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Oahu: Hollywood’s Home Away From Home

Oahu: Hollywood’s Home Away From Home


“Quiet, please. This is a take. And, action!”



VOICE OVER: Question. What do Equatorial Africa, the Amazon, Costa Rica, Panama, the Philippines, Micronesia, the South Seas, Jamaica, Tahiti, Okinawa, Taipan, Viet Nam and the Mediterranean all have in common? Answer: Oahu, Hawaii.

For more than a century — with its pristine beaches, rugged mountains and steamy jungles — Oahu has portrayed the most exotic, inaccessible and dangerous places on earth, representing myriad diverse locales for major movie productions — all without ever leaving the city limits of Honolulu. Hurray for Halewood — the movie industry’s home away from home!

When in 1898 the first motion pictures of Oahu were taken for a Thomas Edison travelogue, Hollywood hadn’t been invented yet. Even the earliest of filmmakers recognized Oahu offered some things unavailable anywhere on the continent — urban city scapes, tropical forests, verdant palisades and lush valleys, crystalline beaches and even sprawling military bases — all within a few miles of each other.



By W. Knox Richardson

You can be born into it, like royalty. Or maybe you just like horses. It can run in the blood of your family for generations. Or at age 50 you may find yourself with an extra few hundred thousand dollars laying around, and you think you might — you just might — like to learn to play polo, mostly because golf is just so passé.

Lee Mullins was born into polo, like royalty. Big Island native Mullins plays with the 23-year-old Honolulu Polo Club on sultry summer Sunday afternoons at the Waimanalo Polo Grounds. Lee’s father, fabled Hawaii polo rider Tony Mullins, introduced Lee into the sport at age five and by age 10, young Mullins are already competing well beyond his experience level.

“You mix it up at levels in most matches,” Mullins said. “There just aren’t that many good players around.”

Now a player of note in his late 20s, Mullins is one the few young quality polo players on Oahu. Polo isn’t exactly dying here, but it is not growing much either. There are enough horses and riders to make a match, but teams aren’t set and players freely play for most any team where they are needed for that day’s game.

Getting into the game isn’t easy, though you don’t need to be rich, per se. Just knowing how to ride is often enough.

Tiare Paty comes from a horse family, too, but polo skipped a generation there. It was her grandfather, a player from the 1970s, who got her into watching games. Paty said it helps to know someone with access to the sport. As a young adult she began as a groom, providing extra hands when horse owners needed them and in return she was taught the sport and has been playing now for several years.

“I had no concept of what polo was all about,” she said. Although growing up around horses, polo was so alien she had to learn from scratch as she rode. “It was kind of sink or swim,” Paty said, referring to the challenge of playing competitively with much stronger players while still learning.

Being a bona fide horse person is a huge advantage over learning both polo and riding simultaneously, although that does happen. Many local players learned the game and riding together, often at an informal local polo academy located on the North Shore of Oahu.

Teams try to match talent levels to have a fair game, but all too often neophyte players are paired against more experienced riders.

Another way to enter the sport is via a more traditional route of riding for a college-level team. Unfortunately, you need to go the mainland to find one, and then probably the east coast.

That’s what Jovanna Giannasio did. After leaving Hawaii for college several years back, she joined the polo team from Skidmore College, a four-year liberal arts school located in upstate New York.

Though already an accomplished horseperson like Paty, Giannasio knew little about polo when she took it up. At one of the few schools with a girl’s team (playing against such schools as Yale and Cornell), Giannasio quickly developed into a solid competitor and now, several years after graduation, competes regularly but still grooms for owners Bob Miller and Allan Hoe.

Historically, a game for kings and their royal courts, polo is now more for everyday people. Much like recreational aviation or serious sailing, it does take some affluence to obtain, care and provide for a string of polo ponies. Some owners laugh, though, when you suggest they’re “rich.”

Many polo horses, called ponies, are actually thoroughbreds and need to be run and played, if only for their fitness and well being. Due to the lack of qualified riders, many horse owners freely offer polo mounts to those riders who don’t own their own horses.

Polo player Paty rides four borrowed mounts during a match, while Mullins rides one horse he owns and is lent the rest.

“These horses are athletes themselves, they know where they are and can’t wait to mix it up,” said Giannasio. “It’s 80 percent horse and 20 percent rider.”
Experienced horses, too, are in short supply. Some are imported from South America, while a few come from New Zealand and the mainland.

The lack of both riders and horses is more a function of local geography than anything else. The limited environs available for both residences and horse ownership limits the appeal of Hawaii for many who want keep horses at their homes.

“This is tough for us. There is such a limited horse community here,” said Alice Lombardo, a long-time member of the club and responsible for the club’s more social activities. Lombardo, a Honolulu real estate broker, noted that land on Oahu for raising horses and playing polo is so limited that everyone already involved with horses pretty much know each other and their interests already.

Still the polo club is always looking for experienced horse people, even if they’ve never competed.


“You don’t have to play to love the game,” club literature says, “If you admire excellence, if the pursuit of perfection gives you a special tingle, polo is right up your alley.”

As a spectator, the sport offers a game somewhat like soccer, only with a ball the size of a softball that you strike with a six-foot-long mallet from atop a galloping horse going 35 miles an hour. Other than that, the game is played on a huge field, three times the length and three times as wide as an American football field. If you can follow soccer, hockey, or even basketball, you can follow polo scoring, at least.

Polo action is mostly continuous, again like soccer. Games last for four-to-six seven minutes periods, or chuckers. Four riders per team change horses for each chucker using up to 16 horses per team, 32 different horses per match.

Observers have one responsibility during the half-time intermission between the second and third chuckers – divot stomping. Visitors are encouraged to make their way onto the field and search out dislodged clumps of grass unearthed by the sudden stops and starts of the horses. Fans are expected to stomp these divots back into the ground.

While t-shirts, shorts and slippers are perfectly acceptable dress, many patrons follow the tradition of wearing their absolutely finest “Ascot Park” dresses and suits, along with hats of all manner and style. Tuxedos are optional since you will be welcomed with aloha and invited to participate with others, including the fancy-fancy people, whether you come dressed for style or comfort.

At Waimanalo Polo Grounds, casual visitors may come early and can plan to stay late. Sunday gates open at 1 p.m. for a 2:30 p.m. game.

Once in Waimanalo, turn into the grounds entrance immediately across from the McDonald’s Restaurant on Kalanianaole Highway near Patrick Ching’s Natural Hawaiian gallery with the life-size fiberglass horse atop the building.

Once on the grounds, you drive the width of the playing field alongside the edge to a grassy parking area down the length of the sidelines. You can park and enjoy the game with unobstructed views right from your car.

Picnicking, tailgating, bar-b-que, ice chests, coolers and even adult beverages are permitted, as are folding chairs and sunshades. Exit gates don’t close until around 7 p.m. so the whole family can make a day of it. Tickets are just $3 a head, under 12 free. Military with ID are always welcome without charge.

There is free polo literature at the snack bar in the grand stand. Ask for “How to Watch a Polo Match.” It will engage any thoughtful spectator who wants to know more about polo than just witnessing superior horsemanship and quality of play that the Honolulu Polo Club affords the public.

Polo social wonk Lombard encourages all residents and even visitors to join them any summer Sunday afternoon. “Bring your family and friends and enjoy one of greatest spectacles ever.

A financial professional who works in an downtown office building, polo player Paty relishes the days she can spend practicing and playing. “It’s good to get out of town,” she said, acknowledging the beautiful park-like polo grounds on the Windward side of Oahu.

As much a game to watch as play, getting into the social sport of polo is easier than jumping on horseback and joining the fray on the field.

“It is not all fun and games – there is serious drinking involved,” said a young, military social guest in the club’s grandstand. (He respectfully declined to identify himself on this particular Sunday afternoon, sir.)

In the stands and off the field, the consumption of adult beverages (in moderation) is permitted, if not encouraged, and is most often well-chilled champagne, but flavored martinis have been spotted from time to time. BYOB.

Even if you don’t know a soul or one end of a horse from the other, you can enjoy a polo match at Waimanalo. You don’t need anything but some lotion, a blanket and maybe a beach chair and umbrella for shade.

Some binoculars might be nice, along with some cold schnapps. By the end of the polo match, with the sun at your back, your Sunday afternoon will be fully engaging, one way or another.

The first time you come, you’ll have a great time. Even better the next. For more information, visit http://www.honolulupolo.com.

2008 Polo Season
Matches start at 2:30 / Gates open 1:00

Oahu’s windward side in beautiful Waimanalo
at the base of the spectacular Ko’olau Mountain Range. Field is on Kalanianaole Highway across from Bellows Beach.
Entrance is across from McDonald’s

$3.00 for adults / 12 and under are free
Military ID enter for free as honored guests.



— Brig. Gen. William “Billy” Mitchell, Report to the War Dept., July1924

By W. Knox Richardson

No one knew they were coming, it is thought. No one knew the Japanese would attack Hawaii that quiet Sunday morning 65 years ago. Right? Oahu was completely unprepared for the surprise aerial assault that came at 7:50 a.m., Dec. 7, 1941—a full 20 minutes later than Billy Mitchell forecast more than 17 years earlier.

While there was no official warning, some people did suspect an attack was coming. A few had considered this notion a fact for years, planning and preparing for it in strange ways. Those few were the Robinsons, the family that then and still owns Niihau, the smallest of the main Hawaiian Islands, a place that has been shrouded in secrecy for nearly 150 years, just 18 miles west of Kauai. Moreover, in December 1941, Niihau is where—for the first time since the War of 1812—a foreign military force occupied U.S. soil and took hostage a civilian population, an incident that directly led to the wartime internment of tens of thousands of Japanese Americans.

But just how did the Robinson family gain such foreknowledge and what they do about it? Who told them and why? To solve that mystery we must first travel back in time, and to do that we must revisit the place where The Last Good War began so swiftly and our national innocence ended so abruptly—Pearl Harbor.

On December 7, 2006, three score and five years after the Day of Infamy, the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island opened its doors to the public. Located at this nation’s first Ground Zero—a spot exactly the middle of maelstrom that was Pearl Harbor—the museum is housed in several 1930s-vintage, bullet-ridden hangars in the shadow of the famed red-and-white tower. The new Pacific Aviation Museum attempts to capture and convey those few moments in Pacific war history—where the airplane had a starring role—and help visitors of this modern, instant-on era understand, appreciate and grasp the importance of what really happened.

Among the first exhibits to greet visitors is a fully restored Japanese fighter. This particular plane is a Mitsubishi-designed Zero A6M2-21, built under license by Nakajima, the same type of fighter that attacked Pearl Harbor, although the museum’s Zero rolled out of the factory a year later on December 14, 1942. This Zero was based in the Solomon Islands, where it flew against American fighter squadrons, including the U.S. Navy’s VF-17 “Jolly Rogers,” Greg “Pappy” Boyington’s VM-F-214 “Black Sheep,” and the Cactus Air Force of Guadalcanal.

The hulk was recovered from Balalle Island in the Solomons in 1969 and restored in Canada using parts of several wrecks. The museum acquired the plane last year from the Confederate Air Force, a non-profit group that restores and flies vintage military aircraft.

This plane has been reconfigured and remarked to depict the plane that was flown on December 7 by Naval Airman First Class Shigenori Nishikaichi, a flight petty officer from the Japanese aircraft carrier Hiryu. Nishikaichi piloted one of nine Zeros dispatched from the Hiryu for the second wave of the Oahu raid. His targets were on the windward side of the island —he attacked both the Marine Corps station at Kaneohe Bay and Bellows Army Airfield at Waimanalo. While attacking, his plane was hit by ground-based machine gun fire and was bleeding fuel and oil badly as he ended his strafing runs at Bellows.

After the raid, Nishikaichi turned his wounded plane northwest toward Kauai Island and the predetermined rendezvous. There a guide plane would meet up with and escort returning attackers back to the fleet maintaining radio silence to avoid detection by American signal intelligence units.

Failing to locate the rendezvous plane, Nishikaichi and a second fighter, also in trouble, turned toward the island of Niihau, believed by the Japanese High Command to be uninhabited. There he was to make an unopposed landing and wait for a rescue submarine he thought would be waiting to recover and return him to the fleet.

Unknown to him, the submarine had been redeployed earlier but word never reached Hiryu’s flyers. Before reaching Niihau, the second plane veered off and crashed into reefs.

What the Japanese didn’t know—and still remains somewhat of a mystery to this day—is that since 1933 the Robinsons had been secretly digging two-foot deep furrows into the land at Niihau in a hatched pattern with trenches laid out every 100 yards or so.

The Robinsons had been warned by a stealthy army officer—only recently identified as Maj. Gerald C. Brant—that the Japanese were planning to use Niihau as a forward air base to launch a full-scale invasion of the Territory of Hawaii. (Editor's Post Publication Note: Brant has now been confirmed to be a Lieutenant Colonel in 1993 when he served as "air officer in the Hawaiian Department," of the U.S. Army. SOURCE: New York Times, Feb. 13, 1932.)

