The vacationers who descend upon Hawaii find that, on these graceful islands, all the dreams spun in the travel ads do indeed come true. At the tourist port of Honolulu there is a lei for every traveler's neck. Out at the beach of Waikiki there are surf riders performing matchlessly on every wave and rainbows arching over Diamond Head. And as promised, Hawaii presents vivid sunsets, waving palms and dancing girls.
The basic tourist unit which now comes to Hawaii is not a married couple, but a trinity of man, woman and camera. So many have come, clicked their shutters and gone that it is possible to predict what sort of record each new trinity will gather. The record inevitably will include pictures of surf, waving palms, Diamond Head and dancing girls, and perhaps pictures of Mr. Tourist standing coyly among the girls, and inevitably pictures of Mrs. Tourist standing, stiff as a brandy decanter, in front of Diamond Head. The man, woman and camera who join a guided tour for a whirl of the outlying islands usually add to their record photographs of lava flows and flowers, old churches and sugar mills, and at least one picture of the historic sites where Captain James Cook's men landed long ago and gave the natives ironware, goats and trinkets.
To take in even a fair portion of sites and scenes the traveler must hurry, and in hurrying he gains and also loses. The traveler moving fast, bent on pleasing the eye, may miss entirely the fact that in their varied settings these islands offer a bounty of sport, a variety of things to do as well as see. After a week of being hustled through history and scenery on a guided tour, any man with a yen for action, with a jot of curiosity to him, is likely to rebel, abandon his tourmates and be found consorting with the natives. And the natives of Hawaii in 1958, though perhaps no more interesting than those of Captain Cook's day, are having a whale of a time on their island mountains and in the waters around.
More than 160,000 mainlanders vacation in the islands every year, and of late the annual migrations have included more and more sportsmen who find the islands offer action both ordinary and unusual. Though the fact has only recently been played up, it occurs to any fisherman that there should be fishing of several sorts in the deeps surrounding all the islands. It occurs to any hunter who has trod upon the tails of barred doves on the pavements of Waikiki that there must be game in the hills. There are many sportsmen, from age 20 to age 50, who now decide it is worth more to rent a surfboard and ride triumphantly and incompetently on a small wave than to passively watch the experts. Any man who wanders in a scant span of 15 miles from rain forest into arid plains of cactus and algarroba and sees snow crests standing over tropic water naturally comes to wonder about the excitements of this varied land.
November 10, 1958
To the visitor who comes for sport, the islands still guarantee a largess of beauty and a fair sampling of history. The islands are scarcely large enough to hide the sights from anyone. The pheasant hunter is hereby guaranteed his share of mist, rain and rainbows and livid gold light from the dying sun. The man going for bone-fish or to spearfish on the island of Kauai will pass an old sugar mill on his way. The fishermen who have recently boated very large marlin off the island of Hawaii were all running within sight of the oldest church and the bay where the Polynesians killed Captain Cook.
The sports which have attracted and very likely will continue to attract men and women to Hawaii are those which fit intimately into the original geographic plan of water, rock, beach, rain forest, moor and volcanic crater. None of these sports is unique; most of them are familiar experiences presented by Hawaii in new and very striking settings. Only one popular island sport—wave riding—is original; the rest are imports which have been enjoyed for some years by the islanders. There are among the islanders eminent performers in all these sports who, in some cases for reasonable pay and sometimes for the sheer hell of it, are pleased to guide and advise visitors. A few kings of sports are worth introducing here, since the outlander who moves into their domain may want to meet them, or may accidentally meet them, or—the sizes of the islands being what they are—may at least come upon the traces these kings have left upon the land.
The first king that a visitor should notice is Robert (Rabbit) Keki, who is usually accessible on Waikiki Beach, for he is a master of wave riding, the original island sport. One hundred and eighty years ago, at a time civilized Europeans were still possessed by a medieval dread of water, Captain Cook in his journal marveled at the bold, swimming Polynesians. When Cook was fatally stabbed by natives during a sad misunderstanding, a Lieutenant James King took up the captain's quill, writing about the natives without rancor, as coolly as if he were merely substituting while the captain recovered from a night of rum. The natives, Lieutenant King noted, actually made sport of the fearful surf, scurrying to sea on boards, then sliding back on a boiling wave.
