Fire on Nihoa, 1885.


The Alii Liliuokalani enjoyed seeing the sitting young birds of all sorts. The alii climbed the ridges and descended the valleys until reaching an area where Loulu trees leaves grew deep green.  The Alii found comfort under its shade along with some of the people who got there. When the Alii was in repose, our famous photographer J. Williams was lively at work taking photographs [hoolele aka]. The Alii Liliuokalani ate her lunch upon the twisted surface of this Island. After the meal, the Alii made ready to return to the lee of Nihoa, and some others turned back as well. At that time the whistle of the ship was heard calling to everyone to return to the ship.

At that time, there was seen smoke rising right above Nihoa; some people tried to put out the fire, but the couldn’t because it burned very quickly.

Everyone was seen returning with their bunches of birds; men and women; there were many birds on that Island; there were many eggs and many young birds that could not fly.

When everyone was ready to board the skiff, the photographic equipment of Mr. Williams was loaded on the skiff with some people aboard, and at that time, a big wave came down and caught Deverill (Kepolo) [W. E. H. Deverill], the one standing on the pahoehoe carrying his photographic equipment on his back; he was pounded onto the aa, scary to see, and his hands and knees were scraped, and the skiff soon sunk. The Surveyors, the photographers, the seekers of new things, and the seers [kilokilo] got upon the skiff miserably. The sea came down on the photographic supplies and they became naught.

When the chief Liliuokalani was boarding the skiff on which she returned to the ship, she boarded daintily; and the following skiffs arrived fine, and when Mrs. Kaae boarded the skiff, midway she fell into the water, but was not hurt.

When everyone was aboard the ship, they turned to see Nihoa Island; the fire glowed in its valleys and on its ridges, and it seemed as if about 20 acres were covered in burning fire, and upon that area that was burning, there were thousands and thousands of birds who were destroyed by fire, along with the eggs. The sky was then seen turned dark by the birds, with their resounding voices crying for their homes destroyed by the fire.

When the ship left Nihoa, it was 3 o’clock, and the fire was still burning until Nihoa could not be seen anymore.

(Ko Hawaii Pae Aina, 8/1/1885, p. 2)


Ko Hawaii Paeaina, Buke VIII, Helu 31, Aoao 2. Augate 1, 1885.

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