An ex-cavalry officer turned aviator, Maj. Brant was a cohort of Col. Billy Mitchell and had testified for him as his famous court marshal in 1925. Brant was fully aware of Mitchell’s public prognostications regarding a possible attack on Hawaii, as well as the classified reports that got Mitchell into hot water with military commanders in Hawaii.

It was Brant—the surviving Robinsons reportedly believe—who convinced their ancestors to dig trenches, first by mule and later by tractor, for nearly eight years, completing the tasks in the summer of 1941, a few months before the surprise attack.

Thus, when Nishikaichi attempted to land, he was horrified to see Niihau both inhabited and with air defenses in place. He crashed in a remote part of the island and was rescued from his plane by a local Hawaiian and respected community leader, Howard Kaleohano, who took Nishikaichi’s gun and papers.

Yoshio Harada—a Japanese-born immigrant and one of only three residents of Japanese heritage living on the island—successfully interrogated Nishikaichi. The pilot confessed about the state of war. But Harada kept that news to himself. That night, when word of the attack reached the island by radio, Nishikaichi was questioned again more publically.

Some days later, after nightly signal fires failed to gain Kauai’s attention, Kaleohano gave the captured pilot’s papers to a relative for safekeeping and then set out with a group of stout islanders in a whale boat, where they rowed the 14-hour, open-ocean trip to Kauai to inform Aylmer Robinson, their boss, and the military.

In the meantime, Nishikaichi played on Harada’s mixed Japanese-American loyalties and convinced him to assist with a plan for death with honor. He persuaded Harada to steal back his pistol and obtain a shotgun, the only other firearm on the island. The two seized control of the village where they took prisoners before stripping the machine guns off the crashed Zero. Failing to raise anyone on the aircraft’s radio, they tried to burn the plane but the fire did not spread beyond the cockpit.

The following morning, December 13, Harada and Nishikaichi captured Ben Kanahele and his wife, also natives of the island. They ordered Kanahele to find Howard Kaleohano and retrieve the pilot’s military papers. Kanahele refused. Nishikaichi then threatened to shoot Mrs. Kanahele if her husband didn’t cooperate.

Without regard for his own life, Ben Kanahele leapt at Yoshio Harada for control of the shotgun. Nishikaichi quickly pulled his pistol and shot Kanahele three times, once each in the chest, hip and groin.

Mrs. Kanahele dove at the Japanese pilot and had to be pulled off by Harada. While Harada and Mrs. Kanahele grappled, and although severly wounded himself, Ben Kanahele grabbed the pilot by his neck and leg and hurled him like a rodeo calf, head first, into a stone wall. Mrs. Kanahele then bashed his head in with a large rock. In the heat of the moment, to ensure the invader was dead, Kanahele slit his throat with a knife. Harada, seeing the tide turn so quickly, took the shotgun and committed suicide.

The next afternoon, the authorities arrived, taking Mrs. Harada and Ishimatsu Shintani, the other ethnic Japanese, into custody. Shintani was sent to an internment camp and later returned to Niihau, where he attained U.S. citizenship in 1960. Irene Harada was imprisoned for three years, and was released in 1945. She was never charged any crime.

(Ben Kanahele was deemed a hero and sometime later received awards and medals. His son is expected to attend the opening of the museum.)

Within a few months of the attack, this seemingly minor incident would greatly influence the thinking and decisions of the whole government. The Niihau episode led directly to FDR’s Executive Order 9066, signed on Feb. 19, 1942, “relocating” all residents of Japanese ancestry from restricted areas, mostly along the west coast of the mainland—an acknowledged act of wrongdoing yet one upheld by the Supreme Court as constitutional.

The second stop at the Pacific Aviation Museum is called “The Niihau Exhibit” displaying both the tractor that dug the defensive furrows along with the actual airframe skeletal remains of Nishikaichi’s Zero, only recently unearthed and recovered by the museum from the private island of Niihau.

Other aircraft on display include a flyable Navy Wildcat fighter, an Army Air Corps B-25 “Mitchell” Bomber like those used in the 1942 raid on Toyko, and the exact 1942 Stearman Biplane former President George H. W. Bush used to first solo as an 18-year-old naval aviation candidate. Lastly, hanging from the rafters as if in eternal flight, is an innocuous little Aeronca 65TC – a two-place, tandem-seat civilian trainer that was in the air and took enemy fire during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Future exhibits will focus on Korea, Vietnam and Cold War aviation.

As visitors enter the museum, they watch a short documentary on military aviation in the Pacific. In addition to displaying historic aircraft, the museum offers opportunities for visitors to experience an exciting hands-on flight simulator. The museum also has an aviator-style restaurant and a gift shop.

Tickets will be available at the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum or the Museum’s ticket office. General admission is $14 for adults, $7 for children; admission for Hawaii residents and military is $10 for adults and $5 for children; and all active duty military in uniform will receive free admission. For ticket information, please call (808) 690-0169. Civilians must take public transportation to the museum on Ford Island; military with base access may drive and park.


Mystery Still Unsolved
Operating Alone or On Orders?

If in 1933 Army Maj. Gerald Clark Brant (1880-1958) was indeed the military officer that visited Niihau and met with the Robinsons, the question remains as to his lawful authority. (Editor's note: It has been established that Brant was actually a Lieutentant Colonel in 1933.)

Was he working in an official capacity? That idea lends credence to the long-assumed theories the U.S. Government knew much more—in general —about a possible Japanese attack than it let on. Defenses of Oahu were certainly inadequate at the time of the attacks. Yet, if the Army could convince the Robinsons to wreak havoc to their land, it certainly would have better prepared Oahu. Right?

If Brant was operating independently, what evidence did he produce to motivate the decade-long task of furrowing the island’s possible landing strips? Did Brant divulge anything classified, and, if so, just what was that information? Was he operating alone or on orders? Moreover, was Billy Mitchell involved?

In 1932, Oahu had been “captured” during a massive inter-services Pacific battle game held by the War Department. Now, a year later, Brant certainly had access to Hawaii defense secrets and may have just been a very concerned, well-informed citizen trying to do what one man could to prepare for an attack he was sure would come. The Japanese had already invaded China. To Brant, an attack on Hawaii was just a matter of time.

Brant’s career stalled after he testified at Mitchell’s court marshal. Although he eventually rose to the rank of major general, his wartime commands included only the joint defense air forces of Newfoundland and a training command along the Gulf Coast. He retired from the U.S.A.F. in 1948 and died 10 years later.

So what did the U. S. Government know and when did they know it?

There is no apparent official record of Brant’s pre-war adventures in Hawaii – no letters, no reports, no nothing. It is a mystery.

(Editor's Note: Since publication of the printed version of this story, this newspaper has learned the family of Gen. Brant has recently uncovered more pre-War documentation regarding Brant, Billy Mitchell and his prophetic views, and the defense of Hawaii. Additionally, letters between Brant and Chief of Staff Marshall and Gen. Henry "Hap" Arnold from 1939 to 1941 in the war planning files of the Pentagon have been identified and are being requested for release. The news of the pre-War relationship between the Robinson family and the War Deparment was reporedly declassfied just this year, according to sources close to the Robinson family.)

W. Knox Richardson is the editor and publisher of the Oahu Island News, an island-wide community newspaper serving the City and County of Honolulu.

Public domain reference resources were used in compiling this report.


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Excerpt from a work in progress


I used to live in old Kaaawa on Windward Oahu near Lae o ka Oio, which, depending on Hawaiian pronunciation, translates either to “the point of the bone fish” or “the point of the night marchers.” Many people, people who knew about such things, warned me about night marchers, the spirits of early Hawaiians who appear on ancient trails on certain moonlit nights. I doubted the existence of something so ridiculous until we found the perfect little cottage by the sea…

A real estate sales person would call it a surfer’s shack, I called it my writer’s retreat. It was small, 600-square-feet, perched on the very edge of the open Pacific on Oahu’s sun rise shore.

The cottage was simple and rustic, board-and-batten exterior with thick cedar shakes on a steep-pitched Polynesian roof, and a picture window framing blue sky and blue sea.

Any closer and the cottage would be in the tide pools. Built years before codes required ocean setbacks, the cottage stood a stone’s throw from a lava rock seawall facing turquoise waves that curled ashore endlessly.

The seawall kept most waves out of the yard and provided hidey-holes for the little “corpse-eating” black crabs Hawaiians call aama, and consider a delicacy.

All day, all night, the waves rolled in (they are rolling in now) and died just below the lip of the sea wall, splashing over the black crabs, and sometimes staining the green grass brown. The spray often wet my deck chairs. Some mornings after high tide when the onshore breeze was strong I awoke to find my picture window frosted with salt. It was like living on a land-locked yacht and I loved it.

The rent was cheap, neighbors interesting and creative (an architect, a local comedian, a marketing wizard, and a writer), the isolation ideal, and sense of place complete.

When I looked out across the lagoon south down the palm-lined coast of Kaneohe Bay the coast reminded me of photographs of old Hawaii when men in malo held fish in clenched teeth.

Even now when I show people pictures of where I lived they can’t believe such a place exists, certainly not on Oahu. “You lived there?” they ask. Most don’t believe it is Hawaii; it looks so South Pacific, Moorea-like or Bora Bora.

We tried to buy the cottage but it was not for sale, not for a million dollars even then.

The cottage and main house where Michael and Lulu lived stood under a honey almond tree at the foot of Kanehoalani, the knife-like promontory named for the father of Pele. The landmark point visible from the Pali Lookout is the gateway to Kaaawa Valley, one of Hawaii’s most sacred and scenic, on Oahu’s windward side.

With the Pacific Ocean in my front yard and the jagged cliffs of Kanehoalani in my backyard, the location combined two key elements of Hawaii- mauka and makai, the mountains and the sea. The sun and the moon rose out of the sea and set behind the coastal Koolau range.

We had our own gold sand beach, a lagoon full of manini that attracted net fishermen, and a surf break worked by bronze local kids who arrived in rusty 4-wheel-drive pickups with “Eddie Would Go” bumper stickers.

When friends from town (which on Oahu always means Honolulu) came to visit they never wanted to go home, “back to reality” they would say. “This is reality,” I would remind them. Only the search for food forced me to leave my seaside retreat.

It was the ideal place to write, and I did — three books in three years with a good start on a novel set in the Sea of Cortez about a 11-year old Oregon boy and his grandfather, an underwater photographer paralyzed by polio, on a voyage of discovery aboard a La Paz shrimp boat.

There was only one problem-the neighborhood was haunted. At least, that’s what I have come to believe after all that happened.

Nobody knew it then, and if we had, we would have denied it, but strange things happened, not all at once or with any regularity to give fair warning, but now, years later, I can see how one thing led to another, how little episodes grew into something larger like brain coral on the reef, signs I now realize we ignored or were just too busy to notice.

Michael always said there are no coincidences but whatever set certain events in motion and influenced all our lives began the day Michael found the Ku statue in the backyard of Desu’s old house in Waimanalo and brought it home. I don’t really think the Ku statue had anything to do with what happened but I do know everything changed after it appeared on the property.

Michael laid the Ku statue face down in the front yard under the honey almond tree. I guess he thought by placing it face down none of the statue’s mana would ooze out at night. I’m not sure it worked.

Some nights the neighbor’s dogs would bark at nothing, nothing visible, anyway. Sometimes our house lights flickered on and off. The fruit rat quit the honey almond tree and moved under the tin roof of the Weber barbecue. My new car battery died. Little things, like that.

Kenny, an electrician who worked on the ranch, stopped by to check out the main fuse box, and saw the Ku statue laying there. “It’s all the Ku’s fault,” he said, half-joking. We laughed but didn’t believe him. You know how superstitious some Hawaiians are.

One night, we came back from a shrimp dinner at Ahi’s and found a Coast Guard helicopter hovering above the rocky shore. From the chopper, a searchlight probed the tidepools, scattering little black crabs, at the foot of James and Deborah’s seaside house.

There had been an accident. Deborah had fallen off her lanai and landed on her back 15 feet below. The Coast Guard helicopter crew plucked her out of the tidepools with a basket and a sling and flew her to Queens where x-rays showed cracked vertebrae.

Lani always sensed a sinister presence at that end of the beach. Now, she was convinced. She’d heard about the gay couple a few doors down who ran screaming from their house after something came through the house one night.

“Night marchers,” Michael said. “I don’t know what it is,” Lani said that night, “but something out there makes me nervous.”
Michael lighted candles in the night like Tahitians do to keep the tupupau (spirits) out of their houses.

Lani took Deborah flowers at Queens and tried to find out how the accident happened. Soon after, Lani moved to Waimanalo. She said she wanted to be closer to town. I know there were other reasons.