Wave Rider Rabbit Keki warrants attention but not because he is necessarily the best rider—there are indeed a dozen thereabouts who might outslide and outrun him on a given wave. Keki epitomizes several things about Hawaii and the Hawaiian attitude toward sport. He is, first off, composed typically as a Hawaiian, which means he is not pure Polynesian but, rather, a racial mishmash of the sort that distresses ardent racists and makes Hawaii a bright land in this morbid era when great races and nations are bickering like baboons. Rabbit Keki is a 5-foot 6½-inch, muscular 164-pounder, a genetic compound of Polynesian, Scotch, Chinese, Irish and Shoshone Indian. The man on the board next to Keki on a wave may be fractional parts of French, Portuguese, Filipino, Japanese and Spanish, and this may have nothing fundamental in common with Keki except wave riding, which in Hawaii is usually enough. Hawaii and its spirit of compatibility stand as some sort of shining example for the rest of the world. It is this compatibility, above all, that makes the island a good land for active visitors. In Hawaii the visiting sportsman necessarily (and happily) mixes. Today the man on the surfboard next to Rabbit Keki may be another islander or he may be a 100% tourist from Waukegan, Illinois, 50 years old, ashamed of his paunch and so surprised to find himself standing on a wave that he shouts futilely to his wife ashore for God's sake to look quick.
At Waikiki, Rabbit Keki has taught surfboarding to over 5,000 visitors (among them Mrs. Gary Cooper, Actor Robert Mitchum, Shotputter Parry O'Brien and Swimmer Robin Moore). Several years ago Keki taught two gentle 70-year-old ladies from Minnesota to stand on a board in their first lesson. The picture of them lingers in his mind—two ladies standing stiff and gaunt-legged as blue herons, shrilling with glee as they slide to shore—and it has confounded Keki ever since that hundreds of thousands of tourists never try the sport. Keki and other instructors estimate that not one in 50 visitors tries surfboarding, though certainly one out of every two could learn enough in one lesson to get a taste of it. Without trying, many visitors conclude that they cannot learn. Too many are inhibited, coming to the islands in the thrall of an unfortunate mainland belief that any sportsman over 30 who does not have a physique like Sandow should confine himself to dog paddling, occasional tennis and a slow death of weekend golf.
Rabbit Keki epitomizes the rather different Hawaiian attitude, a zest for many sports that wanes only gradually with age. Hawaiians perhaps lack the slam-bang fervor of the Australians, but they have a special, seemingly almost mystical gift for doing very vigorous things with remarkable ease. Rabbit Keki is now in his early 30s, an old man by some mainland sporting standards, but still ready for almost any sport. In recent years, in the islands and on the mainland he has enjoyed himself thoroughly riding waves, skiing on both snow and water, playing football, tennis, ice hockey, golf, handball and squash. Keki was scheduled to represent the U.S. in wave riding in the international meet in Australia three years ago, but before embarking he broke three ribs when an oddly cracking wave carried five surfboards away from greenhorns and dashed the whole lumber pile into Keki's back. He has several times paddled in an outrigger canoe in the 36-mile marathon race through the wind-torn channel from Molokai Island to Oahu. He won Hawaii's international surfing title three years ago at Makaha, Oahu's leeward beach, where a series of 20-foot waves may suddenly rise and thunder in and as suddenly subside, so that a good rider on the last wave can sometimes catch the rebounding back swell and ride back out to sea. Keki occasionally may be found riding on his chest in the steep, dumping waves at Makapuu, the small windward beach where body surfers must know how to angle left or right on the shoulder of the wave to keep from gutting themselves on the rocks.
