Kaua‘i Remembered for Wednesday, July 27, 2011

We sometimes wonder about how Mother Nature does things and why she does it in the ways she does. Why isn’t there an average in the abundance or scarcity of different resources? I noticed the following in the month of February 1944 in the Hule‘ia River.

During the years of 1943 to 1945 Kipu Ranch had the lease for the mountain range opposite Nawiliwili. This island was under Martial Law and the Field Artillery unit based mauka (mountainside) of Puhi wanted to set up an observation station on the hills above Nawiliwili.

They asked my grandfather, Charles Rice, for permission to set up on the Peak called Kalanipu‘u. He gave them permission and the Army did some investigative work on the access and location of the camp. They came to the realization that the GIs could not transport the supplies that they would need for a week’s stay.

The Army made a deal with my grandfather to haul the supplies for them on our pack mules. Every Friday two of us “paniolo” (cowboys) would saddle up six pack mules and our horses and head out for the inside end of the breakwater.

There we would meet up with the week’s contingent of 30 gallons of water in five-gallon cans, 20 gallons of gasoline for their stove, and always enough food and other incidentals to load up the other three mules. The GIs would start out on foot while we took a little longer, less steep route and hauled the supplies up to the camp.

The GIs would always feed us lunch and we would start for home with the empty water and fuel cans to be left where we met the morning crew.

One cool Friday morning, as soon as we reached the upper reaches of tide water, we noticed a shimmering in the water. We soon realized that this was a vast school of nehu, also known as anchovy.

Nehu is a small fish of about two inches in length that the tuna fishermen prize for bait. There were millions of the small fish.

As we continued down the river to the mouth, about two miles, the school of fish did not diminish. This phenomenon lasted about two weeks and then disappeared. There has never been another bloom of nehu to my knowledge.

Two weeks later after delivering their weekly supplies to the camp, one of the soldiers called to me from a lookout point at the peak. When I got to him he showed me a gathering of hahalua (manta rays) swimming in a tight circle where the small boat harbor is today. Most of the hahalua were huge, 10 to 12 feet across and about a dozen of them.

The soldier wanted to shoot one of the hahalua but I dissuaded him, telling him they were harmless and to leave them alone. Hahalua are plankton feeders but I wondered if they were feeding on the nehu. This would be a great way to increase their protein needs with the small fish. As far as I have been able to learn, this was the first time hahalua had been seen in Nawiliwili. (On the island of Hawai‘i, they now have night diving tours with the hahalua).

Both the nehu bloom and the hahalua came after the glory days of larger catches of akule (big-eyed scad) and the “kilo man” (lookout person) is no longer here to ask if he had ever seen this phenomenon.

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