Travel

Magical Niihau: The "Forbidden Island" Of Hawaii

Magical Niihau: The "forbidden Island" Of Hawaii
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Niihau island was formed about 4,9 million years ago and is geologically younger than the neighboring island of Kauai, formed about 5 million years ago. The island consists of one extinct volcano. There is a lake on Niihau, the only lake in the Hawaiian archipelago.

Niihau is characterized by a relatively dry climate, as it does not have high enough mountains that could catch rainfall. As a result, prolonged droughts are pretty common on the island.

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A traveler who visited the Hawaiian Islands in 1792 wrote that the entire population of Niihau was forced to leave the island and move to Kauai to avoid starvation.

Story Of Niihau

The Charm Of The Magical Niihau: The "forbidden Isle" Of The Hawaiian Archipelago

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By 1795, Kamehameha had united all the islands except Kauai and Niihau (Niʻihau). Two attempts to conquer these islands failed, and Kamehameha lost many warriors whose bodies covered the beaches on the east coast of Kauai. Finally, in 1810, Kamehameha equipped a large fleet, and Kaumuali, the last independent ali'i, surrendered to the mercy of the victors to avoid further bloodshed.

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Independence became possible again after Kamehameha's death in 1819. It was suppressed when Kamehameha's widow kidnapped Kaumuali and forced him to marry her. After that, Niihau remained part of the united islands.

In 1864 Elizabeth Sinclair Robinson bought the island of Niihau from the king for gold in value of 10,000 USD. It seemed that Sinclair loved Niihau more than Kamehameha IV.

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In 1876 the population of Niihau numbered 350 Aborigines and 20,000 sheep. This era marked the decline of the Hawaiian art of rug weaving which the Niihau people celebrated.

After the death of her husband, Elizabeth loaded everything she had on the sailing ship Betsy: children, grandchildren, sheep, and goats, a piano - a memory of her parents - and a chest with gold coins. Mrs. Sinclair took the helm of the sailboat and set off. From cold Scotland, she set out for the distant warm seas of Oceania.

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First, Betsy dropped anchor off the coast of New Zealand, but Ms. Sinclair decided to cross the entire Pacific Ocean. In 1863, the sailing Betsy arrived in Honolulu. The captain's widow liked the Hawaiian Islands at first sight. In return, she immediately conquered the then ruler of the archipelago.

Deep mutual sympathy was the basis for the sale and purchase of Niihau. In addition, the king offered her the southern coast of Oahu, including the port areas of Honolulu and Waikiki. However, the ruler asked for fifty thousand dollars for this vast territory despite his sympathies for the Scotswoman. But Ms. Sinclair's price seemed too high, and no deal was made.

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Niihau's Population

The Charm Of The Magical Niihau: The "forbidden Island" Of Hawaii

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Around 130 people have lived on the island since 2009. Almost all of them are ethnic and live in the largest settlement on the island - the village Puuwai. Part of the island's population earns income from employment, and the other depends on social benefits. Niihau has no telephone, cars, or paved roads. Only horses and bicycles are used for transport.

Solar panels fully supply the island's population with electricity. There is no running water on the Niihau; water comes from collecting rainwater. There are no hotels or shops on the island, and goods and products are delivered to ships from Kauai.

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The mother tongue of the island's population is the Niihauan dialect, which differs little from modern literature. Today, Niihau is the only island in the archipelago whose main language is Hawaiian.

Some islanders have radio and television, but the latter is limited to watching videotapes and DVDs due to poor coverage. Sometimes, during severe droughts, the population of Niihau is wholly evacuated to Kauai before the first rains, which can fill the local water supply.

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There is a school in Niihau that provides a complete 12-year education. Like other buildings on the island, the school is also fully powered by solar panels. The number of students varies from 25 to 50 because many families live part-time in Kauai. In addition, some Niihau students are permanently enrolled in the two schools on Kauai Island.

The American government offered to buy the island for a billion dollars, but the current owners refused this offer.

