As kumu Kehaulani Kekua chanted and the crowd responded Friday, an albatross flew overhead. And then another. Then another.
At some points during the Welcome Back Moli Blessing Ceremony, four moli were in the area, sky dancing to the drums along with the hula dancers on the ground.
“It’s really cool to see this,” said Robert Schaefer, visiting from San Antonio.
He was one of about 100 who attended the event at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.
“It’s amazing because it really is a welcoming home for them, like they’re being honored,” Schaefer said.
Drums and chants were heard near the Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse as cultural practitioner Kekua and her Halau Palaihiwa O Kaipuwai danced to welcome the Laysan albatross, or moli, back to Kauai for its annual nesting and breeding season.
Nearby, Kilauea residents Erik and Meghan de Bruijn were looking for the best photo vantage point and enjoying the breezy day.
“We really like supporting these guys up there however we can,” Erik de Bruijn said. “It’s a great way to get out of the house.”
While the program continued, nene started wandering around the fringes of the crowd. Frigate birds flew by, as well as other Kauai birds like boobies and white-tailed tropic birds.
Kekua told the crowd about the significance of the moli in Native Hawaiian culture, and about its connection to the season of makahiki, the season that welcomes in the Hawaiian new year. The albatross return to land every year during the beginning of makahiki season and are associated with the god Lono.
She also talked about some of her first experiences with albatrosses, which occurred in 2017 when she met with Hob Osterlund, with the Kauai Albatross Network, to work on creating the first Welcome Back Moli Blessing Ceremony.
“I had a deep respect to how dedicated and focused they are to each other and their eggs,” Kekua said. “I realized how important it could be for all of us to have that kind of dedication and focus as well. (It’s a) great teaching opportunity.”
The gathering was scheduled alongside the expected emergence of some of the first albatross nests of the season on Kauai. Those nests are located on the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, within a predator-proof fence that safeguards the birds and their chicks from feral cats, pigs, rats and dogs.
The albatross arrive on land in early November, returning often to the same places where they were born, to mate and nest and raise their chicks.
That’s what Friday’s celebration was all about as well, said Kekua, who summed up the ceremony’s focus in a few words: “It’s a celebration of long life, of health, and of procreation.”
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or email@example.com.