Earthquake, eruption, and tsunami, 151 years ago, 1868.

New letters from Kau, Hawaii.

O Kuokoa Newspaper; Aloha oe:

Along with our ohana from Hawaii to Niihau; I am your friend living in distress, as my feet stand precariously at the edge of the pit of calamity.

I report to you all of the condition of the land before, and the condition of the land now; the way it was before, and the way it is now, and so too the people on it; the calamity and the destitution; the lack and the troubles; and the crying and the mourning.

Being that I am a native son of this land on which I live, where the the frightening and astonishing signs have been handed out! Frightening!! That being “Earthquakes,” “Tsunami,” “Ash,” and “Lava;” this is how the frightening events occured: the lava began to erupt on the 27th of March, that is Friday, in the early morning, after frequent earthquakes that happened every minute, and that is how it continued while lava glowed on the mountain of Mauna Loa on the west side by Pohakuohanalei, but it began to travel down on the south-western side right above Kahuku.

And on the 2nd of April, that being Saturday; in the evening there was a great earthquake that was not seen before; the land shook, the solid cliffs, the big boulders atop hills and cliff brows, the actual stone buildings, the stone buildings held together with mortar, the wooden buildings, the grass houses, the strong people and the weak, the men and the women, the adults and the children, the animals all fell down; some buildings were moved, some areas of land went into the sea; I myself fell because my horse fell, and I thought to get up quickly, but this was not possible, like a pig trembling in an imu. I heard sounds in the earth, like a canon or more; I saw dirt and rocks and trees flying in the sky, and when they fell, it covered over some fee-simple lands of people, houses, people, 31 animals, and everything that makes living life on this earth possible.

I looked out at the sea once more, I saw smoke; and the ocean was like blue paint and red, green; i saw the ocean rising and it coming upon the land; at that time the ocean rose above the hills and turned to the east and some to the west, and it dry land was covered, sweeping away  the fine lands, the grass houses, the wooden houses, the people, all the personal belongings, the fences, the trees crops, the coconut trees, the breadfruit trees, the fish ponds, the taro patches, and some other crops; and the level of the water on the land was terrifying, it reached ten feet or more or less.

And that night into dawn on Tuesday, ash fell upon us, and when dawn came on Tuesday, in the evening, lava came up from the sea of Kahuku, that was the 7th of April.

And yet in this distress, we constantly remember Jehovah and ask Him to save us, that is the Almighty. Look at the Psalms.

The number of those who died added with that of the sea are 70 or more.

On April 28, the ship “Kilauea” came by Punaluu, and upon the ship was King Iolani Loka Kapuaiwa with his great aloha for his makaainana in trouble here in Kau; there was much clothes and money, and some people in distress were supplied, while others actually went before the King to ask insolently.

This is however the problem that we who remain have; Books, Bibles, Hymnals, they all have been lost to the sea, and we live without. I am your friend living in distress.

W. Kahalelaau.

Makaka, Kau, Hawaii, April 22, 1868.

(Kuokoa, 5/9/1868, p. 3)


Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, Buke VII, Helu 19, Aoao 3. Mei 9, 1868.

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