Necker and Nihoa Islands

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“According to the myths and legends of the people of Kaua’i, which lies to the southeast, Necker Island was the last known refuge for a race of mythical “little people” called the Menehune. According to the legend, the Menehune settled on Necker after being chased off Kaua’i by the stronger Polynesians and subsequently built the various stone structures there. Visits to the island are said to have started a few hundred years after the main Hawaiian Islands were inhabited, and ended a few hundred years before European contact. French explorer Jean-Francois de la Perouse was the first European to visit the island, in 1786. The island is named after Jacques Necker. The islands were formally annexed in 1894 by the Provisional Government of Hawaii.”  from: Wikipedia.com: Necker Island: http://en.wikipedia.org

Text and photos from http://www.hawaiianatolls.org/about/mokumanamana.php

Necker Island  (Mokumanamana) About 155 miles northwest of Nihoa lies Mokumanamana, a small basalt island that is 1/6 square km, or 46 acres, in size. Although the island is the second smallest of the NWHI, it has the second largest surrounding marine habitat (almost 385,000 acres). Large offshore areas include Shark Bay on the north side, West Cove and Northwest Cape as well as miles of shallow reef to the southeast.

Mokumanamana is known for its numerous wahi pana (religious places) and mea makamae (cultural objects). Fifty-five cultural places are known, of which 33 are religious, 17 are shelter caves, and 2 sites are of unknown function. These cultural sites are thought to date primarily before the habitation sites on Nihoa Island were abandoned in the eighteenth century. www.hawaiiatolls.org

“Few signs of long-term human habitation have been found. However, the island contains 33 stone shrines and stone artifacts much like those found in the main Hawaiian Islands. Because of this, many anthropologists  believe that the island was a ceremonial and religious site. According to the myths and legends of the people of Kaua’i, which lies to the southeast, Necker Island was the last known refuge for a race of mythical “little people” called the Menehune. According to the legend, the Menehune settled on Necker after being chased off Kaua’i by the stronger Polynesians and subsequently built the various stone structures there. Visits to the island are said to have started a few hundred years after the main Hawaiian Islands were inhabited, and ended a few hundred years before European contact. French explorer Jean-Francois de la Perouse was the first European to visit the island, in 1786. The island is named after Jacques Necker. The islands were formally annexed in 1894 by the Provisional Government of Hawaii.

from: Wikipedia.com: Necker Island: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Necker_Island_%28Northwestern_Hawaiian_Islands%29

Because the island is small, dry, and has little soil suitable for agriculture, Hawaiians probably traveled to Mokumanamana from Nihoa and other Hawaiian Islands primarily for religious purposes. It has also been theorized that the shrines which line the spine of the island may have been used for navigational purposes during the great trans-pacific voyages of the early Hawaiians and Polynesians. In addition to constructing shrines, Hawaiians made ki’i pohaku or stone human images while on Mokumanamana. More than 11 of these stone ki’i are known. Other activities that took place on the island are indicated by the production and use of stone adzes, grindstones, stone bowls, and fishing tools.

In 1786, Compte de La Pérouse, a French explorer, visited Mokumanamana and named it “Necker Island” after Jacques Necker, the finance minister under Louis XVI. In 1857, Kamehameha IV sent Captain John Paty to claim Mokumanamana for the Kingdom of Hawai`i. His claim was contested until 1894, when the island was annexed by Hawai`i’s Provisional Government.

The Tanager Expedition visited Mokumanamana in 1923-24 and to conduct biological and cultural research. Members of the Native Hawaiian organization Hui Mälama I Nä Küpuna O Hawai`i Nei visited Mokumanamana in 1997 to rebury ancestral human bones that were removed from the island in the 1920s.

Terrestrial animal life on Mokumanamana includes the blue gray noddy, land snails, wolf spiders, bird ticks, and 15 endemic insects.

