There are many wondrous, enigmatic and fascinating attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, some better known than others, many out of the way and generally off the beaten track. Tour Guide Hawaii has produced an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information, presented as short GPS-cued videos, in an app downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers the entire Big Island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and the relaxing.
Laupahoehoe, meaning “leaf of lava” is a place of great beauty, of awesome displays of oceanic power and of tragic memories. Laupahoehoe Park stands where 23 children and 4 teachers at the Laupahoehoe School, and an unknown number of residents of the town, were killed in the tsunami of 1 April 1946.
The children had been sent out by the teachers to gather fish stranded on the beach by the first two giant waves. No one realized the import of the giant waves and the receding ocean until the final, giant wave washed over the peninsula. Only two students and one teacher survived—treading water for 10 hours until an undamaged boat could be found and rescue effected.
A graveyard for the tsunami victims and the remnants of the old sugar plantation lie just outside the park; inside the park on a small hill overlooking the jetty is a memorial stone inscribed with the names of those who died in the tsunami and the remnant foundation of the school.
The pounding of the raw ocean on the jetty reminds one that not every beach in Hawaii is made for swimming. The wildness of the ocean at Laupahoehoe was demonstrated graphically and tragically again in 1985. A barge-load of Toyota automobiles broke free of its tow line and wrecked on the reef at Laupahoehoe. Either not understanding the power of the ocean, or not respecting it, the insurance adjuster demanded to be landed on the wrecked barge deck as he was investigating. When a wave toppled his helicopter, he was drowned.
Park facillities include restrooms, campgrounds, picnic facilities with pit barbecues and ball fields. Laupahoehoe is a fascinating place to spend time, although the pall of tragedy that hangs over Laupahoehoe Gulch; the fishing, however, is fabulous.
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All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.