Michael gave the Ku statue to Ahi. Bula and Ahi blessed it, performed a proper Hawaiian rite of exorcism over the primitive wooden carving, and Ahi stood it upright behind his restaurant in Punalu‘u for tourists to see.

Nothing unusual happened for a long time after that. Life in Kaaawa settled back into a seamless continuum of endless waves defined only by sunrises, sunsets and tide changes. I kept an eye on the place and kept writing, Michael made one of his frequent collecting trips to Bali and brought back Indonesian antiques (hand-carved armoires, stone gargoyles and tea planter’s chairs) for the Japanese tea shop he designed in Kaimuki-and a new, young girlfriend, named Tri, from Java, who caught fish with her bare hands in the lagoon, polished her English by watching TV soap operas, and took a shine to Pringles.
One afternoon I came home to find Tri and Michael outside their house while men from Kaaawa Fire Department with long hoses doused a blaze in the power pole next to the bedroom.

The power pole had burst into flames that engulfed the main house while Tri watched soap operas and Michael drew house plans for a new client on Kauai.
We thought at first that Tri might have left the rice cooker on but the fire inspector blamed spontaneous combustion.

After the mysterious fire the incidents began to escalate. One afternoon Michael began babbling as if possessed by demons and was rushed by ambulance to Castle Hospital; the doctors said he suffered a stroke, but I never believed that. Marcie got bitten on the ankle by a stray dog at the beach. One night Billy fell asleep driving home, hit the power near his house, and broke a chest full of ribs. A fatal head-on car crash in broad daylight closed Kamehameha Highway, police diverted traffic along the horse trail through the ranch. None of us could recall if any of those events occurred during a full moon or in the time of night marchers. We really didn’t believe in all that old Hawaiian stuff, anyway.

Then “Mr. Big,” as Michael always called the supernatural force, raised the ante. Deborah’s husband died of a sudden heart attack and I was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Excerpted from “In The Path of Night Marchers” by Rick Carroll, a memoir of survival, a work in progress. Copyright 2006 by Rick Carroll. Used with permission.

Rick Carroll is the author of recently published “IZ: Voice of the People” and “The Best of Hawaii’s Best Spooky Tales,” both published locally by Bess Press. He is also the author of numerous Hawaii and Pacific books on adventure, voyaging canoes, hula, musicians, island curiosities and the supernatural. He has written about vanishing rainforests, endangered species and Hawaii’s quest for sovereignty; and natural phenomenon: total eclipses, erupting volcanoes and tsunamis. An award-winning daily journalist for the “San Francisco Chronicle,” Carroll wrote West Coast headline stories on topics ranging from Haight Ashbury hippies to Silicon Valley’s technowizards. His travel articles from exotic datelines – Hanga Roa, Nukualofa, Vavau, and Ubud – appeared in United Press wire stories in newspapers around the world.

The Amazing Adventures of Mike Buck

By W. Knox Richardson

Oahu is a pretty small place. Within a few miles, you can go from multimillion-dollar hillside mansions to up-country tent cities of the homeless. Wowie! Let’s talk about the homeless. Or have you noticed the price of gas lately? Brrreeee! Let’s talk about that gas cap. Or did you read about all those cocaine arrests. Oh, man! Let’s talk about addiction.

Sound familiar? It would if you were a regular listener to the king of afternoon Honolulu talk radio, the mouth that roared, the Rush Limbaugh of the ‘Aina, the Great Gabby – that’s right, Buckaroo Mike Buck.

You’ve heard of him, but mostly you know that voice – the energetic, throaty baritone boomer — not quite a Hawaiian accent, but not quite mainland either. Like Hawaii, Buck sounds like a fusion of the local cultures.

On Clear Channel’s KHVH, 830 kilocycles on your AM radio dial, “The Mike Buck Show” is branded as “The Front Page.” Buck takes the front pages of daily newspapers and brings them to life. He owns the 3-to-7 p.m. drive time “day part” attracting the most desirable demographics of the rush-hour commuter audience. People just like you who give a stitch about modern life here in Paradise Estates.

“I bring people into the news,” Buck said, “instead of just being a victim of it.

Like the Internet, talk radio has become a conduit to governmental officials. The unique geography of Hawaii, and Honolulu as the capital, enables Buck to offer one-on-one public access to all levels of officials including both the Hawaiian members of the congressional House of Representatives, the state Lt. Governor, the state Superintendent of Public Instruction, and, probably most important to local residents, the Mayor of the City and County of Honolulu.

“Local access is a big key,” Buck said. “They know where I stand and they know I am not going to push my personal agenda on them.”

“Mike is a local radio institution in Honolulu,” Mayor Mufi Hannemann told the Oahu Island News.

“When I first become mayor, several radio outlets approached me asking to make appearances on their air-waves,” Hannemann said. “There were actually too many to do, but I knew I would do Mike’s show.”

Buck said he doesn’t set the agenda. He lets the day’s news do that.

“I go strictly off the front page. I don’t want to make an issue; I just want to react to it like everybody else. I want to dig a little deeper and find out what is really going on. And I want both sides of the story,” Buck explained.

But he does have a viewpoint. A dedicated independent conservative, he says he agrees “99 percent” with national talk host Rush Limbaugh. Buck looks at the issues and not parties or politicians. He lets you know where he stands. Buck is anti-light rail, for one, calling it the “greatest make-work boondoggle” in state history.

“There are going to be people getting rich, maybe double or triple rich,” Buck said. “It is a great example of one-party rule forcing something down the throats of the people. It’s coming. Oh, it’s coming.”

Mike Buck is also known as the Voice of Honolulu. During his nearly half century-long career in broadcasting — most of it here in Hawaii — Buck has done broadcast TV and radio news, TV magazine shows, emcee gala events and even act on stage. He just served as the MC for Memorial Day observances at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in the Punchbowl crater.

Most over-the-air radio personalities are faceless, disembodied voices. Few could be recognized in public. If you didn’t know Buck and passed him on the street, you wouldn’t give him a second look, nor should you. But if you did know him, and hadn’t seen him recently, you still might not recognize him. He is not half the man he used to be, quite literally.

Mike was always big, too big one might say. At his peak, he weighed 524 pounds. Oh, brother! Today weighs in at about 215 – he has lost more than 300 pounds of flesh – the equivalent to two small men and a Burmese goat.

Three years ago, Buck underwent lifesaving surgery to restrict the size of his stomach to one-quarter its normal volume. Combined with other therapies for his sleep apnea and Type II diabetes, Buck’s surgery has allowed him to maintain his new look and feel for almost three year so far. He carries with him before-and-after photographs showing the incredible difference.

Surgery came into the picture for Buck after discovering his sleep apnea had nearly cost him his life. While commuting from his Dole Cannery studios to home in East Honolulu, he was pulled over by HPD on the Kalanianaole Highway for apparent drunk driving when he actually had been falling asleep at the wheel.

Buck said he never really saw himself as being all that heavy. The incident with the police was his wake up call, he said.

At the time he had always felt fatigued, but didn’t realize until tested that he had been waking up hundreds of times over the night from his sleep apnea, ruining any change of a good rest and good health. Once diagnosed, he was put on oxygen therapy and a month later was ready for his surgery. Now, three years later, he credits the procedure with extending his life.

“It is not a panacea. You can eat your way through it,” Buck warned. “But I would not have made this far without it.”

Buck’s adventures in broadcasting began when as a teenager. He was discovered, if you will, at age 15 while emceeing some long forgotten local event. In the audience was Hal Lewis, identified over the radio as “J. Akuhead Pupule,” a well-known local broadcaster of that day.

“Lewis was a friend of my father and he told my dad I ought to be in radio,” Back recalled. “At first I would sit at Aku’s knees on Saturday mornings. He gave me little pad and told me every time he mentioned certain products like Coca Cola or some local product to make a little mark and he would send them a bill for five bucks. He gave me a couple bucks to keep track of his money.”

Buck was born during World War II to a Marine Corps pilot with strong ties to the Islands and grew up in Waikiki and metropolitan Honolulu where he attended Star of the Sea School and later Punuhou. He talks often of the retail business where his parents owned a variety of stores, an early one being Lanai Sportswear on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki. Like so many territorial youths, he and his brother, Mark, learned to surf and ski from Duke Kahanamoku and other beach boys at the Outrigger Canoe Club on Waikiki beach. Later Mike would work in Buck family’s retail business.

“It was basically a couple little tourist stores that grew to more than 20 stores on four islands and in San Francisco,” Buck said.

Buck’s TV career included stints as a news director and general manager for an Anchorage TV station as well as on-air and management positions for several other stations in Honolulu. He was the host of the popular TV news magazine “Portraits in Paradise.” His work as a commercial voice over talent spans most west coasts markets as well as Hawaii.

Among his other professions, Buck counts commercial fishing, scuba diving, black pearl diving, homebuilding, auctioneering, music and acting. He is still involved in the commercial fishing supply business.

When he left Hawaii for Australia in the early 1960s, he become involved in television acting, landing a recurring role as a villain on a network crime drama called “Homicide.”

Even when working in Alaska, Buck felt he was never far from the aloha of Hawaii. One afternoon in the dead of winter (about 10 degree below zero) he was huddled next to a camera van trying to get warm when someone drove by who must have recognized him.

“The car’s window was lowered just enough for someone to flash the “shaka” sign to me,” Buck said. “I smiled so widely my face hurt.”
Back in Hawaii for good in the early 1980s, Buck’s weight was hurting his career in front of the camera.

“This is a very fickle industry,” Buck said. “It’s full of people that make judgments based upon what you look like. I talk with groups now, people who may need the surgery, or rather to help them avoid it.”

Due to his personal success, he is an advocate of the surgery for those who present with the primary three morbidities – more than 100 lbs. overweight, sleep apnea and high-cholesterol and/or diabetes. In fact, he is also a proponent of a health foods compound called Nature Bee, a bee-pollen product from New Zealand.

Those that have heard his show know of his frequent calls with the Kiwi-accented manufacturer of Nature Bee. What you may not know is that for millions of mainlanders, Mike Buck is the Hawaiian equivalent. Beginning every weekday at 1:40 a.m., Buck conducts a series of live calls with 21 mainland radio stations where he makes sales pitches as the North American Sales Director for the product.

“I just love the stuff,” Buck said. “I used to take 14 medications after my surgery. Now I only take Nature Bee.”

By 9 a.m. he has been working nearly three hours and is nearly prepped for his afternoon show.

“I wanted to be a talk radio host until working with Mike,” said freelance writer and former KHNL news reporter Melisa Uchida who served as Buck’s producer a few years ago. “People don’t understand how hard it is to talk for four straight hours.”

“The truth is I couldn’t do the show without my producer, Edd Harness,” Buck confessed.

Buck is on-the-air, live, seven days a week with his Monday through Friday afternoon show, plus several paid programs on Saturday and two shows on Sunday, including his well-known “Go Fish” fishing show from 5 to 7 p.m. He also serves on several community and charity boards of directors.

Buck and his wife of nearly four years, Jackie Collins-Buck, a Honolulu realtor with Mary Worrall Associates, live in the Portlock area with their two golden retrievers.

What is next for the seemingly tireless 62-year-old Buck?

“These days I am working a book, “The Staple Diet,” (in its third edit) and would like to travel the country as a motivational speaker talking about lifestyle changes that most folks need to get and stay healthy.” Buck said. “We have a health crisis in America and it’s the battle against obesity. I hope in my experiences others will find their personal solutions to the problem.”

When asked after a very long day what “aloha” means to him, Buck offered this: “Aloha is not just a word. Aloha is a state of mind that can only be achieved if you are at peace with yourself and your surroundings. Aloha is truly Hawaii’s gift to the world. Aloha is compassion, understanding, and the calm before, during and after the storm.”

Mike Buck is a complex, internally driven man who has spent most of his life in a body kids made fun of. Now he can’t slow down. He just can’t.

Haiku Stairs Redux

Liability, Maintenance & Rude Dudes Keep Historic Steps Closed to Public

UPDATE: The following article first ran in the Oahu Island News in 2003. At the time, a battle was brewing for easy, non-trespassing access to the famed Haiku Stairs on the Windward side above Kaneohe. Since then, the guns of dissent have fallen silent. The City & County of Honolulu has been unsuccessful in its plans to have the state assume responsibility and liability for the stairs. Without state action, the stairs have fallen back into disrepair and are overgrown again. Several times we have been asked to republish the story.

By John Goody
Special to Oahu Island News

Foot by foot, Bill Adams and Louis Otto climbed their way up the east wall of Haiku Valley, leaving the rope in place after each assault. At the end of 21 days of steady work, long since invisible through the clouds to those below, they achieved the summit.

