Albatrosses, Shearwaters and Shaka History at Kaena Point

This year I got to hike the trail out to Kaena Point at the western most tip of the island of Oahu. This wild and lonely place is known in Hawaiian legend as the “jumping off” point, the place where souls leap from this world to the next. Every time I have hiked here it has always felt like the tip end of the world.

Because I was there in June, I had the rare opportunity to see some of the fledgling Laysan Albatrosses there. As we approached we could see the adults flying around.

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Here  is one of the first youngsters we saw, snoozing in the morning sun. Notice that he still has the thick downy feathers on his neck and head, but his adult features are developing and coming through on the rest of his body. These birds nest on open ground.

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Here is another youngster, on the move, sort of:

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A moment later he tried out his wings. These young birds have not flown yet. They are vulnerable to predators. An animal-proof (hopefully) fence has been built across the tip of Kaena Point to keep mongooses, wild dogs and other potential predators out of the Albatross nesting area.

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And here is my favorite one, sitting there serenely while the breeze ruffles his downy feathers.

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Shearwaters

Another bird, the Shearwater, also nests at Kaena Point. This bird nests in underground burrows! Here is a picture of one of the many burrows we saw. Notice the bird footprints going into the burrow.

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Here is another one:

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And here is a view of several more on a grassy ledge overlooking the sea.

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Shaka History

On the way back I took pictures of the railroad ties that still can be seen on the trail. This trail follows the original railroad bed of the railway that used to go around the tip of Kaena Point all that way up to Kahuku. Each morning trains carried sugar cane workers from Waianae around the Point to the sugar cane fields in Waialua and beyond. Each evening the train would bring them back.

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The workers would purchase soft drinks in Waialua or possibly Haleiwa to drink on the train. They would toss the empty bottles out the windows into the grass along the track. To this day, bottle collectors hope to find rare vintage soda bottles buried in the thick brush along the trail.

One railroad story claims that the ubiquitous “shaka” hand wave was born along this railroad. It seems that as the train passed by the sugar cane fields in Ewa, one fellow used to always wave. Trouble was he was missing his first, second and third fingers – due to some unfortunate accident in the fields. Nevertheless, he always gave a friendly wave with his maimed hand. They say kids began imitating his peculiar wave, by holding their first, second and third fingers down. Soon others caught on and the rest is Shaka History!

Related story: See the Laysan Albatross Flyby I caught on film with a 35mm camera.

 

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