The day after our trip to the end of the road, we took a shuttle from our hotel to a heliport, climbed into a helicopter, and flew over the part of north Hawaii Island where King Kamehameha was born in the mid-eighteenth century. (Click on images to see them alone.)
The habitat there is very different from where we were staying. When we took off, all we could see was an arid smooth landscape. The dry ground (which is lava cinder) barely supported grass and a few scruffy trees.
We soon approached ruins of the extinct volcano whose eruptions over hundreds of thousands of years had created the landscape we were seeing. Having flown just a few miles, we had crossed into a region of verdant headlands, watered by over 150 cm of rain each year, as clouds rake across this, the most northernmost promontory of the Island of Hawaii.
Long ago, a shifting of the earth’s deep structure sheared away the lava formations, creating the imposing sea cliffs of the North Kohala coast. The sea cliffs are about 1500 feet high.
Looking down, we could see the types of vegetation growing all over the cliffs and valleys. In some spots, we could see thick stands of the kului, or candlenut, tree. It’s easy to spot because of its light grey-green leaves. First brought by Polynesian settlers to Hawaii, the candlenut is Hawaii’s official state tree. The tree produces nuts that are flammable. The islanders made torches out of them, and, noticing that the nuts burned at a uniform rate, used them as a means of measuring time. The nuts are also used in making leis.