Sunday, October 16, 2016
The Hawai'i That Was: Hanalei, Where the Waterfalls Seem to Stream From the Clouds
The islands of Hawai'i are often described as paradise, but the island ecosystem that existed prior to human colonization offered little to assist in the survival of the human species. The plants and animals were highly evolved in their long isolation, and few of the native species were edible to humans.
It's unknown precisely when humans arrived at Hawai'i (perhaps between 300 AD and 1,000 AD), but it is known that those who arrived were probably well-prepared. They arrived on sea-faring canoes outfitted with plants and animals that they would cultivate and raise in the new land. They brought jungle fowl and pigs, breadfruit, coconut, banana, and sugar cane. And they brought taro, which they called kalo. The starchy root of the taro was a staple in their diet as it has been in many other parts of the world.
Successful farming of taro required large amounts of fresh flowing water, which was a problem on the Hawaiian Islands. There are only a handful of rivers of any size on the islands, and so those few were extensively altered to allow the most extensive production. Which brings us to the northern side of Kaua'i, where the Hanalei River is one of the few rivers with a floodplain large enough for kalo production. The beautiful valley is one of the largest kalo growing areas on the islands
part of my continuing series (off and on) about the Hawaiian Islands based on my recent field studies course on the Big Island and Kaua'i. We've been exploring the Hawai'i that once was, compared to the Hawaiian Islands since humans arrived. We're getting close to the end of the story, so I'll be trying to get the job finished in the next couple of weeks.