German naturalist Dr. Beratz sees Maunakea, 1870.

[Found under: “A European Traveler’s Account of a Trip over Hawaii.”]

[“]On our ascent to the top of  Mauna Kea, we visited the little lake called Waiau, situated at an elevation of circa 12,000 feet, in a depression formed between the numerous snow covered peaks of the mountain. The lake was covered over with a crust of ice, two to three inches thick, but not strong enough to skate upon. To find ice in the tropics strikes the traveler with surprise, and here we feel inclined to play with it like children.

About a mile below that frozen lake, we found a large cave, where the Hawaiians in olden times manufactured their stone implements for cutting down trees and excavating canoes. On our second visit to these mountain regions, we discovered a number of caves, all formerly used for similar purposes. These caves were undoubtedly inhabited in former days. In every one we found a fire[lace near the entrance, showing that the hands of men had completed what nature had left unfinished. Where the natural entrance to a cave was too large, we found rocks piled up like a wall and the fissures and openings between them filled up with chips and small stones. In other caves again where the entrance had proved too steep or too rough to be comfortable, there, flat stones had been placed like steps, down which we descended into these little mountain habitations. This part of the mountain—where these caves and the quarries from which the material for the adze manufacture was procured are situated—is destitute of vegetation. On examining the interior of the caves, we found pieces of Kapa of various texture and color, bones of dogs and pigs, cocoanut-shells, banana-stems, pieces of awa-root, and sugar cane, old mats, firewood and heaps of Opihi shells. Outside of the caves, the ready made stone adzes were put up in large heaps on both sides of the entrance.

The most striking thing of this whole stone adze manufactory, and which at the same time gives us somewhat of an idea of the extent to which it was carried on, the number of ages during which it was continued, and the amount of people working constantly at it,—are the large mounds of little chips, thin and sharply pointed, in front of ever cave, twenty to thirty feet in height and thickness. In fact, these wonderful mounds, visible for some distance, led to the discovery of the other caves.

It is only a short time since the “stone age” of these islands closed, and the first iron tools and metal instruments were imported by foreigners. Until then the Hawaiians worked like the aborigines of other parts of the world, and like our own Indo-German fore-fathers, with stone implements. Flint arrow-heads and spear-heads, stone knives and war-clubs are found in Europe and America, sometimes buried deep in the ground, with human bones and those of extinct animals. The more peaceful Hawaiians had only stone adzes.

The climate round Mauna Kea and on the high-lands of Hawaii is most magnificent. Never too hot and never too cold, it is exceedingly pleasant and invigorating, the fresh mountain air acting as a tonic on our system. The nights are cool and refreshing, the mornings glorious. The temperature of air and water, makes us forget entirely that we live in the  tropics. We consider the Waimea plains, Kaleiaha and some other isolated settlements round Mauna Kea, as the most healthy localities on Hawai. There we live in the tropics without being molested with one inconvenience of tropical life.

It is a pity that Hawaii is so little known, and not more visited by foreigners. Many a man tired and worn out by the attendance on business and the fatiguing life in cities, could improve his health more by a visit to these islands, and a tour on Hawaii, than by a long stay at a fashionable watering place, and large hotels. The Polynesian world, perfectly new to the foreigner, has so many pleasant features, that with restoration of health, people would regain that elasticity of mind and spirit which becomes more or less lost in the monotony of business and of a city life.”

[For the entire article, click here.]

(Hawaiian Gazette, 5/4/1870, p. 2)


Hawaiian Gazette, Volume VI, Number 16, Page 2. May 4, 1870.


1 thought on “German naturalist Dr. Beratz sees Maunakea, 1870.

  1. Excellent document and commentary by the German Naturalist Dr. Beratz H. Beraz. These kind of first hand written reports by people of that time, providing descriptions of the landscape, caves, and what they saw, in their words, are some of what adds to the education of the old Hawaii for all of us. Thank you so much for this dodument.


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