Good Hawaiian board riders have been clocked at over 30 miles an hour as they are angling—"sliding," as it is commonly known—on the shoulder of a wave. The sport in the ultimate, like skiing, requires footwork and finesse in shifting the body weight—fine points that Waikiki instructors are willing to teach to anyone who wants more than a few lessons. The beginner who tries too many tricks prematurely at Waikiki should bear in mind that outrigger canoes have the right of way on the wave, and that the coral under the water does not move for anybody.
Some years ago, Jack Ackerman, the king of another Hawaiian sport, diving, might have been found at Waikiki, Makapuu or Makaha, riding with Surfer Keki, but most often now Ackerman is headed under the waves. While Ackerman's domain is of particular interest to divers, he is the one wanderer of all the islands who could tell a sportsman the most about all of them—assuming he could be located. "The man you should talk to," an islander often advises the visitor, "is Jack Ackerman. He was here last week, but I don't know where he went."
Ackerman was born in Rockford, Illinois, of Polynesian-Scotch-American parents. He learned to swim in the Kishwaukee River, and has been diving in Hawaii for over 20 years, for sport, for science, to satisfy his own curiosity about a number of things, and as consultant, subject and cameraman for Hollywood units that come to the islands to make underwater spectacles and thriller-dillers. He has left some of his skin on the submerged basaltic crags of all the main islands of the Hawaiian chain.
To the sportsman who dives in Hawaii, Ackerman offers this advice: "Know how to swim well and how to use a scuba before you try deep diving in Hawaii. If you want to dive seriously and have never dived before in Hawaii, dive with someone who has, or you may break your neck. Anyone who wants to spearfish and be a sport about it, I will guide him, provided he is not trigger-happy. Let's say I butchered fish in my day—it's a stage I guess we all go through—but I do not favor butchery."
The diver accustomed to North American waters will find some differences in Hawaii that warrant Ackerman's advice. The islands are a product of a three-mile-deep submarine vent. The chain was built by volcanic action and is still abuilding. The submarine floor drops off very sharply, and in that respect, underwater Hawaii is somewhat like the U.S. West Coast and far different from the waters most Easterners have visited. The water is too warm for the vertical world of kelp that accommodates marine life on the West Coast. The depths are generally too great to support a munificence of coral like the Caribbean shoals; the land is still being changed too much by erosion and flowing lava to encourage a fringing reef. There are only three pinpricks of land within 1,000 miles of the Hawaiian chain, and so the islands have a constant surge around them, a surge that is often mild but at times strong when the violence of remote storms awakens again in the shoaling waters. The wind blows predominantly out of the northeast, so on about half the coast of each island the surge is joined by local forces.
On several of the islands there are divers who enjoy going under at night, when flashlights offer a different, eerie world where eels swim in the open, lobsters stir sociably in the sand and the eyes of checkerboard shrimp wink red in the edge of light. Ackerman advises the visitor that by day or night, as elsewhere, sharks and barracuda will eat fish from the fisherman's spear; the eels, as elsewhere, will bite the hand that reaches too eagerly into a nook for a lobster. The family of Carangidae—the jacks, as they are known most places—come big in Hawaii and are the favorite game of the deep diver, who is inclined to call most larger members of the family by the single native name ulua. There are, strangely, no groupers (though biologists are trying now to introduce them). Divers from the mainland will see some familiar species paraded under new names. A species of bright-striped sergeant major is there, masquerading under the name of mamo, and looking deceptively like a local striped habitué of coral called manini. The local relative of the squirrelfish is called u'u; the bonefish is called o'io; the parrotfish, uhu. The most bizarre of the Hawaiian triggerfish has clownish colors somewhat like the queen triggerfish, and a clownish way at times of fleeing backwards into its hole. The learned fishwatcher who revels in grunting new names for a lot of old friends should by all means add the Hawaiian trigger to his list. It is called humuhumunukunukuapua'a.
