Capt. George Vancouver 1757-1798

George Vancouver was an English officer of the British Royal Navy, best known for his 1791-95 expedition, which explored and charted North America’s northwestern Pacific Coast regions, including the coasts of contemporary Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. He also explored the Hawaiian Islands and the southwest coast of Australia.

His voyages are recounted in Voyage Of Discovery To The North Pacific Ocean, And Round The World In The Years 1791–95. The original was written by Vancouver and completed by his brother John and published in 1798, the year of Vancouver’s death.

In Volume 1, p. 170, Vancouver writes of his admiration for the perfection of Waimea (Kaua’i) garden lands. In pp. 376-377, Vancouver describes  with admiration the famous Kauai aqueduct “anciently known as Na Kiki-a-’Ola, or water-lead of ‘Ola, the Ali’i of Waimea and more generally, according to legend, as the “Menehune Ditech,” (Handy & Handy 1972 p. 403):

“Most of the cultivated lands being considerably above the level of the river, made it very difficult to account for their being so uniformly well watered. The sides of the hills afforded no running streams; and admitting there had been a collection of water on their tops, they were all so extremely perforated, that there was little chance of water finding any passage to the taro plantations… A lofty perpendicular cliff now presented itself, which , by rising immediately from the river would effectually have stopped our further progress into the country, had it not been for an exceedingly well constructed wall of stones and clay about twenty-four feet high, raised from the bottom by the side of the cliff, which not only served as a pass into the country, but also as an aqueduct, to convey the water brought thither by great labour from a considerable distance; the place where the river descends from the mountains affording the planters an abundant stream, for the purpose to which it is so advantageously applied. This wall, which did no less credit to the mind of the projector than to the skill of the builder, terminated the extent of our walk; from whence we returned through the plantations, whose highly improved state impressed us with a very fabourable opinion of the industry and ingenuity of the inhabitants.”

Vancouver’s surgeon, Menzies, (1920, pp. 28-29) “a trained naturalist and good observer”, ( Handy & Handy 1972 p. 407) was was also much impressed with Waimea and the aqueduct as he saw it in 1792:

“That stream which comes from the north-west [Waimea River] appears more considerable, as it is navigable for their canoes some way up. We walked to the confluence of these two streams [Waimea and Makaweli?] and found that the aqueduct which waters the whole plantation is brought with much art and labor along the bottom of the rocks from the north-west branch… Indeed the whole plantation is laid out with great neatness and is intersected by small elevated banks conveying streams from the above aqueduct to flood the distant fields on each side at pleasure, by which their esculent roots are brought to such perfection, that they are the best of every kind I ever saw.”


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