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The "Forbidden Island"

The Charm Of The Magical Niihau: The "forbidden Isle" Of The Hawaiian Archipelago

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Niihau is called the "Forbidden Island." The Robinson family has privately owned it since 1864, and for a long time, it was only possible to come here by invitation. Interestingly, these restrictions extended even to relatives of indigenous islanders.

The island was a closed territory and could only be visited by representatives of the American administration, the Ministry of Defense and Health. Not even the governor of Hawaii could see the island without the owner's permission.

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Only those born on the island can live on it.

Since 1987, the situation has changed. Now Niihau offers expensive safaris and helicopter tours. Helicopter excursions are scheduled for half a day. During them, tourists explore the island, learn about its history, and enjoy one of the beaches. Here, travelers relax and swim in the clear waters of the Pacific Ocean as they watch flocks of colorful tropical fish and endangered bears on the coast.

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Safari tours are conducted for those who are not indifferent to hunting. Tourists are offered to hunt wild boar, wild sheep, antelope-oryx, and henna that live on the island of Niihau.

The islanders sell beautiful necklaces and handicrafts made of shells.

Military Incident

The Charm Of The Magical Niihau: The "forbidden Isle" Of The Hawaiian Archipelago

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The lives of people in Niihau were far from the events happening in the world. The only time they took part in hostilities remained in the history of the Second World War as a "Niihau incident."

Although Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians lived permanently on the island, Japanese generals considered it uninhabited. When developing plans to bomb the U.S. base at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese command decided that Niihau could be useful as an alternative airport. The pilots were ordered to land badly damaged planes on the island, and the submarine was supposed to pick up the pilots from Niihau.

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On December 7, 1941, a Japanese military plane landed here. The islanders received the plane's pilot with respect because he, not knowing the Hawaiian language, could not explain who he was and where he was from. When everything became apparent, the Japanese pilot was killed. At the same time, a resident of Niihau was wounded, who took part in the shooting and later received an award.

The Prison Island

The Charm Of The Magical Niihau: The "forbidden Island" Of Hawaii

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Living on this paradise island, however, can seem a little despotic.

All this begins with the first owner - Mr. Robinson, who certainly was the unusual type. He bought all the land on the island to have this tropical paradise for himself and his family. Apart from cattle breeding, he was not interested in anything else.

He did not allow a phone on Niihau, and he did not want to hear a thing about radio. In addition, he did not allow other residents to bring weapons to Niihau. As a result, he remained there as the sole owner of a hunting rifle and two pistols.

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At that time, all outsiders were banned from entering Niihau. Tourists were not allowed on the island. Only once a week did a boat come from Kauai, the nearest large island in the Hawaiian archipelago. It delivered groceries and left mail and newspapers.

Today, the island is inhabited by three representatives of the Robinson family: Helena, the ruler and owner of everything, and her two sons - Bruce and Keith, obedient executors of their mother's will.

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Of all Niihau residents, only two people enjoy relative freedom and independence. These are the local schoolteachers who teach children how to read, write and count. As they don't have proper qualifications, they teach children only basic skills and knowledge.

All the other inhabitants are in Robinson's possession. No, not as friendly helpers, but servants - maybe even slaves. Some take care of the cattle; others of Robinson's house. The third provides the ruler's family with fresh honey from wild bees throughout the year. The fourth collects the largest and most beautiful shells on the coast. At the same time, the fifth of them makes necklaces that proprietary sons Bruce and Keith personally sell to tourists at a market in the Hawaiian capital Honolulu.

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Are the islanders allowed to leave Niihau? No. It's "illegal." For errands, either the mistress herself or her children travel to the neighboring islands. It only happens - but very rarely - that one of the Niihau residents is sent to Honolulu on assignment. In that case, they are obliged to return and report the excursion.

And God forbid if they talk about the living conditions and orders that prevailed in Niihau in the capital, the violator of the ban will be severely punished. Therefore, Niihau is also known by another name: "Island of the Quiet" in Hawaii.

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