Clinging to the northernmost spur of the hogback, they looked around. They could not see more than 20 feet through the dripping mist; it was cold, windy and scary. Sitting, exhausted, on the wet ground, Adams swung one leg over the far side and straddled the mountain. The fog broke a little.

“God Almighty!” he grunted. “Look, Louis.”

The drop on the east side was almost perpendicular, all the way down 1,800 feet to the next valley beyond. They were perched on the razor’s edge of the summit ridge.

UPDATE: The following article first ran in the Oahu Island News in 2003. At the time, a battle was brewing for easy, non-trespassing access to the famed Haiku Stairs on the Windward side above Kaneohe. Since then, the guns of dissent have fallen silent. The City & County of Honolulu has been unsuccessful in its plans to have the state assume responsibility and liability for the stairs. Without state action, the stairs have fallen back into disrepair and are overgrown again. Several times we have been asked to republish the story.

By John Goody
Special to Oahu Island News

Foot by foot, Bill Adams and Louis Otto climbed their way up the east wall of Haiku Valley, leaving the rope in place after each assault. At the end of 21 days of steady work, long since invisible through the clouds to those below, they achieved the summit.
Clinging to the northernmost spur of the hogback, they looked around. They could not see more than 20 feet through the dripping mist; it was cold, windy and scary. Sitting, exhausted, on the wet ground, Adams swung one leg over the far side and straddled the mountain. The fog broke a little.
“God Almighty!” he grunted. “Look, Louis.”

The drop on the east side was almost perpendicular, all the way down 1,800 feet to the next valley beyond. They were perched on the razor’s edge of the summit ridge.

Then, for a moment, the clouds blew off and the enormous panorama of the whole region lay below them. There, to windward, the shallow curve of Kaneohe Bay glimmered pale emerald in the sunlight, bordered by vivid turquoise of the shoals. The naval air base at Mokapu seemed a cluster of white dots around the base of Ulupau.

“Pretty, by God!” said Bill fervently.


The first two pioneers reached the summit ridge of Puu Keaheakahoe in 1942 – and so began the construction of Haiku Stairs.
Today, the trail these men pioneered up the face of Puu Keaheakahoe is closed, but according to Honolulu Managing Director Ben Lee, there is “great promise” for reopening the stairs. If all goes as expected, the “Stairway to Heaven” should open for hikers to experience the windswept cliffs and beautiful views of windward and leeward Oahu within the coming year.

Opposition to reopening the Haiku Stairs has been voiced by some residents of the bordering neighborhood. The root cause of complaints, often heard at meetings, is that people cut through their neighborhood, take up street parking spaces, make noise, cause dogs to bark and generally disrupt the neighborhood. In response to these issues, the Kaneohe Neighborhood Board has formed a task force to investigate residents’ claims before the stairs are reopened to the public.

The Haiku Stairs were originally constructed so antennas – the working end of a top-secret naval radio station that would communicate across the Pacific – could be stretched across Haiku Valley. At first, the stairs were just a line of ropes hanging from metal pickets. Shortly there after, the ropes were replaced by wooden ladders and then by wooden steps. Over time, the wooden steps were replaced by the present-day metal ladders, which closely resemble a series of ship’s ladders connected end-to-end. Although the stairs have endured for more than 60 years, the remains of several sections of the original wooden ladders are still visible, strewn across the cliff sides where they were discarded.

When the metal stairway was completed in 1953, it was able to provide continuing access for maintenance to the antennas and communications control link that is perched near the summit of Puu Keaheakahoe. Today, these unique and historical structures along with the Haiku Stairs are historic properties eligible for protection under the National Historic Preservation Act.

They are in need of such protection.

In 1972, the radio station in Haiku Valley was transferred from the Navy to the Coast Guard to operate as an Omega navigation station. During that time a small and discreet group of local hikers came to use the Haiku Stairs to gain access to the ridge of the Koolau Pali. This use of the Haiku Stairs was not an issue until the climb was publicized in a Honolulu daily newspaper. Then, the secret was out.

By the mid 1980s, the Coast Guard registered up to 20,000 people a year to climb the Haiku Stairs. These hikers would enter the valley through the gate (which is now locked) in Haiku Village and park at the transmitter site or along the loop road. This situation continued until the stairs were vandalized in 1987. Three stair sections, at the steepest portions of the climb, were torn out and thrown down the mountain. After that incident, the stairs were closed to hikers. Shortly thereafter, the obsolete Omega station was closed and the Coast Guard left the valley.

The stairs once again gained a relative measure of peace, as only those hikers who knew the trails, and were willing to scramble across gaps of nearly vertical rock with only the aid of frayed, old, fixed ropes, could ascend the trail. It remained that way until the Coast Guard, approaching a land transfer to local government, threatened to tear out Haiku Stairs. A public outcry ensued to save the stairs. That protest, bolstered by the fact that the stairs are a historic structure and that the environmental impact caused by their removal would be substantial, persuaded the Coast Guard to relinquish the Omega station, with the stairs intact, to its highest-priority claimant, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

The valley was of no direct use to DHHL as its terrain is too steep and rugged for cost-effective development. But it was a good bargaining chip for more useful land, and the city and county of Honolulu eyed the Haiku Valley as a mountain park. Due to the expectation of a land exchange with DHHL, the City of Honolulu appropriated and spent over $800,000 to repair the stairs. The newly improved stairs were expected to become one of the focal points of a nature and cultural preserve in valley. The repair to the stairs proceeded on schedule – not so did the negotiations for a land exchange, or for temporary access to the stairs through the Hope Chapel.

Once repairs were completed, hikers, by word of mouth and news articles, returned. Lacking a designated parking area or trail access, they began routing through neighborhoods and climbing fences erected to keep them out – thus, the seeds of yet another community dispute were sewn.

While some of the neighbors seemed to take it in stride, a small group of residents in the Hokulele subdivision were angered that hikers used the neighborhood as a trailhead. A few even began calling for complete removal of stairs and extended their objections to the creation of a park in the valley. Trespassing hikers, it seems, have created a sentiment among some to fight anything that would bring other people into the neighborhood. Although security guards now keep the majority of trespassing hikers out, that sentiment unfortunately lingers among a few neighborhood residents.
Where do we go from here?

Twenty years ago, before the Hokulele subdivision was constructed, access to Haiku Stairs was through the Coast Guard Station in Haiku Valley.
In that period and since, when many trespassing hikers have made the climb, no serious injuries have been reported. This is a far better safety record than many of our beach parks and other mountain trails. The Haiku Stairs are a jewel in the crown of Oahu’s outdoor environment. They have brought inspiration to untold climbers. They teach the value of perseverance, of setting goals and reaching them by taking one step at a time. They teach the value of physical fitness, they teach us about history and geology and of Hawaii’s unique plant life. More than just a recreational and inspirational resource, the stairs are an educational tool of great value.

No one disputes that residents have a right to peace and quiet in their community. Fortunately, there is a way to accomplish this by restoring appropriate public access to the Haiku Stairs.

Residents do not have the right to close public access to mountain lands and trails because they do not want other citizens to travel through their community on public roads. Throughout Oahu, access to mountains and beaches is gained through neighboring communities. We go to the beach in Kohala, Lanikai, and Kailua by parking in neighborhoods and walking paths between houses. Nearly every mountain park in the Koolau Mountains is reached through a neighborhood, from Aiea Heights to Mauna Lua Valley and Kuliouou. Haiku Valley is no different; in Hawaii, mountain lands are not the private preserve of those privileged to live at their edges.

The number of people who can use the Haiku Stairs is limited by the physical size of the stairs themselves. Under proper management, 100 people a day would be a reasonable number of hikers to ascend the stairs, although past records indicate the number of actually hikers would be substantially less. Having too many hikers on the trail would not only be impractical, it would adversely affect the climbing experience and potentially damage the stairs and the surrounding environment. This small number of hikers (spread over an entire day), along with adequate parking and management in place, would not create a problem passing through the neighborhood. It certainly did not in the past.

We need to work together as a community to provide safe, legal access to Haiku Stairs. To accomplish this, we also need to work with renewed energy on the land exchange for Haiku Valley that would enable a cultural and natural preserve there, and to provide managed access for Haiku Stairs.

As of press time, the Kaneohe Neighborhood Board’s Task Force proposal is to use a parking area at the Windward Community College, and access the stairs by following a fenced pathway bordering the state hospital to the H-3 service road, which leads to the bottom of the Haiku Stairs. This initiative, which does not address access into Haiku Valley, answers many issues raised by residents. Likewise, consideration should be given to use of Haiku Road for access into Haiku Valley via the Omega Station gate, as was done in the past. This suggestion avoids using roads inside Haiku Village, and Haiku Road could be gated at the bottom to control access. Measures such as these, combined with effective control and management of the stairs, continued discouragement of trespassing and public education, will work.

The alternative – to close Haiku Stairs and the Haiku Valley – is simply short sighted and anger-driven. Rather than solving the trespassing problem, it will only prolong it and provoke a destructive fight within the community. It will also leave open the possible for future economic uses of the Haiku Valley that are potentially far worse for the community than a passive natural preserve and park.

The solution to all of this is there to be had, we must work together as a community now, and do it the right way.

John Goody is the president of the Friends of Haiku Stairs and a long-time windward resident. He is a retired U.S. Marine, and retired Vice President of the consulting firm of Belt Collins. Formerly a resident of Haiku Village, he and his family have been climbing Haiku Stairs since 1977.


By W. Knox Richardson

Oahu-based Duane “Dog” Chapman is a walking, talking contradiction as his freewheeling, tough-guy outlaw image belies an enormously big heart. Sporting his trademark, uh, hairdo and his eccentric gangland get-ups, this unabashed self-promoting bounty hunter seeks love more than money and shares his territorial-style aloha like Cupid on Ecstasy. He doesn’t carry a gun and before handing off his captures, he offers them counseling, compassion and a cigarette. But that is Dog today. He wasn’t always such a nice guy.

“When you look at a bounty hunter, you say ‘This is a good guy, or could be a good guy, but you also know this guy’s got a past.” Chapman said. “And that image fits perfectly with me, because I really, really, honestly, am a good guy, but I do have a past.”

As a youth, Chapman was a bad seed. He was a practicing criminal, but, thankfully, one might say, he wasn’t very good at it, being arrested nearly 20 times for robbery. Most everyone knows that Chapman was rightly or wrongly convicted of accessory to murder. He involved himself with sorts of people who carried guns, sought out trouble, and generally found it. He was present at a drug deal gone bad when a man was killed. Under the Texas felony-murder rule, he was lumped in with others and sent up the river. He served his time and in the process found God and became — in the vernacular of the Wild West — a good guy, minus the white hat.

Dog now practices a trade he first discovered as a child, watching Steve McQueen in episodes of “Wanted: Dead or Alive” and Clayton Moore in “The Lone Ranger,” while perfecting his take-down moves in front of a mirror.

“‘Who was that masked stranger,’ I’d ask myself. That’s who I wanted to be,” Chapman said. Nowadays, he tells anyone who will listen he is the best in the business, or at least the most famous of all those who track down fugitives from the law and bring them to justice. He claims more than 6,000 arrests in 25 years and, without a doubt, is the most visible member of his chosen profession.

Fast forward to today. Dog the Bounty Hunter is a bigger-than-life star, the lead cast member in the hit A&E reality TV series of the same name. Just last month, the series debuted in its third season as the cable network’s No. 1 rated program for the second year in a row. The show has propelled Chapman, along with his soon-to-be wife and business partner Beth Smith, and his co-hunters and family, to world-class celebrity status rivaling that of major movie stars, politicians and potentates. At the same time, Dog is far more accessible to fans than most any other celebrity as the world-famous bounty hunter from Hawaii.

“I travel a lot on the mainland and I met ‘the people,’” Chapman said. “I go to K-Mart, right, and Wal-Mart, Target, and then Nordstrom, so I go to all places. And, in each, people come up to me and ask, ‘Hey, Dog, is Hawaii really like that (on the show)? Or ‘Hey, Dog, is Hawaii now in the United States? Can you find United States doctors there?”

But even the great Dog wasn’t sure about Hawaii and the spirit of aloha when he first arrived for a visit in 1989. At the time, Chapman was a speaker for Tony Robbins’ exclusive motivational “Mastery” program, representing someone “bad gone good.”

“Of course, I’d seen the Elvis Presley movies,” Chapman offered. “When I got off the plane and everyone was putting a lei on you, I asked a girl what aloha meant and she said it meant love, hello and goodbye. And then when I was with Tony Robbins for dinner, this brown-skinned guy was serving food and said, ‘Here, brother, take this.’ Brother? After the dinner was over, I met with him and he told me about Hawaiian words, and the history of Hawaii, about Captain Cook and all that happened and I was intrigued.

