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Brief History of the Hawaiian Islands

George Pararas-Carayannis

(This brief review of the early history of Hawaii was prepared in connection with the compilation of a Catalog of Tsunamis in Hawaii initially published by the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics of the University of Hawaii, then as a report of the World Data Center A- Tsunami. The completeness of the record of Hawaiian tsunamis and the reliability of its information have depended upon the thorough research of Hawaii's early history, archives at the Bishop Museum and accounts of early missionaries)

Introduction


The Hawaiian Islands are situated in the north central portion of the Pacific Ocean. Hawaii is a chain of islands, which extends over a distance of nearly two thousand miles. The main Hawaiian group is comprised of eight islands: Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui, and Hawaii. All of the islands are inhabited with the exception of Kahoolawe. At some time in the past two other islands in the chain, Nihoa and Necker, were occupied for a short period by the Polynesians but have been uninhabited for many years.

Early History

The early Hawaiians were a branch of the great Polynesian family which at a yet undetermined time in history, possibly as early as 1,000 A.D., occupied islands in the Pacific Ocean. There is considerable speculation and disagreement among ethnologists as to when the Polynesians came into the Pacific and the routes they followed to reach the far-separated Island groups. It is generally believed however that there were successive arrivale of settlers, mainly from the Society Islands, extending over some hundreds of years.

Archaeological findings on the islands of Nihoa and Necker indicate that the people who lived there were the earliest arrivals. During the 14th and 15th centuries Tahitian Polynesians "rediscovered" the islands and most of their immigration to Hawaii occurred during this interval. For the next five to six hundred years,until the arrival of Captain James Cook in 1778, the Hawaiians lived in almost complete isolation from the rest of the world.

It was in the last quarter of the 18 th century on January 18, 1778, that a British expedition led by Captain James Cook, on a third voyage in the Pacific, sighted the island of Oahu. He landed at the village of Waimea on the island of Kauai on January 20. The islands were named the Sandwich Islands by Cook and the name persisted throughout the 19 th century. Many groups of traders from Europe and Asia later visited the islands and stayed on as permanent residents.

After the departure of the British expedition on March 15, 1778 no foreigners visited the islands until 1786. The development of the fur trade along the northwest coast of America brought ships of many nations into the North Pacific Ocean at the end of the 18 th century. Four foreign ships visited the islands in 1786. Two of them were connected with an English commercial enterprise. The other two were French naval vessels under the command of the celebrated explorer La Perouse. From then on not a single year passed without one or more ships visiting the islands. Hawaii became a well-established port of call by the vessels engaged in the fur trade and in the general trade which was growing between Asia and the Americas.

The consolidation of the entire island group into one kingdom occurred during the forty years following the visits of Captain Cook. King Kamehameha was the most outstanding of all the Hawalian chiefs and he accomplished this feat starting in 1795. Under the powerful leadership of Kamehameha agriculture was promoted, industry was encouraged and law and order were enforced.

In 1814 Russians from Alaska were sent to form a colony in the islands. Their ship was wrecked at Waimea, Kaui. More Russians arrived on another ahip the following year and remained in the islands until they were expelled in 1817.

Early Map of the Sandwich Islands (Hawaiian Islands)

The first New England missionaries arrived in the islands via Cape Horn on the brig "Thaddeus" on March 31, 1820. In later years, fourteen other groups of missionaries of various denominations arrived in Hawaii.

The Kingdom of Hawaii feared claims of France and Britain and took steps in 1842 to establish its status a a sovereign state and to negotiate treaties with them. In 1843 the kingdom ran into some difficulties with representatives of the British government who wanted to annex the islands. The sovereignty of the kingdom was quickly restored with France and Great Britain jointly recognizing the independence of the Kingdom of Hawaii on November 29, 1843. The United States had already recognized Hawaii's independence.

Agitation for annexation of Hawaii by the United States began as early as 1853 and was stimulated by the many industries that had developed in the islands with American capital. Hawaii remained a monarchy until 1894 when the last of the monarchs, Queen Liliuokalani, was deposed after much internal strife. A republic was proclaimed which was modeled after that of the United States.

In 1898 negotiations for the annexation of the islands by the United States were completed and a resolution was signed by President McKinley on July 7. A territorial form of government in Hawaii was established by Congress in 1900 and Sanford Ballard Dole, who was president of the Republic, was appointed the first governor of the Territory.

As early as 1935 Hawaii was considered for statehood but World War II brought the movement for statehood to a standstill. The attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7, 1941 marked the beginning of World War II for the United States. The war in the Pacific finally ended on August 14, 1945. Statehood for Hawaii was approved on March 11, 1959.

REFERENCES
(Original Sources of Historical Information are listed in the following publications)

Pararas-Carayannis, George. Catalog of Tsunamis in the Hawaiian Islands. Data Report Hawaii Inst.Geophys. Jan. 1968

Pararas-Carayannis, George. Catalog of Tsunami in the Hawaiian Islands. World Data Center A- Tsunami U.S. Dept. of Commerce Environmental Science Service Administration Coast and Geodetic Survey, May 1969.

Pararas-Carayannis, George and Calebaugh P.J., Catalog of Tsunamis in Hawaii, Revised and Updated , World Data Center A for Solid Earth Geophysics, NOAA, 78 p., March 1977.

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