Hawai'i That Was, an exploration of islands as they were before human colonization, as they changed with the arrival of the Polynesian people, and how they changed when Europeans arrived. The field class combined the disciplines of geology and anthropology, and took place last June. We had spent more than a week exploring the Big Island, and now we were on our way to the northeasternmost of the main islands, Kaua'i. In our last post, we observed how the islands grow older, and quite literally sink as they move off the hot spot that is the source of the lavas that make up the islands. Kaua'i has existed for at least five million years.
Like people, the older islands show more creases and wrinkles. The island, encompassing 555 square miles, is scored by dozens of deep gorges eroded from the ancient shield volcanoes that once erupted here. It's been tens of thousands of years since any kind of lava flowed here, and gigantic debris avalanches have torn away the margins of the island. It sounds like decrepitude and ugliness, but from a human perspective, the many years of erosion have produced one of the most beautiful places on the planet.