Marine life includes gray reef sharks, manta rays and sixteen species of stony corals. Hawaiian monk seals are seen on the island’s rocky shores. A great abundance and diversity of sea cucumbers, sea urchins, and lobsters are found in Shark Bay. Little coral life exists in the shallow areas due to the constant wave action that scours the underwater basalt yet Mokumanamana is the most easterly island in the Hawaiian archipelago where table corals, Acropora spp., are found. Most reef life is found in holes and elevated areas protected from the currents. Below the shallow reef are extensive deeper “shelves” that extend many miles from the island, especially to the southeast. These broad offshore areas are used for commercial fishing and a large percentage of the gray snapper (uku, Aprion virescens) landed in the state comes from these shallow banks.

Visiting Mokumanamana is permitted only for scientific, educational and cultural purposes in order to protect its significant natural and cultural resources. Approval must be given by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is mostly granted to those doing cultural and scientific activities.

Nihoa Island

from http://www.hawaiianatolls.org/about/nihoa.php

Nihoa is unlike any of the other Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) with its 900 foot cliffs, basalt rock surface, and tiny beach. This small island is about 1 square km (171 acres) and is at the southeastern end of the NWHI chain.

Although difficult to imagine today, this remote land of rugged cliffs and steep valleys provided a home for Hawaiians between A.D. 1000 and A.D. 1700. More than 80 cultural sites are known, including habitation terraces and bluff shelters, religious places, agricultural terraces, and burial caves. Many of the mea makamae (cultural objects) and structures associated with these wahi pana (cultural places) are similar to many found throughout the Main Hawaiian Islands. It is believed that the abundance of natural resources and at least three freshwater seeps may have supported as many as 175 people between A.D. 1000 and A.D. 1700.

Nihoa was no longer occupied when Captain Douglas visited the island in 1789. Queen Ka`ahumanu visited Nihoa in 1822 and annexed it as part of Hawai’i. In 1857, King Kamehameha IV officially annexed the island as part of the Hawaiian Kingdom. In 1885, Queen Liliu`okalani and her 200-person entourage visited Nihoa and documented their trip. In 1909, Nihoa and the other islands, islets, and reefs of the NWHI (except Midway) were recognized by the United States as a valuable treasure to be protected in perpetuity as the Hawaiian Islands Reservation. “The Reservation” was the forerunner of one of the earliest established National Wildlife Refuges in the country.

In 1923-24, the Tanager Expedition visited Nihoa to conduct cultural and biological research. In 1997, the Native Hawaiian group Hui Mälama I Nä Küpuna O Hawai`i Nei returned ancestral bones to Nihoa that have been removed from the island decades earlier.

The island’s rugged landscape may seem uninhabitable from a distance but the very essence of Nihoa is life, a treasure chest of species found nowhere else in the world. Niches in rocky outcroppings support some of the most unique and varied insect, seabird, and plant life of all the NWHI.

Seventy-two terrestrial arthropods including giant crickets and earwigs, and two endemic landbirds, the Nihoa finch and Nihoa millerbird, are found only on Nihoa. Native endangered plants include a loulu or fan palm and ‘ohai shrub.

Basalt underlies most shallow water habitats surrounding Nihoa. Limu (algae), wana (sea urchin), and opihi (limpet) inhabit these shallow waters, while sharks and jacks hover in deeper waters offshore. The submerged coral reef habitat covers about 142,000 acres with seventeen species of stony corals documented. Sheer basaltic cliffs on the north side of the island continue underwater, plunging vertically to great depths. Due to strong wave action and lack of protected areas encrusting corals are the dominant coral species found here, and they exist mostly in waters deeper than forty feet. Fishes uncommon or rare in the main Hawaiian Islands but typical of the NWHI, such as spotted knifejaws (Oplegnathus punctatus), are often seen at Nihoa.

In order to protect the island’s fragile ecosystem, few visitors are allowed on Nihoa and strict protocols are required. Approval must be given by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is mostly granted to those doing cultural and scientific research.

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