Three years ago, a brief and sensational entry into Jack Ackerman's underwater world was made by 48-year-old Henry Chee, the master of another growing Hawaiian sport, marlin fishing. Chee, the son of a Chinese banana planter, has been bringing sportsmen and marlin together for the past 22 years as mate and skipper of a charter boat on the Kona coast of the big island, Hawaii. Henry Chee does not care at all for swimming or diving, and three years ago just a moment before he suddenly entered Jack Ackerman's world, Chee had been busy minding his own business. Aboard his boat Malia, Mr. Leon Kingsley, a former chairman of Pasadena's Tournament of Roses, had been battling a 382-pound marlin for 45 minutes. The marlin was still a shade green, but done enough, Skipper Chee thought, to attempt boating. Chee reached for the leader. The marlin bolted and broke it. In an attempt to gaff the fish before it sounded, Chee shouted for Mate Herman Kunewa to put the Malia astern quick. Reaching for the gaff, Chee lost his balance. As he fell over the stern, he thought only of the terrible spinning propeller and tried to go as deep as possible. He cleared the propeller, came up at mid-hull, scraped along the keel and emerged beyond the bow, unseen by Fisherman Kingsley and Mate Kunewa, who were saying last rites for him on the stern. The marlin had been swept under the boat with Chee and was rolling in the water beside him. Chee seized the marlin's bill. Holding on and shouting, he saw a shark rising beneath him. Chee's dedication to his sport had by then reached its limit. He scrambled for the boat as the marlin, apparently tired and not caring for the shark either, repeatedly sounded and surfaced. Safely aboard again, Chee ordered the boat astern and gaffed the marlin. When they finally got ashore, in the log he keeps of all his catches Skipper Chee routinely reported that, in a north-running current, four miles off Keahole Point, using artificial squid, Mr. L. Kingsley took a 382-pound marlin in 45 minutes.
There are a number of fishing areas that in one respect or another qualify as the place for billfish. Kona is the place for marlin for several reasons beyond the big size of the fish. The Kona coast drops off sharply so that, as off Havana, marlin over 300 pounds can be taken within a quarter mile of shore. The fisherman gets 7½ hours of fishing in an eight-hour charter. Only the man addicted to action and more action is apt to be disappointed off Kona, for strikes are not frequent in an average day. However, a strike most often means a very big fish, and the essential virtue of the place is the consistency of big marlin throughout the year (there is some slackening in early winter and again briefly in the spring). All fishermen appreciate the easy weather, guaranteed on the Kona coast about 90 days out of every 100.
The Kona coast is on the lee side of the big island of Hawaii. The volcano, Mauna Loa, forms a backdrop for the southern half of the Kona marlin area. In the depths the surge on an average day barely asserts itself. The water is generally dappled by a slight chop from a mild onshore wind prompted by eddying and convection currents rising up the lava-striped flank of Mauna Loa.
As he hunts for marlin in the Kona waters off Keahole Point, Skipper Henry Chee can see, above him and far away—25 miles away—sunlight shining on a different kingdom of hunters. Beyond Keahole Point and the modest summit of Mt. Hualalai rises the tallest island mountain, Mauna Kea. On the lee slope of Mauna Kea, where the grasslands burnished by the sun are interspersed with brush and clumps of mamani trees, public hunting grounds stretch from 6,000 feet elevation up over the volcanic rubble that caps Mauna Kea at 13,800 feet. In proper season, somewhere in the grass or rubble, the visitor may come upon Harold (Sonny) Henderson, a genial 46-year-old Scots-English-Polynesian whose eminence as a hunter is well established but is—as is the case with many active Hawaiians—rather obscured by peculiar distinctions in several sports. Around his home town of Hilo, Henderson is known also as a good scratch golfer who, just like that, dropped the game cold in favor of hunting. Henderson seldom fishes, but he is probably the only sportsman who has caught fish in his own bathtub, a distinction that was thrust upon him in 1946 when a 40-foot tidal wave filled his home with water and fish.
