‘UFO’ defeated

  • Donald “Skip” Schaefer / Special to The Garden Island

    A piece of the unidentified floating object sits at Aliomanu Beach before its recent removal.

  • Donald “Skip” Schaefer / Special to The Garden Island

    The unidentified floating object sits on Aliomanu Beach before it was cut into pieces and removed.

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island file

    Donald “Skip” Schaefer stands next to the Aliomanu unidentified floating object in October 2019.

  • Donald “Skip” Schaefer / Special to The Garden Island

    The unidentified floating object that had been sitting in the sand near Aliomanu Bay has been removed after eight months, and had to be cut into pieces for removal via this all-terrain vehicle.

ALIOMANU — Eight months after a large, metal object appeared out on the reef in the bay near Aliomanu, the unidentified floating object, nicknamed the “UFO,” was removed from the beach thanks to combined efforts of the state and the community.

It had to be cut into pieces and moved out in stages over several days, but it’s gone.

“We were never able to determine what the UFO was or where it came from. However I do know this — it’s never going back there,” said resident Donald “Skip” Schaefer.

Area residents and beachgoers noticed the UFO in May 2019 and, by August, the surf had pushed it ashore. It lodged in the sand, right below the high-water mark, and there it sat, while the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation put out bids for removal.

Some thought it was a buoy, some thought it was part of a ship, others thought it was part of a lid to an oil well. But one thing was apparent — removal would be a difficult process because there wasn’t a clear path to get the UFO off the beach.

But, partnering with a few community members, DOBOR’s Kauai District Manager Jeremiah Aguilera got the job done, slicing the metal into pieces. They removed most of the pieces before high surf piled sand on the remaining rubbish and the team had to wait for the water to subside to dig out the rest.

Thursday, Schaefer announced the UFO had finally vanished.

“Glad to put this one behind us,” said Aguilera. “It had so many obstacles, but nonetheless, the UFO is defeated. Mahalos, everyone.”

While it was marine debris, the Aliomanu UFO became a photo stop for beachgoers that frequented the area during those eight months, even when it was first lodged on the reef.

It also highlighted the challenges that come with removing large objects along the rocky, sometimes-inaccessible coastlines of Kauai.

In addition to the physical challenges of boulder-strewn shores and steep access trails, the process for submitting requests for marine debris removal proposals was inefficient, with Kauai DOBOR staff relying on Oahu staff to put out the RFPs online.

DLNR says they’ve reworked that system and trained Kauai staff on that process in August.

“A big mahalo goes out to Jeremy and the akamai guys who figured out how to get the job done,” Schaefer said. “Removing the UFO from our beach was always the right thing to do.”


Jessica Else, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or jelse@thegardenisland.com.

  1. thank you January 27, 2020 12:17 pm Reply

    thank you to community members for taking initiative to do the work the county should have done.

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