“After 10 days with Tony Robbins, I called my mother, who was watching my kid, and said, ‘Mom, I just found paradise and we’re moving here,’ and she said, ‘Son, I know you don’t drink, but are you drunk?’” Within a couple years, Chapman had established himself as the most successful bounty hunter in Hawaii. In 1991, he moved his aging parents over from the mainland and they all lived in the Waipuna apartments in Waikiki. Later, he moved them to the Big Island near Kailua-Kona. Now, living here for more than 15 years, Dog considers himself and his family kama‘aina, and doubts he’ll ever move back to the mainland.

“I would never raise my kids on the mainland,” he said. “I feel my children are the most important things in my life and I feel that they are very safe in Hawaii – in school, coming home from school, going out to the bowling alley at night or going to the beach. Being in L.A., just driving by different places we see crime happening constantly. You don’t see that in Hawaii, brother.”

But there is crime in Hawaii, sadly enough. Chapman is on a personal crusade to end the plague of crystal methamphetamine or “ice.” He sees Hawaii crime in different terms than on the mainland, and even though Hawaii is a small state, his job is made much tougher by the omnipresent family-oriented culture.

“It’s easier to find people in the mainland than it is on Hawaii. People may know each other in Hawaii, many are related and it’s harder to turn in a friend or a relative. Where on the mainland, they get turned in faster. In Hawaii, with the mixture of cultures, a lot of people look alike to a lot of people.” In an upcoming episode of his show, Dog tracks down a fugitive who had been on the run in Hawaii for more than 18 months.

“He left Hawaii for Santa Barbara (Calif.) on a Friday and by Wednesday we had him in custody.” But just finding the bad guys isn’t the only difference.

“You know, I’m little dog in Hawaii,” he laughed, “but I am Big Bad Dog on the mainland. I will be walking with some guy here (in Hawaii) and someone will ask, ‘Hey, is Dog your lunch?’ The guys are tougher here, they are bigger, and they hit harder than in LA. In L.A., the bad guys are chronic — if they do 10 push ups, they’d have a massive coronary. In Hawaii, even the maniacs are still in shape.”

“When I make an arrest on the mainland, people ask, ‘Dog, why don’t you carry a gun?’ I tell them we do it Hawaiian style, skin on skin. Hawaiians are tough, brah. They like to throw down.”

Chapman’s mother was half Native American and an evangelical preacher who taught scripture to Navajos on the reservations in New Mexico. He credits her with his spiritual side and his dad, a former navy welder, for his personal strength. His mother’s influence permeates his being to this day. Many stories have portrayed Chapman as a born-again Christian, but Dog takes exception to that label.

“I am not Jewish or Christian or whatever. I am just a believer. I believe in the scriptures. I believe in the bible. If I make a mistake, I repent, like constantly. But I don’t know if I can be labeled a certain faith. The Christians get mad at me because I say, ‘Freeze, Mother F——,’ but I tell them that yelling ‘Freeze in the name of Jesus’ just doesn’t work. So I don’t want to embarrass anyone.”

In 1994, Chapman’s mother passed away and is buried in Hilo “because that is where she wanted to be. She said I want to go from one paradise to the next.” He was hit hard by her passing and easily admits how close he was to her.

“I always had my mother with me, you know, always,” he revealed of himself. “I lost my best friend in the whole world. If it hadn’t been for Hawaii, I would have lost it all.

“When my mom died, I almost slipped back into the criminal world. I was so negative. I was saying, ‘Where’s my mommy.’ I just couldn’t believe it.”

Chapman then said that for years he had known Beth Smith, the daughter of a mid-western baseball professional and a leading Colorado bail bonds professional herself, taking up the trade after first meeting Chapman.

“I had known Beth and then I reached out. I said there was this one girl I know who loves me. So I went back to the mainland for a year and hooked up with her because I just had to have the love. I had dated Beth for many years — for 16 years we’ve known each other and are coming up on 10 years of living together,” Chapman said. Plans are now in the works for a May 20 wedding on Big Island. Stay tuned.

But is Dog a good role model for Hawaiian youth?

“Oh, my god. Listen,” Chapman lamented. “I am trying to quit smoking now and it is the hardest thing in the world for me. I really wish I never had started. And I’ve got to quit because of kids. They’re looking at me. It’s incredible. People are watching me all over the world. You talk about being on parole or probation or whatever — I am on it all. And what if I slip and fall? I don’t want them to slip and fall, too. I am trying as hard as I can but I am human.
“I don’t want to ever let Hawaii down.”

What’s left for the Dog?

“I haven’t met our governor because I’m like…how can I say this: You know how first impressions are everything? Well, I walk up to people and they call the police. Oh, my god, you’re the guy my mother always told me about. But after they get to know me, it’s okay,” Chapman quipped. “In the political world, I am a little bit dangerous. Do we like him, or do we not? I think after I retire I may not be seen as a liability.”

Chapman says his personal heroes are judges, police and lawyers, especially those who go on into elective politics, perhaps an odd mix for ex-felon.

“Senators and congressmen have all this knowledge but they really don’t know what is going on in the criminal justice system. I tell them, look, “ice” is an epidemic. If we treat it like the bubonic plague, we’ll get rid of it. And that intrigues them. I love to meet those people, just to sit down and talk to them.

“I’d like to have a lot of money and be very comfortable, and then maybe run for some kind of office,” Chapman declared. “I’d like to be comfortable because I wouldn’t want to have to steal from my constituents so I could really be helping people. And then there would be no doubt, even in my own mind, as to whether I would take a shady deal or not for a couple ‘mil’ because I’m already set. As I have helped people get fugitives off the street, I think I as get older I’d like to help with (making) laws.

“People, tell me like the old days, lucky we live Hawaii, brother. And you know what? We sure are, especially after I spend a couple weeks on the mainland, and then like today, my god, let’s get home.”

The Art and Science of the Green Sea Turtle

Original Painting “Green Peace” by Patrick Ching

By W. Knox Richardson

“Honu – the second sweetest word in the Hawaiian language is honu. Aloha is the best word in the world because it means hello, goodbye and love. That how I feel about the honu.”

Speaking was Ursula Keuper-Bennett, a sport diver from Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto, Canada. Like many vacation divers who frequent the islands, diving in and around honu has special meaning for her.

“Because we’re Canadian tourists who live with our honu July and August, we get to say hello, goodbye and love you with aloha.”

Honu, of course, is Hawaiian for “turtle” and is most often applied to the green sea turtle, also known as Chelonia mydas, one of the long-lived species that comprise the charismatic marine megafauna of Hawaii, especially along the Northwest Hawaiian Archipelago. The turtle is the only indigenous reptile in Hawaii; all others are imports, just like most of the people.

Until quite recently, the honu had lived around and amongst humans with decidedly mixed results. It was a revered symbol of a sacred life force by ancient Hawaiian royalty, a forbidden kapu to all but the most exalted families. To the alii, the honu was at once both honored and eaten: honored for its symbolic life-giving spirituality while being consumed to transfer those same qualities into the human host. Until the mass harvesting in the 1960s and 1970s for commercial purposes, the honu lived in relative harmony with traditional Hawaiian practices; it was both a special food and honored icon. Since 1978, the honu has been both a federally and state protected species, once thought on the verge of extinction. But in the past 20 years it has made a remarkable comeback.

Though still threatened by modern humans, the honu will always live on in the work of artists and others who over the centuries have immortalized the green sea turtle in Hawaiian song and verse, in Paleolithic pictographs, in folk art and literature and more recently in contemporary paintings, sculpture, jewelry and modern photography. Simultaneously, the records of observation employed by contemporary artists and even amateur photographers have been used to enhance scientific knowledge of the honu. In some cases, art may have surpassed science as a primary source of new information on the ever-changing habitat and behavior of the marine animal.

Peter Bennett and Ursula Keuper-Bennett have spent their vacations away from Canada identifying and studying the habits of honu for 15 years.

“For many years we have spent our summers on the island of Maui at a small area called Honokowai,” the Bennett’s report on their educational website, http://www.turtles.org. “We stay right on the beach, and we do two or three dives every day. In 1989, our underwater explorations of the area took us to a large coral head where Hawaiian green turtles were congregating. We later found out that what we had discovered was a turtle cleaning station.” A turtle cleaning station is where sea turtles gather to be cleaned by various algae-eating fish, and to have their skin picked clean of parasites. Turtles will lie on the reef or sea bottom or assume one of several cleaning postures to allow the fish to scrape away the algae or get at the parasites.

Although amateur divers and photographers, the Bennetts’ observations, according to experts, is the most complete record, including detailed log notes, of a green sea turtle population in the world.

Art as Science

While not a complete record, one of the earliest accounts of the honu remains visible today as primitive pictographs (or petroglyphs) carved solidly onto the faces of smooth pahoehoe volcanic rock found on several of the state’s islands.

Another early art form uses string to depict the honu, much like the classic “Cat’s Cradle.” Native cultures on Maui and Kauai were documented in the 1920s as making such honu representations long before the first Europeans arrived in the mid-18th century.

More recently, local artists such as Patrick Ching use their trained artist’s eye to make keen observations of wildlife. A former ranger with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ching spent several months a year for nearly 15 years on the outer Hawaiian islands doing both scientific research and artistic observations of endangered and threatened species. He compiled one of the best-documented studies of the poouli, the rarest bird in the world, including the most scientifically accurate painting ever of the species. Ching credits his island upbringing and love of the ocean as inspiring an attention to detail that permeates his daily lifestyle and his work as a world-renowned painter. Ching is also the author of the local bestseller, “Sea Turtles of Hawaii,” published by UH Press.

Ching makes an effort to observe and paint subjects that are threatened or endangered.

“I consider my work to be contemporary, and painting animals that are disappearing before our eyes is a contemporary subject,” he said. “But what has happened in my lifetime is that turtles (growing in number) have gone from being absolutely afraid of people to now being very comfortable with people.”

The Bennetts’ experience echo those of Ching’s.

“When we first met these turtles back in the late 1980s, they fled as soon as they saw us. And I mean an immediate flight seaward.” Bennett told the Oahu Island News. “Sea turtles learn. It isn’t so much that memory of man as a killer has faded. But rather since protection and the work of dedicated people at both your federal and state levels, there are a lot of new, young turtles who know only peace.”

Ching was quick to note it wasn’t the native Hawaiian use of the honu that threatened the species, but the unrestricted commercial exploitation for restaurants and ornament manufacturing that nearly killed off the honu. Today, while honu are flourishing in numbers not seen in decades, other factors, including recently discovered marine diseases such as tumorous fibropapilloma, threaten to beat back the progress they made under protective law.

“Honus hatched in the late 1970s are now adults making their own babies,” Ursula Keuper-Bennett said. “An entire generation was born, grew up and reproduce under complete protection and aloha spirit. Honu are the luckiest turtles in the entire world.”

Editor’s Note” Visit artist Patrick Ching’s gallery “Naturally Hawaiian” on Kalanianaole Hwy in Waimanalo. Tell him the Oahu Island News WIRED! sent you.



CLICK HERE FOR A LISTING OF CURRENT FARMER’S MARKETS ON OAHU AS OF JULY 2012 This story was originally published in 2006 so the names and places may have changed but the general idea is the same.

Oahu’s weekly farmers’ markets provide locally grown produce less susceptible to the raging fuel-tariffs and surging prices found in the chain supermarkets. Not to mention fruits and vegetables normally out of season, like vine-ripened tomatoes.

The tomatoes are an heirloom variety called “oxheart,” explained Jeanne Vana, horticulturist and manager of North Shore Farms. She brings her tomatoes to the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation markets, Saturday mornings at Kapiolani Community College and Thursday evenings in Kailua.

“I kind of like to change the colors with the seasons, so you’ll see a lot of pink,” said Vana, “Weather permitting.” Farmers’ and open markets abound on Oahu. The People’s Open Market Program, sponsored by the City and County of Honolulu, has 25 market sites and more than 1 million customers a year. That’s up to 3,000 customers a day at the program’s busiest site on Kaumualii Street, according to program supervisor Ned Yonemori. Most recently added to the schedule are Sunday markets at Kapolei, Royal Kunia, and Waikele.

“We’re pretty maxed-out,” said Yonemori. “We’re seven days a week.” Other farmers’ markets operate once or twice weekly in areas including Hawaii Kai, Waikiki and downtown Honolulu. Most offer some combination of vegetables and fruits, flowers and crafts. The KCC and Kailua markets are distinctive because they offer only Hawaii-grown produce and food products. Margo Goodwill of Waialua shops at several markets here and on the neighbor islands. “There’s asparagus, there’s eccentric things like beets and pomegranates, there’s wonderful cucumbers, in season there’s papayas, there’s corn and potatoes,” Goodwill enthused, “And it literally feels like it’s from the hands of the people that grew it.”