Hunting in Henderson's realm on Mauna Kea is a genuine pleasure, albeit an artificial one. Biologists reckon that when the first Polynesians came ashore there was only one mammal on the islands, a small brown bat blown in from somewhere. The islands had one unique, nonmigratory species each of stilt, of rail, of gallinule, coot, duck and goose. The stilt is gone, and the other aboriginal waterfowl are uncomfortably close to extinction. The domestic life and wildlife now flourishing on the islands were imported, for better or for worse. The islands offer the hunter a choice of feral sheep, goat and pig, axis deer, California Valley and Japanese quail, barred and lace-neck doves, ringneck pheasant, chukar partridge and wild pigeon.
There is little public hunting on the island of Oahu, and to what outer island the hunter goes depends on the game he wants. The wild sheep are available only on the rocky summit of Mauna Kea on Hawaii, which also offers the best ranges for pig, pheasant and chukar. The island of Molokai is best for Valley quail; Lanai is the island for axis deer and the small, Japanese quail. The public hunting lands of Maui are second to those of Hawaii for pheasant and chukar. The bird season usually extends (with hunting permitted only on weekends) from mid-fall through early winter. The rules for big game vary greatly by the year. All hunters should check with the Hawaii Visitors Bureau in Honolulu before going: these are not large islands, and almost constant changes of the hunting rules from year to year are a necessary part of good game management.
The prime merit of hunting in Hawaii perhaps will forever lie, not in the abundance of game, but in the beauty of the range where the game abounds. The mountain slope stretching upward from the hunter may have the look of a Scottish moor hung with mist, the knobs of land appearing and disappearing behind vapor shrouds, the rainbows coming and fading in the changing light. Across the slope a distant peak may stand stark against the sky, a battlement of lava at the moment besieged by storm, its buttresses blackened under rain clouds. Down the mountain slope, under shreds of white summer clouds, the grasslands may be spangled with sunlight and shadows that move slowly over the land and melt into the distant ocean.
From the lofty hunting range on the volcano Mauna Kea the ramparts of another kingdom are visible far away. Sixty-five miles northwest of Mauna Kea, on the island of Maui, the vast, moonlike crater of Haleakala rises 10,025 feet to catch a blanket of clouds from the trade winds. The crater of Haleakala is currently managed by the U.S. Government and spiritually ruled by a round-faced, button-nosed Portuguese trail rider named Frank Freitas. The technologists now laying plans for the movement of men to the moon would do well to consider Frank Freitas for the landing party. He is, at this point, emotionally conditioned for moon living, having spent most of a lifetime guiding visitors on horseback around the 15 square miles of crater floor. Freitas' world is one of utter quiet, but Freitas himself is often in full voice. Being quite deaf, he always speaks loud enough for himself to hear, loud enough for anyone else within 50 yards. The trail into the crater winds through 53 switchbacks hugging the sheer side of a 1,000-foot cliff. As the horses clatter gingerly over the outcroppings in the narrow trail, Freitas, to put everyone at ease, keeps up a running commentary in a voice loud enough to start a rockslide.
In the crater of Haleakala, detritus spewed from minor eruptions has piled up in cone-shaped hills—small, new mountains born in the maw of one great mountain. On the cindery plains, like the ruins of grotesque statuary done by some surrealistic madman, odd configurations of basalt cast shadows both beckoning and threatening. As he leads a party past these weathered traces of the hot, volcanic past, Frank Freitas supplies the necessary statistics of this strange land, but he is never a slave of ordinary facts. He flavors the dry details with reminiscences and asides, garnishes the facts with nights of fancy. For several minutes he will describe the good meals he will cook at the overnight cabin. He will follow this with a diatribe against visitors who drop trash in this unspoiled wilderness. He will interrupt the diatribe to point out the odd, sparse vegetation of the soilless plains. There by the trail he shows the visitors the ash-gray stems of the silversword plant, a species never found outside Haleakala. Beyond the sparse growth of silversword, the visitor sees a crude trail—it looks like the spoor of a great reptile—winding over the volcanic scree. "What is that?" the visitor asks.
