National Geographic : 1960 Jul
Hawaii, U. S. A. tories of the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company extract 140,000 tons of sugar a year, about two percent of U. S. needs (page 42). We passed over plantation villages, marked by the tall black stacks of sugar mills. From such villages most of the people of this 50th State spring. If they have not experienced plantation life themselves, their fathers or grandfathers did, and their social customs, political views, and personal ambitions re flect the experience. At wind-swept Kahului Airport we un loaded our bread and papers, and a ground crew wrestled a washing machine from the fuselage, along with machinery parts, a baby carriage, and someone's garden tools. Raft Voyage Threads Mountain Tunnel Plantation children on Maui, as on other islands, still learn to swim in irrigation ditches, rather than in the sea near by. Some of these ditches, bearing water to the cane fields from far away, tunnel for miles beneath whole mountains. Not long ago, to experience a boyhood adventure of rural Hawaii for myself, I joined Honolulu Advertiser columnist Bob Krauss on a raft voyage on one of them. We started at a fern-festooned tunnel mouth, walking by flashlight perhaps half a mile into the mountain. Climbing down dank wooden stairs, we came upon a chamber where water from the surface cascaded into a dark, churning basin. Looking at the box of lumber we were to ride, 16 feet long and floated by inner tubes, Krauss complained laughingly, "Not much of a boat-no name, no whistle." For two hours and six miles we drifted through the blackness of aged lava, an entire mountain over our heads. The only sound beyond our voices was the ripple of rapids at points where the tunnel grade steepened. Krauss spoke up, "This would be a great time for an earthquake." Suddenly, in the light of the gasoline lamp we carried, a sign appeared hanging from the roof of the tunnel. I chuckled. In land short Hawaii, ownership even at 2,000 feet below the surface is important. The sign read, "Boundary Bishop Estate, Territory of Hawaii." Nobody had been down there to change it since statehood. At this point Krauss observed, "Some body's missing a great tourist bet. You could make this into the world's longest tun nel of love." A road follows the entire perimeter of Maui, providing easy access to much of the island's history. Sparkling La Perouse Bay is named for the first French explorer to reach the islands, who refused to make claims of sov ereignty. On similar visits Vancouver per suaded Kamehameha to cede Hawaii Island to England, but that country never accepted. Abandoned pillboxes and rusted iron tetra hedrons on a tree-lined beach are all that remain of "Little Tarawa" and the World War II training here of Marines. Lahaina, an early white settlement in Ha waii, was later headquarters for a whaling fleet that ranged the Pacific in the mid-1800's. At times hundreds of whalers wintered here, their behavior sometimes outraging mission aries converting pagan Maui to Christianity. Here the island's capital stood among coconut groves and primitive stone walls that guarded the royal chickens. Tiny Lahaina today drowses around a great banyan tree. Lahainaluna, a school founded by the mis sionaries in 1831, flourishes now as a part of the State educational system. Far on the other side of the island, from the palisades beyond Hana, you can see the great mountains of Hawaii, across 30 miles of open ocean churned white with scud. I crossed it once in a 38-foot fishing cruiser. It may not be rougher than the English Channel, but having suffered through both trips, I can testify that this made me sicker. Island Builds Itself From Within Hawaii grows bigger with every eruption of its last active volcanic mountains, Kilauea and 13,680-foot Mauna Loa. The latter has been silent over the past decade, but Kilauea has loosed two recent blasts, one from an old crater and one from its slopes. It was near there, early this year, that I saw a town die. Heralded by earthquakes, Kilauea volcano, which late in 1959 put on the most spectacular display in Hawaiian memory,* broke out anew. This time the eruption spurted along a rift line among sugar cane fields near the village of Kapoho. In a matter of days, spuming fountains of lava destroyed some five million dollars' worth of land, crops, and structures schools, a church, and homes (pages 36-37). Later, another village was engulfed. * See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, the author's eyewitness account, "Fountain of Fire in Hawaii," March, 1960; and "Volcanic Fires of the 50th State," by Paul A. Zahl, June, 1959.