Fresh and good

Amy Hammond of Kaneohe was buying organic sweet corn at the Kailua market on a recent Thursday. When she buys at a farmers’ market, she said, “I know it’s going to be fresh and it’s going to be good. Plus, I could buy it in small quantities too, where if you go to the grocery store you feel like you’re buying a whole lot at one time.” A few feet away, apple bananas were selling briskly at Theng’s Farm stand. “King” Thephsourinthone, a tall 20-something man clad in a grocer’s apron, waited on customers.

Someone asked Thephsourinthone when the bananas were picked. “These were picked about four days ago,” he noted, as compared to supermarket bananas, which might be harvested up to a month in advance. When they are this fresh, he remarked, “You’re going to get the full taste of the banana. It’s not going to be bland.” At the Kailua market, shoppers start milling around the farm stands before the 5 p.m. opening time. Right on the hour, someone blasts a loud air horn and suddenly everyone springs into action. After a half hour, cooking aromas start to fill the air – barbequed ribs, spicy chili, the seductive smell of garlic – and people gravitate toward the concessions.

Families huddle around benches and share samples. Some just sit and enjoy the live music; one recent evening, a duo from Wiki Waki Woo played steel guitar and ukulele, singing oldies like “Ukulele Lady” and “Pineapple Princess.” Jeanne Vana’s tomato stand is one of the busiest. Customers line up to try the fried green tomatoes (she displays a copy of the Fannie Flagg novel “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Café” near the checkout stand). Vana prepares hers with a local twist. “We use panko (Japanese bread crumbs) instead of corn meal, and it’s crunchy instead of soft,” she revealed, “And you cook it in a wok instead of a skillet.”

Green tomato pie

“Apples can’t be grown here in Hawaii,” noted Vana, “So we came up with something that can grow in Hawaii, which is the tomatoes. It has the same texture and taste and it’s better than green apple, [which] makes the best apple pie.” In addition to salad greens, herbs and meats, the Kailua and KCC markets offer fresh flowers: orchids, hibiscus, torch ginger, heliconia and other tropical varieties.

Lucy Hiraoka of Hiraoka Farms brings roses along with the farm’s vegetables and greens. Hiraoka said she plans to have red roses for Valentine’s Day, but there may be fewer blooms than usual because of the January cold snap. Ordinarily, she doesn’t have much demand for red roses.
“Most florists have your standard red, pink-whites or lavender,” she said. “We try to go for fragrance or brighter colors because people here in Hawaii usually like color in their house.” In the spring, Hiraoka plans to sell winter roses, spring gardenia, sunflowers, and others.

Chocolate lovers looking for a indulgence can find several options at the Kailua market. Chocolate hearts, chocolate-dipped strawberries and a “Chocolate Decadence Tart” are available at the Sweet Shop stand. Caterer and pastry chef Joslyn Benne also recommends the Raspberry-Chocolate Chambord Torte. At Hawaiian Fudge Sauce Company, spoon up samples of Kona coffee and macadamia-nut variations on “tutu’s original,” then compare it with the company’s premium product, made from “100% estate-grown Hawaiian chocolate.”

Local color

Two Saturday markets on the North Shore offer products made and grown in Hawaii. The pace is slower, in contrast to the high-energy city markets. In the parking lot at Sunset Beach Elementary School, the North Shore Country Market sells Hawaii-made crafts and food: flowers, shave ice, grass-fed beef burgers from North Shore Cattle Co., shell jewelry, tie-dyed shirts and, perfect for this month, heart-shaped pillar candles in pastel colors. Artist Jessica Wall creates the candles and collects local shells that are embedded in designs around the base.

At the tiny Waialua Farmers’ Market, fruits and ethnic vegetables are for sale; the local atmosphere is free. At the site of the old Waialua Sugar Mill, a small group of immigrant farmers, former sugar workers, sell produce from plots of land they lease from Dole Foods Hawaii. The arrangement was made when the sugar mill closed in 1996 and the workers were left jobless. The Waialua Farmer’s Cooperative was formed to help the workers make the transition to farming. Edith Ramiscal, president of the Waialua Farmers’ Cooperative, stated that her goal is to expand the farmers’ market to more of a community market and to bring more business to Waialua.

“I grew up in Waialua and I’ve seen it go downhill, so I’m trying to help this town out. I’m interested in helping the town out and keeping it country,” she said. “We want it to be kind of a tourist destination because after all, Waialua Sugar Mill was the hub of Haleiwa, Waialua, Waimea, Mokuleia. … We want people to experience this,” Ramiscal declared. “And this is how Hawaii was born, with the immigrant farmers, the immigrant laborers that came in.”
On Saturday mornings, the Waialua market sells out in a couple of hours: apple bananas, tomatoes, garlic, lima beans, taro and more exotic produce such as kabocha pumpkins and katuday.

David Ancheta, standing near his family’s vegetable stand at the Waialua market, noticed a shopper puzzling over a bag of katuday. He offered some suggestions for preparing the edible white flower. First, you cook it a little bit, said Ancheta. “Then add spices, tomato, vinegar and salt, whatever you like,” he added. “Good for blood pressure.”

“I learn about the vegetables as I go along,” commented Goodwill, who shops weekly at the Waialua market. “I try to experiment with new ones at least once a month, and they tell me, oh, this gets boiled, this gets stewed, or you cook this with pork, it’s really good.

“The farmers’ market is a little bit social too, although you don’t talk too much before the market because you have to go get the goods,” she added. “But it’s a nice, social way to start the weekend.”


One Thousand Years of Wild Oahu Roosters


From Polynesian Staple to Critically Endangered Pest


Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the beach. In Hawaii, the most common questions often yield surprising answers. For example, which came first, the chicken or the egg? The Hawaiian answer is the demigod Maui, son of Hina, the mother of the Hawaiian people:

“Hina-of-the-fire conceived,
a fowl was born

The child of Hina was delivered in the shape of an egg

She had not slept with a fowl

But a fowl was born

The child chirped, Hina was puzzled

Not from sleeping with a man did
this child come

It was a strange child for Hina-

— from the Kumulipo, Hawaiian creation myth

Recorded history suggests the first settlers in Hawaii probably arrived around 500 A.D., according to most archaeologists who also agree they came from the Marquesas Islands and brought the first chickens to Hawaii with them.

“The chicken is as Hawaiian as the Hawaiians are,” said a shy, local cultural observer.

Five hundred years later the first Tahitians landed in Hawaii beginning a whole new era of cultural migration and bringing with them much larger chickens and more colorful roosters.

It is here the Wild Roosters of Oahu began their Thousand Years Free Reign over the Aina unlike any other animal — mythological or natural. The rooster became known as Moa Kane and is so immersed in Hawaiian culture that, like the proverbial forest and trees, the impact this ubiquitous barnyard bird has had on Hawaii is often difficult to cull from daily life.

Unlike other colorful birds, ownership of roosters wasn’t limited to Alii with commoners raising chickens for both eggs and meat. Hackle feathers from the necks of roosters were used in making feathered kahili, a pole topped with a cylindrical plume of feathers usually a symbol of authority like the medieval ceremonial mace held by kings and other war powers of Europe. Chickens were even among the gifts islanders gave Captain Cook.

As other cultures migrated to Hawaii, they brought with them their cultural appreciation for chickens and roosters, too.

The rooster has long been the symbol of Portugal, as the eagle is for the United States of America. So when Portuguese sailors first landed on Hawaiian shores, they brought with them the forerunner of the ukulele as well as a cultural reverence for the rooster. Similarly, the Chinese influence on island culture is clearly evident in downtown Chinatown and elsewhere on Oahu where over the past nine months the Year of the Rooster has been celebrated. In Chinese culture, not unlike ancient Hawaiian folklore, the Rooster plays a key role as a harbinger of threats and an alert sentry who will cry out when danger approaches — though he has few friends.

Legend has it that the only time a rooster ever crowed at midnight was at the moment of Christ’s birth. The tradition of Christmas Midnight Mass began in the year 400 A.D., honoring, as legend has it, Christ being born at midnight. In some Spanish and Latin countries, the midnight Mass is referred to as the Mass of the Rooster. Rooster Masses are common at Roman Catholic churches throughout Hawaii.

More modernly wild chickens can be found in both urban and rural settings all over Hawaii. In more agricultural and rural areas wild chicken flocks can be so thick that their inherent value as ravenous insert eaters can be overshadowed by their reputation as noisemakers and a health nuisance.

Waimanalo nature artist Patrick Ching (whose work is featured on this month’s cover) tells of childhood memories of growing up in rural Oahu where roosters were household pets.

“Some of my most vivid childhood memories were at my grandmother’s house watching the chickens and feeding the pig and other animals,” Ching said. “Then one day I came home to find my grandmother cleaning chicken feathers off a fresh killed bird for dinner.”

Even today, youths from many cultural backgrounds can be seen stalking and trapping wild chickens — some for pets, but often to raise for more culturally sensitive purposes — cockfighting.

While some evidence suggests cockfighting in Hawaii predates Capt. Cook, it wasn’t until one century ago when the first Filipinos began arriving in Hawaii the practice became widespread, though generally limited to rural areas. While ostensibly illegal in Hawaii, the laws are relatively lenient and rarely impose jail time for all but the most egregious offenders. The bloodline of many Hawaii game birds can trace their lineage directly back to the birds brought by the Polynesians, at least that is the thinking of a host of local breeders, none of which wanted to go on the record.

The cockfighting infrastructure is legal and a well-respected hobby known as game bird breeding. It’s no secret that game breeders — while claiming their birds are just for show — routinely ship specimens around the world to participate in both legal and illegal forms of cockfighting. In Hawaii, the Hawaii Game Bird Association is public-spirited group of enthusiasts who help rid the countryside of wild birds that become pests or noise nuisances, in addition to raising thousand of birds whose sole breeding and linage comes directly from the best fighters. While cockfighting is a felony in 38 states, no single state has outlawed the raising and selling of game birds, or exporting to countries or states where such fighting is legal.

Additionally, when it comes to breeding and housing game birds, no one state agency claims jurisdiction in regulating or controlling such operations. The state Dept. of Agriculture, which regulates commercial poultry as well as the importation of live birds into Hawaii — including game cocks — claims the law only permits it to regulate business operations that breed or raise commercially sold birds for meat and eggs, and not those for show.

However, the biggest challenge to the longevity of Hawaii’s wild roosters isn’t a new law or anti-cockfighting protest — it’s the flu, the bird flu, the strain of avian influenza known as H5N1. There are some 16 varieties of avian flu, numbering 1 though 16. Variety five, strain one, is a particularly pathogenic virus that is almost always fatal to birds and when transmitted to humans by bird feces or aerosol spray (literally a bird sneeze), it has a 50/50 record of fatalities. No known human-to-human infection has occurred, but, according to many contagious diseases experts, we are already in the first stage of a global pandemic.

The state has prepared a comprehensive plan for battling the bird flu but even a superficial look reveals gaps in the program, especially dealing with wild and game birds. According to spokespeople from the state Department of Health, the interception of foreign visitors to Honolulu at the airport is the primary and best defense against the importation of bird flu, but that agency only deals with the human population. For the plan to be effective, infections must have already jumped from birds to people, perhaps fostering a mutation of the virus allowing it to be spread at that point easily from human to human.

Legally, all birds from any international point of origin must be quarantined and inspected on the mainland before arriving in Hawaii. Migratory wild birds, especially waterfowl, represent some degree of risk to Hawaii, but since the flu has a relatively short incubation and is almost always fatal for any bird, the chances of a wild bird from the north actually arriving here alive is remote.

According to a report from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine, the major risk for the importation of this virus is probably smuggled live birds for either the pet bird trade or for cockfighting. One year ago, a Thai man landed at the Brussels airport where customs agents found two rare eagles in plastic tubes in his suitcase. The birds looked relatively healthy, but tests showed both had H5N1 avian flu.

As of this writing, the state plan to battle N5H1 fails to recognize the threat to the human population from smuggled birds, and the lack of supervision over the game bird industry may be a potent combination should bird flu appear here in unregulated flocks.

Dr. Jim Foppoli, state veterinarian with the Dept. of Agricultural, acknowledged bio-security as top priority for the agency. He also said his agency can only take action after receiving a report of a suspicious bird death, sometimes from the public but generally from the breeder. Should a gamecock owner suspect avian flu, he must contact the Dept. of Agricultural who would send a team out to investigate and if necessary isolate and quarantine the infected birds. At the same time, quarantine areas of up to two-and-one-half miles would be set up surrounding the infected farm. Since this strain of flu is so pathogenic, it is not likely birds would survive to infect others, however, even stray or wild chickens would be rounded up or trapped in the area should bird flu be found. At this point a joint state/federal task force would be created to manage the outbreak.

The Hawaii Humane Society made its position public in a published editorial in June in the “Honolulu Advertiser.”