Freitas is forever a free man, whose imagination cannot be shackled, "GIANT BLACK CRABS!" he roars. "They come out of the hills at night and we HUNT THEM!" While pondering this improbability, the visitor may see white specks standing out on the dark face of a distant hill. Not knowing these are more rare silver-swords shining in the sun, he again asks Freitas.
"CHICKENS!" shouts Freitas. "WHITE CHICKENS."
"What can a chicken eat here?" the visitor asks.
"NOTHING," roars Freitas. "The United States ARMY shoots feed in here by ANTIAIRCRAFT GUNS."
In the early mornings, before the sun has moved above the misty rims of the old volcanoes, north of the town of Lahaina on the island of Maui, 32-year-old Frank Kahahane and his grizzled Uncle Libert are pushing a deep-hulled outrigger canoe off the beach. As they head out into the slick water under the power of a small outboard, Kahahane and his Uncle Libert seem to be net-fishermen of an ordinary sort. But they are not.
Frank Kahahane is half Polynesian, half Spanish, a deep-chested, good-looking man who is called upon occasionally by visiting movie units to play the part of a proud warrior or king. For most of his living he depends on netting small, mackerel-like fish called opelu. The luck Kahahane and his uncle Libert have with their nets depends greatly on the cooperation they get from a 5½-foot, 75-pound, one-eyed barracuda named Jacob.
After launching their canoe, Kahahane and Uncle Libert angle upshore until they are off the Waikule Road that runs straight up the mountain flank. By lining up a pine with the end of a pier to the south they know they are a half mile offshore, directly over Jacob's deep-blue acre. Frank Kahahane cuts the motor and taps on the hull—one tap, a pause; three quick taps, a pause, and two more taps. Kahahane repeats the signal, waits. Standing in the bow for a better look, Uncle Libert points toward the stern, where a long shining form slowly materializes in the blue. Jacob has come.
The big barracuda moves alongside the hull, ruffling the surface as he rolls slightly to take a piece of opelu that Uncle Libert drops to him. Libert knows that this big fish, which has just accepted an advance payment for his services, is Jacob and no other. At this spot no other barracuda ever comes. The visitor who doubts this can look through a glass-bottom bucket. Jacob's left eye has a milky cast. The fish is blind in that eye and slow to take a bait offered on that side. As Jacob leers up through the bucket, the visitor can see his fine teeth and on the barracuda's back a slash mark, a painful brand that he got by swimming too close to a propeller.
When Jacob comes, Kahahane starts the motor and proceeds at two knots to whatever spot seems likely for schooling opelu that day. Jacob follows. When Kahahane cuts the motor again, Uncle Libert spreads a piece of blue denim cloth, about handkerchief size, on the top of the fishhold amidships. There is a cord and a 10-ounce weight attached to one corner of this cloth. From a cask, Uncle Libert takes a handful of yellow mush—cooked pumpkin—drops it in the cloth, then folds the cloth snugly around the mush and the weight. Then, while watching through the bucket, he casts the cloth-wrapped bundle into the water. As the line pays out through his hand, he suddenly checks the bundle's descent. Forty feet below, the cloth falls away from the weight, a bomb burst of pumpkin mush colors the water and small opelu can be seen darting into the cloud of pumpkin. From behind the boat, moving with the ease of one who knows his part well, the barracuda Jacob swims through the gathering mass of opelu, and as he does, the opelu crowd close to him. Uncle Libert retrieves the weight and gives the water another dash of pumpkin, and another. Each time Jacob plays his part, drawing the opelu into a clump. Between dashes of pumpkin, Kahahane and Libert lower a cone-shaped net under the gathering fish and slowly raise it. After Uncle Libert's final cast has scattered pumpkin about 10 feet below the surface, they quickly pull the net up. From his spot in the midst of the fawning opelu, Jacob, as if on cue, swims quickly up over the net rim, leaving the opelu trapped. Uncle Libert cuts up several opelu and pays Jacob off.
