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Discovering Nihoa Island

September 13, 2011

A lone 'ilima sits on the ridge of the Island of Nihoa in the Hawaiian Islands. (U.S. Department of the Interior Photo)


Many people who visit the Hawaiian Islands and surprising number of folks who live in Hawaii are unaware that there are any islands beyond the 8 main islands of tour book fame. Nihoa is the largest volcanic island in the northwestern chain, with approximately 171 acres of land. It is about a mile long and a quarter mile wide, and it is the tallest of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands at 903 feet (275 m) on its eastern end. Although seemingly inhospitable, between 1000 and 1700 A.D this remote and rugged island was visited and inhabited by Hawaiians. More than 80 cultural sites have been discovered, including religious shrines, habitation terraces and bluff shelters, agricultural terraces, and burial caves. Artifacts found included fishhooks, sinkers, cowry shell lures, hammerstones, grindstones, and adzes (ax – like tools).

Although Nihoa is smaller than the United States Capitol and grounds, this small island encompasses the only habitat for two endangered land birds. It is one of the most biologically pristine islands in the entire Pacific and probably most closely represents island appearance and native species found before humans arrived int he Hawaiian Islands.

Today, Nihoa is part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit the Monument’s website to learn more about this important place:

Remote Nihoa Island emerges from the sea. (NOAA)

One Comment leave one →
  1. Brooks Rownd permalink
    September 13, 2011 7:01 pm

    This post needs some photos of nihoa finch, millerbird, loulu, etc, and maybe an archeological site. They’re kind of buried in the linked site.

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