“Cockfighting is the most likely way to have this disease introduced into our state,” wrote Pamela Burns, president of the society. She noted that in 2003, a deadly bird virus was introduced at an illegal cockfight and transported to three other states. “It is important that we eliminate cockfighting if we truly want to protect our state, our residents and our birds from these deadly avian diseases.”

Others, including state health officials, don’t necessarily agree.

The Wild Roosters of Oahu have survived volcanoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, famine and even war. But will they survive the bird flu pandemic of 2006? Should the bird flu hit Oahu and find itself among game birds or wild chickens, it will take more than a few dollars and a lot of manpower to eradicate wild flocks.

Knowing he and his family have been here a lot longer than most of us, we may all want to look a little differently at that proud, strutting rooster crossing the road on his way to beach. Because maybe, just maybe, he did come first.

Editor’s Note: This article and original illustration first ran in the December 2005 issue of the Oahu Island News. The illustration won a coveted Pa’i award from the Hawaii Publishers Association, third place, best illustration on newsprint.



By W. Knox Richardson

"For the first time in our now ten weeks' passage from the Hawaiian Islands we heard, day before yesterday, that life-kindling sound to a weary whaleman,'Thar she blows!'

The usual questions and orders from the deck quickly followed.

"'Where away?'

'Two points on the weather bow!'

'How far off?'

'A mile and a half!'

'Keep your eye on her!'

'Sing out when we head right!'"

Thar she blows!

That is a excerpt from "The Whale and His Captors," the 1853 recollections of a Boston missionary, the Rev. Henry T. Cheever, who three years earlier sailed the Pacific Ocean as a passenger aboard the whaling ship, "Commodore Preble."

Though seemingly archaic, “Thar she blows” is still heard everyday on the waters off Oahu—not from whalers but from visitors and kama’aina alike as they take to the azure seas in search of whales.

The wooden-hulled, three-masted whaling ships of the 19th century have long been replaced by modern watercraft ranging from 140-passenger, multi-decked dinner cruisers with weather-proof viewing to inflatable, outboard Zodiac boats that virtually guarantee getting splashed.

Harpoons have been traded for digital cameras. Just spotting a whale and capturing its photographic image is presently a suitable trophy for a day’s outing. But there is more to the story than that.

Whales were important to a post-Cook Oahu beginning first in the early 1800s as the island’s second source of export income following sandalwood. Until the discovery of petroleum-based oil in the late 1850s, whale blubber (reduced to oil by boiling it) had been the young United States’ primary source of lamp oil. Hawaii-based whalers supplied most of the blubber.

With the age of exploration coming to an end, many a young man dreamed of joining up with a whaling company and sailing to the mystical South Seas. In the 1840s, one such young sailor a 21-year-old New Englander named Herman Melville signed on with the whaler Acushnet but later jumped ship while in port in the Marquesas Islands.

Several months afterward, Melville arrived in Honolulu and spent nearly a year on Oahu and Maui observing the whale trade. Subsequently, he gave the world the classic allegorical morality tale of good and evil, “Moby Dick.”

In “Moby Dick,” Ahab is the paradoxical captain of the whaling ship, Pequod. Having previously lost a leg to the Great White Whale, Ahab is all consumed with hate and revenge.

Today, Cale Wofford is the captain of the excursion vessel Navatek berthed at Pier Six in Honolulu Harbor. He isn’t vengeful, but he still has the singular mission of tracking down and finding whales not to harm them, but to greet them with a ship full of admiration and aloha.

Five days a week, he maneuvers the sleek, high-tech craft out to sea where just a mile or so off shore he patiently tracks down the elusive humpback whale using only his knowledge and experience. Cale, like Melville’s Ahab, stands tall with a strong, commanding presence but the similarities end there.

Captain Cale whose name may be derived from the Latin term “portus cale” meaning “warm harbor” smiles easily as he quietly explains the intricacies of tracking marine mammals off Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach. Manning the wheel of the 90-ton, twin-hulled Navatek, as he has for five years, the captain scans the horizon for the tell-tale wisps of spray forcibly expelled when a whale exhales and briefly exposes his back to the sky and to the captain’s watchful eyes.

“Thar she blows,” the passengers call out eagerly, as if reliving the romance of a bygone era. And then, showing her tail to the world, the whale is gone from sight just as quick.

At this point, the captain makes a written notation of the marine mammal’s relative position and so begins a playful, two-hour game of hide-and-seek. Cale will turn the cruiser on a heading he believes runs parallel to the course of the whales that usually travel in small groups, or pods, of two to more than a dozen. After a few seemingly long minutes, if his mental calculations are correct, the pod will surface again, only this time he will be in much closer and moving along the same line and speed as the quarry.

On deck, Navatek’s naturalist Nona Hanapi shares her aloha spirit and knowledge of the humpback whale with passengers from around the world. Not more than 30 minutes after casting off, the first whale is spotted. Like a curious animal, the Navatek draws in closer, but stays a safe distance away both in observance of the rules of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and for passenger safety.

Hanapi, a native of Oahu who studied marine biology at Kapiolani Community College in Honolulu, explained Humpback whales migrate from the Aleutian Islands of Alaska down the western U.S. coast to the Farallon Islands off central California and then all the way to the warm waters of the Hawaiian Islands. Here, they mate and give birth every year beginning in November and ending in May. At least 3,000 whales travel more than 3,500 miles in around five weeks to find the warm, shallow waters off Hawaii. Visitors saw at least four different whales this day, which is “about average,” Hanapi said.

Humpback whales also sing the loudest and most complex songs of all whales. They have long, often recognizable sequences of sounds using the largest range of auditory frequencies of all whales, often either too low or too high for humans to hear. Only males sing, it’s believed, and then only for mating.

On board the vessel, whale watchers are also treated to a buffet luncheon, comparable to any found in a Waikiki hotel, along with coastal sightseeing of downtown Honolulu, Waikiki and Diamond Head, and sometimes Kahala and Hawaii Kai, if that’s where the whales are that day. Everything in the two-and-one-half hour tour is included in a reasonable single price with substantial kama’aina discounts.

If you want more intimacy in whale watching adventures, there is Deep Ecology, based in Haleiwa. Known for its six-passenger, up-close-and-personal tours using high-speed inflatable watercraft, Deep Ecology tours yields more thrills while observing nature. Getting wet is part of the fun, according to tour operators.

“Our tours are a magical experience,” said Pat Johnson, owner of Deep Ecology. “By limiting the number of passengers, we can offer a special tour with a personal guide. The excursion talk seems more like colorful dinner conversation than a conventional tour boat.”

To Hawaiians, whales are often viewed as a symbol of the Hawaiian god, Kanaloa – the god of fish and ocean animals. Humpback whales or na kohola are found worldwide, visitors learned. Although believed to have arrived off Oahu long before mankind first showed up around 600 A.D., the first written accounts of the humpback here didn’t appear until the 1840s.

Just 20 years ago, the humpback was an extremely endangered species. Then, in 1992, the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary was created and formally approved by all levels of government in 1997. Since 1990, the humpback whale population has grown from an estimated 1,000 worldwide to nearly 10,000 in the north Pacific Ocean alone—and up to one-half of those visit the sanctuary each year.

Every winter, the sanctuary conducts a land-based whale count, positioning volunteer observers at various points on most of the state’s islands, including Oahu. On the last Saturdays of January, February and March, volunteers spot and count the whales, many of which can be individually identified by the distinctive markings on their tail flukes.

In addition to the annual count, the sanctuary hosts periodic, informal land-based whale watches at various Oahu locations including Diamond Head Scenic Lookout, Lana Lookout, Halona Blowhole and Makapuu Point.

If staying high and dry is your thing, or if you’d really like to know more about Megaptera novaeangliae and whaling, visit the Bishop Museum’s Hawaii Maritime Center, located on Pier Seven at Honolulu Harbor near the Aloha Tower Marketplace. The complete skeleton of a humpback whale that washed ashore on Oahu is displayed in the permanent whaling exhibit.

Docked in the water at Pier Seven is a 19th century four-masted sailing ship of some historical significance. No, she’s not the Pequod, a fictional three-masted Nantucket whaler, old and worn even before the great white whale rammed and sank her.

Here sits the The Falls Of Clyde, the world’s last remaining fully rigged, four-masted schooner. Although built in 1878, a few years after the whaling boom had past, it is still reminiscent of those days when the cry, “thar she blows” could be heard coming down from high atop the main mast and echoed below by all hands on deck.

Aye, Captain, thar be whales here, and there will be for a long time to come. Watch and see.

Contact information for companies and agencies mentioned:

  • For Atlantis Adventures’ Navatek whale watching tours, call 973-1311.
  • For Deep Ecology’s open boat tours, call 637-7946.
  • For the national sanctuary whale count, times and dates of land-based whale watches, or to become a volunteer on Oahu, call its offices at 397-2651, ext. 253.

THIS STORY IS REPRINTED FROM 2006. Contact information may be out of date.

The Rat Pack's Man in Hawaii: Eddie Sherman

After its first season of episodes, Hawaii Five-O producer Lenny Freeman revealed to Eddie his intention to take Five-O back to the Mainland. Freeman had been unsuccessful in finding a suitable sound stage for the show in Hawaii. Eddie arranged a powerhouse meeting with developer and financier Hiro Yamamoto and lawyer, former senator and businessman Sakae Takahashi. Yamamoto and Takahashi were able to convince Governor Burns to cooperate, and construction began on a brand new sound stage. Eddie was named president of the facility, and as a gift, Yamamoto told Freeman he would give him some shares of stock in the new studio. Freeman declined, citing a conflict of interest as the primary tenant of the studio, but Yamamoto insisted, and said he would place the shares in a file in his office, on permanent hold for Freeman, should he ever want them.

Fade out, fade in: a few years passed. Hawaii Five-O had become one of the CBS network’s most solid and reliable hits.

Excerpted from his book, “Frank, Sammy, Marlon & Me”

I was with Paul King one night in his room at the Kahala Hilton while he was packing for his flight to L.A. King was the CBS executive attached to the show. He was also a writer and producer for the network.

Turning to me, Paul said very seriously, “Sorry to tell you this, Eddie, but your friend Lenny is in big trouble.”

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

King said that he was tipped off that Lenny Freeman had stock in the Hawaii studio, and that, without question, it was a conflict of interest. The facts would be reported to CBS, and Freeman would have to be dealt with by the network.

I asked how King found out. At first, he was reluctant to tell me. Finally, after much prodding, he relented and informed me that someone told Jack Lord that he had seen a file in Hiro Yamamoto’s company office that contained Freeman’s stock in the studio. Lord, in turn, informed CBS.

I raced home, called Lenny in Beverly Hills and related the story.

Calmly, Freeman asked me to do the following: get a letter from Hiro and pre-date it to the time the studio was built. In the letter, Lenny wanted Hiro to explain about the shares that he offered—tell the facts as they actually happened, including explaining that the stock certificates would be in his files any time Lenny wanted them.

Hiro did just that, and I mailed the letter to Lenny. When the CBS bosses eventually called Lenny for an important meeting a few weeks later, he brought along his briefcase with that letter.

Sure enough, the CBS suits brought up the matter of the stock certificates. They told Lenny that he could be charged with improper conduct and so forth. At the right moment, Lenny whipped out the letter and explained what happened. The red-faced brass quickly offered their apologies.

Then, Lenny told the executives they had better read their contract with him. Hawaii Five-O, he said, was introduced on the TV screen before every episode as a “Leonard Freeman Production in association with CBS.”

That, in effect, meant that Lenny had control of the show, including who could be hired—and fired.

Lenny informed the CBS brass that he would be getting on a plane to Hawaii right away, and the first order of business upon landing would be to visit Jack Lord and fire him.

“I don’t need the star of my show stabbing me in the back,” Lenny said.

After he arrived, Lenny and I had breakfast at the Kahala Hilton. “Now, wait here,” he told me. “I’m going next door to Jack’s apartment and fire that son of a bitch. When I come back in a few minutes, you can announce that the new top cop on the series will be Lloyd Bridges.”

I waited.

And waited.

Finally, Lenny returned.

“Well?” I asked.

He sat down, sighed and said, “Have you ever seen a grown man cry?”

After Lenny confronted Jack, the Five-O star nearly became hysterical. He said he did what he did because he thought it was in the best interest of the show. He said he didn’t mean to get Freeman in trouble. According to Lenny, Jack then prostrated himself on the floor, grabbed Lenny around the ankles, begged for forgiveness and sobbed.

“I just couldn’t fire him,” Lenny said, “On the positive side, he’s a hard worker. He’s dedicated to the show and does a first-class job. But I told him to just stick to his work and mind his own business—that one more stunt like this would be cause for dismissal.”

With that crisis averted, Five-O continued its roaring success. And my friendship with Lenny Freeman continued strong.

