Devastating earthquake and tsunami, 1868.

Terrifyingly Powerful Earthquake

Please place this in some open area of your columns; the story of this huge earthquake mentioned above, in the District of Puna, and perhaps other places as well.

When I turned back with my travel companions on the road from Kapapala, we didn’t reach our home (Kahaualea), but between those places we were met with an earthquake, leaning this way and that as we groped around for something solid to hold on to, and one of my friends saw the ground before us splitting open, whereupon he cried out and stood elsewhere; as for me, I tipped over and heard up close the rumbling of the earth, and I said to my companions, “What is happening to us?” One of us answered, “Maybe this is an earthquake that is causing us this fright.” I then said, “How awesomely frightening; if the ground rumbles and splits open and we are swallowed up, then we are all dead, just like the Anak [Anaka] people who were swallowed in the earth.

The length of the earthquake upon us was like six minute, and when it was over, we headed back while constantly seeing at the places where the earth split open in the road; some were the size of a man’s foot, and were several inches wide at some places. And when we reached out houses, the ohana was there who experienced the same thing. I saw our eating house [hale paina] (a stone building) which collapsed; and the dishes were all broken.

It was as if the damage seen was from the earthquake, but it also came from the sea; we went down to the shore (where much of our houses were). When we looked, we saw the boats were smashed in little pieces, and inland, the earthquake made houses topple, the stone walls of the church collapse, house fences fall, fish ponds dry up; some survived. Toward the sea, five canoes were splintered, some house fences fell, and the water entered some houses where people lived. It was all messed up.

For those whose lives were in danger, when the water entered their houses, a man named Kapai got up with his two children and ran out, but they were taken by the sea and died, so too with some women and their children, they were beaten by the sea; some people with their daughter escaped by running and climbing a hala tree. Auwe! Auwe! in dire straits. Make haste O Ke Au Okoa, speed on the wings of the wind to report of this frightening news here in Puna and perhaps elsewhere as well. B. H. M. Kailiwahine.

Kaukeano, Puna, Hawaii, April 12, 1868.

P. S. It was on the 2nd of April, at maybe 5 in the evening that the tremors began, and it did not let up at all until the setting of the sun, and at dawn, the earthquakes were strong. B. H. M. K.

(Au Okoa, 4/16/1868, p. 3)

He olai nui Weliweli.

Ke Au Okoa, Buke III, Helu 52, Aoao 3. Aperila 16, 1868.

1 thought on “Devastating earthquake and tsunami, 1868.

  1. During the tsunami (kai hoee) of April 2, 1868, Daniel Holoua, a resident of Punaluu, was caught by one of the receding waves and swept out to sea. According to Abraham Fornander, who was touring on Hawaii island at the time in his position as the first inspector general of schools, Holoua managed to tear a board from his home and surf an incoming wave back to shore. Fornander’s account of this incident was printed in English in the Pacific Commercial Advertiser on May 9, 1868. Holoua’s survival of the kai hoee is also mentioned in Ka Nupepa Kuokoa on May 2, 1868, p. 2 and August 29, 1868, p. 4.

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