Expedition Log #2

Reported for: 7 July 2003

Reported by: Nan Marr

A rare opportunity was granted on our homeward bound voyage. We could now visit a special and sacred island of ancient Hawaiian ancestry, Mokumanamana.

Other explorers have logged descriptions of what makes this place so remarkable:

"Historically its name is known from ancient chants. Ancient Hawaiians did live here, and the name Mokumanamana is from antiquity meaning branched island." ( Isle of Refuge)

"Mokumanamana provides a unique glimpse into the cultural elements that are characteristic of ancestral Polynesian society, a culture that existed before the 13th century in Hawaii." ( Isle of Refuge)

"Perhaps as early as the 8th century A.D. and possibly earlier, the Hawaiian island chain was settled by a wave of migration from the Marquesas and the Society Islands, and then again with another wave of migration from Tahiti in the 12th and 13th centuries." ( Shoals of Time)

"Today this rocky island, steeped with volcanic cliffs 277 feet above sea level and approximately 40 acres, is all that remains of a submerged volcano over 10 million years old." ( Isle of Refuge)

"The profile of the island looks like a mo'o, the Hawaiian spiny lizard-god. Here, on Mokumanamana are the remains of 52 archeological sites, of which 33 were religious temples." ( Isle of Refuge)

Our zodiacs rode easily through the deep slow Pacific swells, while we readied ourselves to jump onto the black, rocky shoreline pounding with surging surf. After relocating the equipment and ourselves safely on an ocean ledge, we reorganized, planning the ascent to the top of this volcanic island. From the start we experienced an awesome respect for the island. With a facade of sheer cliffs, we carefully scaled rock walls, winding our way slowly upward. We watched monk seals playing in tidal pools from our lookout amid thousands of flying and nesting sea birds. Mokumanamana is a nesting ground for 60,000 seabirds of 16 species on the scant vegetation and stony ground. Nests, eggs, chicks, fledglings, and adult sea birds are nesting everywhere among the rocks.

"Here the Frigate bird may have been worshiped as a 'royal bird,' being used for communication among way finders, taken on voyages and released upon reaching the destination, the bird would return home signaling safe arrival." ( Isle of Refuge)

As we ascended the island, we could see the vertical stones terracing up to the top and all along the ridgeline. We also saw the back of mo'o, the spiny lizard, and the spikes of basalt rock pointing skyward, secured in plateaus of stacked rocks, seats of power for ancestral spirituality.

Concentration is the foremost consideration for safety and our team slowly and quietly wandered through these ancient sites, amid the sea birds, glimpsing and pondering a culture survived only by these archeological sites. Could the standing stones have been carried up from the shoreline or from another island? Was this ancient culture an aboriginal race of Polynesians, the menehune? Could it have been overtaken by subsequent waves of migration that ultimately dominated the Hawaiian Islands? With great heartfelt respect, our team gathered together, on the topmost ridgeline of Mokumanamana and felt the need to thank the spirit of Aloha and the Hawaiian people and give thanks for our successful Voyage To Kure. We poured water, the source of life, over an ancient rocky crevice and as Jean-Michel spoke, we basked in a rare moment of repose.

"The ancestors have passed on; today's people see but dimly times long gone and far behind." ( Place Names of Hawaii).

Mokumanamana is also known as Necker Island, "rediscovered" in 1786 and named by Captain La Perouse.