Hawaii September 17, 2016
Here Are 9 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Hawaii’s Forbidden Island
While the Hawaiian Islands are comprised of countless small islets and atolls stretching more than 1,500 miles, there are eight major islands, six of which are easily visited by Hawaii residents and tourists alike. Two of those islands though – Niihau and Kahoolawe – are virtually impossible to visit. Today, we will focus on the small island of Niihau, the
westernmost and seventh largest of the Hawaiian Islands, a place of unmatched natural beauty, and an excellent preservation of Hawaiian culture.
1. The island has an area of 69 square miles, and lies 17.5 miles southwest of Kauai across the Kaulakahi Channel.
2. The island was purchased from the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1864 for $10,000 by Elizabeth Sinclair, and private ownership passed onto her descendants, the Robinson family.
Pictured are a group of villagers at Puʻuwai Beach settlement in 1885.
3. Niihau is often referred to as “The Forbidden Isle,” and island is generally off-limits to everyone but relatives of the island’s owners, United States Navy personnel, government officials and invited guests.
4. Niihau’s welcomed guests include the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, the population of which has increased to approximately 35 in recent years.
5. The island’s 170 residents all speak Hawaiian as a primary language, and are known for their gemlike shell lei craftsmanship.
The leis are made out of tiny shells that wash onto the island’s beaches during the winter, and a single, intricate Niihau lei can sell for thousands.
Many of the island’s residents once worked farming cattle and sheep at the Niihau Ranch, until the Robinsons shut down the business in 1999, as it had not been profitable for quite some time.
6. Approximately 80 percent of Niihau’s income comes from a small Navy installation sitting atop 1,300-foot cliffs.
At the installation, remote control tracking devices are used with Kauai’s Pacific Missile Range Facility for tracking and training purposes. The installation brings in millions of dollars each year, allowing the island’s residents to live in peace without dealing with the hassle of industrial development or tourism.
7. Niihau has no telephone service, no paved roads, no cars and no hotels. Some residents have radios and televisions, though a lack of service means that these residents must rely solely on DVDs and VHS tapes for entertainment.
8. During World War II, the island was the site of what now is called the Niihau incident: after the attack on Pearl Harbor, a Japanese fighter pilot crashed on the island and terrorized residents for a week.
Two island residents, Hawila Kaleohano and Beni Kanahele, were able to disarm and kill the intruder. Shot three times during the incident, Kanahele allegedly grabbed the pilot, flinging him against a wall and cracking his skull.
9. Niihau is subject to regular droughts, and residents have, in the past, been forced to evacuate to Kauai on a temporary basis, until rain replenishes the island.
forbidden island absolutely magical? Speaking of forbidden, check out these 9 places you can’t go in Hawaii.