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SEA Currents: SSV Robert C. Seamans

June 13, 2015

Field Trip to Maunalei Watershed

Katherine Lawlor, American University

Aloha Aina

Kepa Maly from the Lanai Cultural Heritage center discusses the cultural significance and history of the Maunalei watershed.

Hello out there to all our friends and family whom we are all missing dearly! Today we started out early, as usual, and drove to the Maulalei to learn about the watershed, or 'ahupua'a, from Kepa. The drive itself was quite interesting as we weaved through an extremely dry area with desert like vegetation (shrubs and trees) on a twisty, bumpy road. We met Kepa at the old pump house (a run-down building with vegetation growing on and through it) where, as told by Kepa, they used to pump water from the river and well that is now dried up and unused due to poor resource management and misuse. Kepa showed us where he is currently trying to grow taro as they used to with what is left of the water source. He also has the ambitious project to fix up the pump house and use it as a cultural learning center
for visiting students. At this point, with our sunscreen and bug spray abundantly applied, we were ready to start our hike through the old taro terraces and up the dry riverbed. As we passed under large native kukui trees we learned about the walnut sized nuts that were used traditionally for a variety of purposes including as a medicinal laxative, an ointment for body ailments, and as candles that would burn for 5-10 minutes each. We continued up the riverbed- jumping from rock to rock like gazelle (though myself far less graceful)- and made it to our destination: the waterfall!

Even with only a trickle of water flowing from it, the waterfall was an impressive and awe-worthy sight. Completely not what I imagined, the waterfall was a carved out hemisphere in the rock cliff a 100 plus feet up and 40 feet wide. I couldn't help but try and visualize it as it once was, powerful and flowing. The thought made me sad to think of what a change has been wrought due to human's poor influence. We stopped to rest before heading back and Kepa explained the traditional significance of the place. This waterfall is considered sacred and used in cultural rituals. The Hawaiians recognized the waterfall as the source of their water, and therefore their food, trade, and lives and thus revered and protected their source of livelihood.  Kepa also showed us how to make a fern leaf lei with which we bestowed on to Brenda our lead faculty from HPU.  Leaping back down the riverbed we made great time and had just enough time to clean our rental houses and finish packing to leave for Maui!

We boarded a ferry to Maui and enjoyed the sea breeze and view (all were trying to imagine how similar to sailing on the Seaman's this ocean travel was). Once in Maui we gathered around a gigantic banyan tree (third largest tree in the world according to a friendly local) in a central city park while waiting for our rental vans that were delayed in traffic.  The park and surrounding tourist town of Lahaina was quite a contrast to the quiet island of Lanai.  There were so many people strolling about, buying trinkets at the gift shop, eating, drinking, etc. Once we were in the vans we headed to what was positively our most luxurious accommodations yet- fancy hotel
condos with a pool and jacuzzi (despite our tight schedule some of my peers and I couldn't help but try them out before dinner), and yes- even air conditioning! We had some wonderful stir fry for dinner prepared by our TAs Liz and Zane (Thanks!), and went to bed early because tomorrow we are getting up at 3;30AM so we can see the sunrise from the top of Mount Haleakala!

Overall, it was another long yet exciting and eventful day complete with learning and fun! I sign off eagerly awaiting our next adventure! 

Best wishes,


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