Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Why did Kamehameha have trouble with the Kauai Channel?

Question: Why exactly did Kamehameha have difficulty crossing the Kauai Channel with a large party and not have that same problem with the Kaiwi Channel, Pailolo Channel nor the Alenuihāhā Channel? There is a reason, and it relates to the present day.

At the U.S. Naval Academy they do teach a little about Kamehameha, use of ships and cannon etc., but I doubt they get into why he failed on the Kauai Channel and not the other channels, so I would not expect their graduates to know the answer unless they thought about it for a while. On the other hand, I might expect an accurate verbal explanation to have been passed down generation to generation among Hawaiians, and that they might know the reason, esp. among paddlers.

The story has been told many times. Here are a couple of clips from the net:

"...Captain Cook arrived at Kaua'i and Ni'ihau in January 1778, engaged in a little trading, and sailed north for a year. In January and February, 1779 he returned, this time to Maui and Hawai'i Island, where he landed at Kealakekua Bay. In January of 1779 it was Makahiki, a season of peace; Cook was treated as the Makahiki god Lono. During January a young warrior chief Kamehameha accompanied his local King, Kalaniopu'u, on a visit to Captain Cook's ship. Kamehameha took a look around and saw huge amounts of a very rare commodity -- metal. Later he saw guns and the ship's cannons being fired and killing substantial numbers of natives during disputes. Guns and cannons had never been seen before in Hawai'i. Kamehameha envisioned how he could use them as weapons of mass destruction against his enemies who possessed only clubs and wooden spears. As the years went by, two trends intersected: traders and military vessels made port calls, arriving from England, Russia, and France; and Kamehameha became a more powerful chief. He made friends with visiting ship captains, merchants, naval officers, and diplomats. He was successful in acquiring knives, guns, a cannon, and an oceangoing ship. Kamehameha kidnapped two British sailors Isaac Davis and John Young during a dispute. But as time went by they 'went native,' staying on voluntarily, becoming important military advisers, and teaching Kamehameha how to use his new weapons most effectively... Before 1810 Kamehameha had conquered all the islands except Kaua'i and Ni'ihau. He had tried twice to launch an invasion of Kaua'i from O'ahu, but both attempts had failed: one because of a storm and one because a devastating illness incapacitated his men..."

And another quote from the net:

"By 1795, Kamehameha was the undisputed king of all the Hawaiian Islands except Kauai. Determined to take over this last island, he launched war canoes from Oahu, but rough seas forced him to turn back. Several years later and with 800 more canoes, he attempted another attack-only this time from the Big Island. The planned raid never took place as he ended up in Maui instead. From there, he attempted to peacefully negotiate with Kauai's chief, Kaumauli'i. Words didn't work so Kamehameha returned to Oahu with his men, fully intending to invade Kauai, but before he could, an unexpected outbreak of what was probably typhoid fever or cholera swept through the ranks killing many of his followers. The kahunas believed this epidemic was an evil sign and advised the king against attacking Kauai. Instead, Kamehameha offered his protection to the island and the chief agreed to act as its tributary ruler. Their agreement lasted until Kaumauli'i's death when Kauai finally became part of the Kamehameha kingdom."

OK, why exactly did he fail on the Kauai Channel and not the others?

Aloha, Brad

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