole sugar plantations created large barriers to defend against the power of the lava. How humorous.

On the 2nd, the aliʻi, Her Highness R. Keʻelikōlani began her trek upland of Puʻuhonu; inmates pulled her as she rode a horse carriage. The road was made nice by the Road Supervisor of Hilo; the road was made until the top of Puʻuhonu Hill. When the carriage reached there, atop the hill of Puʻuhonu were tents. When looking at the lanterns, it was as if there were balloons placed on the hill.

There was the stench from the activity of the earth-devouring fire. If you go up and sit in the area where the tents of the aliʻi were, and you watched the action of the fire, it was altogether beautiful. The lava was close to Puʻuhonu, that being the third hill of Hālaʻi. The one who guided the journey of the aliʻi Keʻelikōlani was Simona Kaai.

The Regent of the Kingdom arrived today with the Aliʻi Pauahi, along with their fellow chiefs in good spirits, and their return has been postponed until next week. They are getting ready to climb up and go about seeing the activity of the fire.

With aloha,

J. S. Kalana.

(Kuokoa, 8/20/1881, p. 1)

Image: Charles Furneaux. Natives viewing the Hilo flow. May 18, 1881. Oil on canvas. Bishop Museum Archives. SXC 103912.

Image: Mauna Loa eruption, 1881. Hawaiʻi Island. Bishop Museum Archives. SXC 103912.

This post is part of He Aupuni Palapala: Preserving and Digitizing the Hawaiian Language Newspapers, a partnership between Bishop Museum and Awaiaulu with assistance from Kamehameha Schools. Mahalo nui loa to Hawaii Tourism Authority for their support. Learn more about this project here.

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