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You are here: /main/research/NWHI ED 2005/journals/j19-Barbara-Mayer

By Barbara Mayer, Friday, August 19, 2005

This morning we made our last snorkeling trip of our voyage; we returned to Mokumanamana Island, and I looked at the island with new appreciation.

Mokumanamana (Necker) is an old island. Scientists have been able to date the island to be approximately 10 million years old. Imagine that; Mokumanamana came out of the ocean long before Homo sapiens threw his first stone! As eruption upon eruption occurred, the island built itself to be the size that O’ahu (Honolulu’s island) is now. But then erosion took over; rain, wind, ocean waves, massive landslides that took away a third of a volcano. Now Mokumanamana is only a hook-shaped island, one mile long and about one football field wide. It’s an old island.

Mokumanamana also LOOKS old. The guano plastered on the vertical cliffs resembles long, stringy, gray hair. The exposed layers of basalt are weathered and worn; they are the strength that remains from the original volcano. This island has seen a lot.

In most cultures, elders are highly respected; they represent the collective wisdom of the society. Younger members respect and seek advice from the older ones.

Mokumanamana, and all the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, are our elders, our "kupuna islands." They can teach us what an almost untouched Hawaiian coral reef ecosystem looks like. By observing and documenting the interrelationships of ocean chemistry, plants and animals, we can develop an understanding of a balanced marine ecosystem that can be applied to ecosystems around the world. Additionally, we can set ourselves the goal of taking better care of our populated Hawaiian Islands so that they approach the health of the NWHI.

After our snorkeling excursion, as our boat was returning us to the ship, I saw a profile in Mokumanamana’s western-most cliff. The island had a face, and it was silently telling me to listen to the wisdom of the "kupuna islands."

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