* * *

One of McGarrett’s police gang in Five-O was a big, burly Hawaiian professionally known as Zulu, whose real name was Gilbert Kauhi. Zulu was a popular Hawaiian entertainer and nightclub comedian. He was always in demand. Audiences loved him, and he became one of Five-O’s favorite personalities.

The show gave him international exposure and fame. His career was skyrocketing. No doubt, Zulu had a big future.

Then, in 1973, he made a fatal mistake. While shooting a street scene in downtown Honolulu, Zulu spied the show’s publicity man, Len Weisman. Len was a Hollywood veteran who once worked for the legendary Howard Hughes. On the Five-O set, Weisman answered only to Jack Lord.

Zulu walked over to Weisman between takes and began needling him about not getting enough publicity. Weisman explained that he only worked for Jack.
Zulu increased his vitriol at Weisman for not publicizing him more. The needling inexplicably turned into some vicious, anti-Semitic remarks.

Weisman was stunned at the attack. He didn’t know what to say. Those who witnessed the verbal fireworks were also stunned. Nobody could figure out what caused it all. Weisman, verbally battered, retreated to his office.

When Jack Lord returned to Five-O headquarters after finishing his scenes, he saw Weisman with his head resting on his desk. Jack asked what was wrong.
“Oh, nothing. I just don’t feel well,” said Weisman.

That answer was not good enough. Jack knew better. He wanted to know what the problem was, and kept after Weisman to tell him. Finally, Weisman explained what had happened with Zulu.

Jack hit the roof. He immediately went to the phone, called Lenny Freeman in Los Angeles and said he would not return to the set until Zulu was off the show. Permanently.

Zulu quickly got the word. He was through. Fired.

A few days later, Zulu came to my office at the Honolulu Advertiser. He was heartbroken. Totally dejected.

“I really didn’t mean anything,” he told me. “I like Len. I just got mad at not getting more recognition on the show. That’s all.”
He asked for my help. He wanted to explain his side of the story.

I told Zulu it was too late. He had really committed show biz harakiri.

News of his anti-Semitic attack against Jack Lord’s publicity man was all over Hollywood. Suddenly, Zulu’s future engagements for various personal appearances were cancelled. Professionally, he was treated like he had a contagious disease. Doors slammed in his face. The poor man was devastated.
He never worked on another TV show again. Overnight, Zulu went from a thriving show business career to professional oblivion.

* * *

More behind-the-scenes tales from the Five-O series: Bernie Oseransky, head of production for the show during its entire twelve-year run, recalled the time Jack screamed at Bill Finnegan, who produced the show for many years. Jack told Finnegan to “Get off my island.” Of course, Finnegan refused

Jack’s “order.” So Jack boycotted the show for a week until Hawaii Governor George Ariyoshi intervened and talked him into returning to work.

Jack involved himself in every aspect of the show’s production. He was a perfectionist and expected everyone to measure up to his exact standards. He also involved himself in many employees’ personal matters. Once, while walking near the Diamond Head sound stage, he passed a carpenter working on the production set and said hello to him. The carpenter, obviously somewhere else in his mind, didn’t return the greeting. Jack took this as a slight and had the man fired.

Basically, Jack was a loner. He seemed to trust only his wife, Marie. She was his everything. They were totally devoted to each other.

* * *

Jack Lord—born John Joseph Patrick Ryan—grew up in the Hell’s Kitchen section of New York and was, perhaps, Hawaii’s most famous export. Many people believed that there was an actual Hawaii Five-O police unit because of Lord’s solid characterization and the show’s gritty realism.

When the production ceased after twelve years and almost three hundred one-hour dramas, Jack shut himself off from just about everyone except his wife. He seldom ventured from his plush Kahala apartment, purchased during the early days of the show for $163,000—thanks to a loan from CBS. Today, that apartment would sell for many millions of dollars.

In his last days, Jack would occasionally be seen walking along the beach near his home, or shopping at Kahala Mall’s Star Market. My last conversation with Jack was while he sat behind the wheel of his twenty-year-old Cadillac parked outside the shopping center. His car was showing signs of rust. He favored Cadillacs because he once was a car salesman for the company in New York during his days as a struggling actor. Jack was waiting for Marie, who was doing a grocery run inside the market.

Jack kept asking me the same questions, over and over, interspersed with various statistics about Five-O. It was very sad and disturbing to see his obvious mental deterioration.

Not long after that, on January 21, 1998, Jack Lord died of congestive heart failure. He was seventy-seven.

Eddie Sherman is a retired newspaper columnist and lives in Honolulu.

DIVE! DIVE! Hawaii's Submarines

By W. Knox Richardson

Whether in pages of a Tom Clancy novel or on the silver screen, the submarine has long captured the imagination of the public more than any other modern seagoing vessel, becoming as much a creature of dramatic Hollywood as it is of the deep blue seas. Many of these real and fictional cinematic boats are based here—now and in the past—at a very real Pearl Harbor.

Leading actors from three generations have portrayed men aboard the leaky combat subs of World War II, the stealthy nuclear boats of the Cold War and even the deep diving scientific subs of marine exploration. Actors that have portrayed Pearl Harbor sub captains include legends like Wayne, Gable, Lancaster, Grant, Hudson, Heston and Peck. More recently Sean Connery, Gene Hackman, Denzel Washington, Mathew McConaughey, Kelsey Grammer and even Bill Murray have starred as submariners.

So what is it that attracts filmmakers and audiences to these boats that sink on command only to surface like breaching whales? Well, here on Oahu, tourists and kama’aina can find out for themselves by touring a decommissioned vintage combat sub, visiting museums or even going down, down, down to the bottom depths off Waikiki aboard a real submersible. And, although the average citizen may find it difficult to gain entry on to the submarine base at Pearl Harbor, the Oahu Island News was recently granted an up-close-and-personal tour of the U.S.S. Honolulu, a Los Angeles-class fast attack nuclear submarine soon making some news of its own.

More than 100 years ago, French science fiction author Jules Verne forecast the nuclear submarine in his masterpiece “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” where his mythical atomic-powered ship Nautilus was based in a South Sea volcanic island. Perhaps the mythic island is a bit like Oahu, home to COMSUBPAC, the headquarters for the nuclear submarines of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet.


The modern Los Angeles-class nuclear submarine represents the state of the submarine art in Pearl Harbor, including the U.S.S Honolulu (SSN-718). Although not the newest boat in the Pacific Fleet, it has the unique distinction of being the only submarine in the Navy to be home ported in its namesake city.

Since being commissioned in July 1985, the Honolulu has made nine deployments of six months or more away from its homeport of Pearl Harbor, hosted nine commanding officers, including its current C.O., Commander John K. Russ, U.S.N., and has earned six Battle “E” awards. There is only one Battle E award per squadron and only one ship in the squadron wins it every year. The Battle E award shows that the ship that bears it has proven to be superior in ship handling, weapons employment, tactics and ability to fulfill mission objectives.

Sometime next month, after more than 20 years of active service, the Honolulu will depart from Pearl Harbor for the last time, commencing a patrol ultimately ending at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wash., where it will be decommissioned as part of the Navy’s Nuclear Submarine Recycling Program.

According to sources at COMSUBPAC, the Honolulu will be replaced sometime after 2007, by the absolute latest in fast attack nuclear submarines with a representative of the Virginia class – the U.S.S. Hawaii (SSN-776), only the second warship to bear the state’s name. The first, an Alaska-class cruiser, was never completed when World War II ended and the ship wasn’t needed.


Oahu is fortunate to have one of the few and perhaps best examples of a preserved WWII submarine tied up at Pearl Harbor. The U.S.S. Bowfin (SS-287), a Balao-class, fleet submarine that was launched on Dec. 7, 1942, one year to the day after the infamous aerial attack on the Pacific Fleet — the boat’s motto in Hawaiian is Maka ‘Ala Mau or “Always Vigilant.”

Between Aug. 16, 1943, and July 4, 1945, the Bowfin completed nine war patrols operating from the Netherlands East Indies to the Sea of Japan and the waters south of Hokkaido. The Bowfin sank 15 merchantmen and one frigate for a total of 68,032 tons. Now a museum boat, the Bowfin is one of only of handful of WWII-era fleet subs still afloat, albeit fully decommissioned and permanently moored near the Arizona Memorial and the U.S.S. Missouri.

Pacific Fleet submarines are credited with more than half of all enemy shipping sunk during World War II. But success came with high price with 52 submarines lost along with 374 officers and 3,131 enlisted men. They are all still considered to be on patrol. It is the heroism of these subs and their crews, and their modern counterparts, that have inspired Hollywood and authors to submariners in the brightest of lights.


Los Angeles-class submarines have starred in more than one major motion picture, such as Tom Clancy’s “The Hunt for Red October,” and several of his naval warfare novels. The Los Angeles-class platform was designed as a nuclear-powered, fast attack submarine (SSN), built as an answer to the Soviet threat of faster, quieter attack submarines of the 1970’s.

U.S.S. Cheyenne (SSN-773), the last Los Angeles-class submarine built, arrived at her homeport of Pearl Harbor in 1998. A fictional Cheyenne is the primary subject of the book “SSN” by Tom Clancy, battling the People’s Liberation Army Navy in a fictional war over the Spratly Islands. Another local Los Angeles-class submarine, the U.S.S. Tucson (SSN-770), was immortalized in Clancy’s novel “The Bear and the Dragon,” where Tucson is charged with sinking China’s only ballistic missile submarine.

One of the more photographed WWII submarines was the U.S.S. Redfish (SS-395). It served as a submarine double of the fictional U.S.S. Nerka (SS-380), skippered by Clark Gable in the submarine film classic, “Run Silent, Run Deep. ” During the war, the Pearl Harbor-based Redfish was no stranger to action having sunk the 18,500-ton Japanese aircraft carrier Unryu in December 1944. With an odd-looking deck “fin” added, it also appeared as the Vern’s Nautilus in the 1954 Walt Disney production of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”


Besides visiting a museum submarine, visitors and residents of Honolulu are fortunate to have right here in Waikiki the world’s largest and most advanced tourist submarine. Atlantis Submarines operates tourist subs on Maui, on the Big Island of Hawaii and here on Oahu. Just off Waikiki Beach, the company features the 64-seat Atlantis XIV, the largest and deepest diving tourist submarine in U.S. waters.

Unlike military subs, Atlantis’s offer view ports, literally windows on an undersea universe rarely seen in person except by the world’s most experienced professional scuba and deep sea divers and marine scientists in their research subs.

Atlantis’ air-conditioned tourists subs routinely dive to depths of nearly 150-feet below the surface (though capable of diving much deeper). This is well below the average operating depths of many WW II-era combat subs – and they didn’t have windows.

Taking a dive on a sub with large, fog-free windows is an experience of a lifetime where you can literally come face-to-face with dozens of marine animals. On a recent dive, Atlantis XIV encountered two reef sharks, a half-dozen fully grown honu (green sea turtles), a five-foot-long barracuda, and even a normally shy white-mouth moray eel, along with hundreds of butterfly fish, yellow tang, triggerfish, durgeons, mackerel and others. On the pleasant boat ride out to the sub, a pod of jumping spinner dolphins performed aerobatics as if on cue.

Below on the bottom, over several years Atlantis has built artificial reefs, including the sinking of a couple derelict cargo ships, two airplanes and a number of building-block units that appear beneath 100 feet of water as blue-vailed, ghostly geometric habitats for dozens of marine species.

None of the three boats this writer recently visited compared closely to each other. The sleekly designed Honolulu seemed almost roomy with three decks below topside — including several compartments of triple-stacked sleeping “racks,” and a crew’s mess with seating for a few dozen men, decorated with a couple surfboards hanging from the rafters and autographed by departed crewmen. Yet this big-guns warship possesses a surprisingly tight-fitting control room only the size of a Waikiki hotel room.

The largest area toured by far was the torpedo room with its racks of MK-48 torpedoes and a couple stowed-away Tomahawk cruise missiles. The reactor, communications and electronic warfare spaces remain classified and off-limits even to this day.

In contrast, the Bowfin had but a few cramped watertight compartments and a plumber’s nightmare of awkward pipes and fittings jutting out nearly everywhere one looked. Yet an undeniable sense of duty, history and heroism permeated the thick, oily air making a tour a truly unique and proud American experience.

In preparation for its final deployment, the Honolulu continues to be upgraded and retrofitted with newer and more modern systems. Upon reaching its final destination, the boat will be decommissioned and come to be known as the ex-Honolulu. Over a few years it will be dismantled, cut into several large pieces and its reactor removed, shipped to remote location and buried several hundred feet deep in the ground along those of her preceding sister ships.

Submarines are filled with drama, excitement and surprises. Whether tied up at a dock, land mounted on a display platform, or out at sea, a visit on board any submarine is both educational and exhilarating. If you get the chance, take it – it’s better than the movies — with or without windows.

July 2015