When the sun is high and the opelu fishing slackens, Kahahane steers for home, running six or eight knots, leaving Jacob to shift for himself. However far they have taken Jacob, whenever they next set out—that afternoon or the next day—they go back for Jacob to the same spot, where the Waikule Road runs up the mountain. Jacob always goes back to his acre.
The Lahaina coast is a favored retreat of Hawaiians vacationing in their own islands. The Pioneer Inn in the old whaling town of Lahaina abounds in cats and convivial people. Neither the cats nor the convivial people could care less whether a newcomer has just sailed in from New York, from Rarotonga or from the dark side of the moon. Some who come spend all their days in the hotel bar, some fish the excellent grounds, some skin-dive with Frank Kahahane after octopus, some sit in the shade of a big banyan tree, some go to local luaus, where the host may serve pig or may serve dog. There are plans for flossy hotels on the Lahaina coast, but for a precious moment, tourism is still pleasantly and delightfully at ebb. Tourist groups do make a fast pass at the old town, but seldom do they linger long enough to pat a cat, taste a dog or look upon the barracuda named Jacob.
Often in the late afternoon, as fisherman Frank Kahahane and Uncle Libert are finishing their netting off the Maui shore, 190 miles away on the island of Kauai another fisherman is setting out. Forty-six-year-old Shigeo Akaji of Kauai earns a living as a payroll clerk and a sportswriter, and between jobs he fishes for o'io, the bonefish, on his island's south coast, in the lee of Mt. Kahili and the weathering remnants of the Hoary Head Range. Along part of this coast a bluff of pale oolitic rock rises 30 feet out of the water. The surface of the soft bluff is eroded now and studded with protrusions as ragged as shark teeth. The surge of sea has for years been pounding at the base of the bluff, undercutting it. To fish, Akaji perches on an overhang that projects 15 feet over the water, so that each wave sweeping under him thumps against the face of the undercut, shatters into a curtain of spray and with a prolonged hiss rolls seaward again until its froth is overwhelmed by the next assaulting wave.
Farther west along the coast, lava bulwarks stand more firmly against the sea. As Akaji picks his way over the tangled breakdown at the water's edge to a favored fishing spot, he skirts a lava cliffside pocked with small, dark caves. The Polynesians used to bury their cherished dead in such caves; in the silt of one hole on Akaji's route bits of bone are exposed—a vestige perhaps of some king or commoner, or the remains perhaps of a cooked pig. There are dusky, feathered jaegers roosting in nooks along the bluff, so close to Akaji's trail that he might reach out and stroke them. To offset the hunger induced by the outdoors, Akaji scouts the rocks near the waterline, brushes aside the thick strands of brown sea wrack to pluck the edible green seaweed called limu. With his knife he pries off the rocks small limpets, called opihi, that have the rich sea flavor of rock oysters.
In Hawaii the bonefish is appreciated both as game and as food—it is often enjoyed raw at a luau by natives and visitors. There is in Hawaii some fishing for bonefish in shallows, in the traditional manner of the Caribbean, but along the steeper coasts the method of taking is different. Shigeo Akaji bottom-fishes, using a long surf pole and surf reel, casting far to get his rigging into fairly deep water on a sand bottom away from rocks. His hook, dressed usually with a strip of octopus, is a distinctive Hawaiian type, with sharp incurving point designed to minimize snagging and to hold with certainty once it is set in a fish. When fishing from a high bluff so his line angles down to a good lie, Akaji often will not retrieve to check his bait for hours but, instead, merely snap on another leadered hook and thus slide a fresh bait down the line. The Kauai coasts have proved to be good grounds. The current world record, 18 pounds 2 ounces, was taken off the island's west coast; the commercial netters occasionally bring 20-pounders to market. On his ledge Akaji sometimes gets nothing and sometimes gets a dozen bonefish. Often he spends the whole night there, lulled to sleep by the siffling, murmuring sea and wakened intermittently by the tinkle of a bell tied to his pole tip to advise him whenever a bonefish visits his bait below.
Shigeo Akaji's father came from Japan in a contract labor gang to help out with the sugar cane. Akaji's mother was a mail-order bride, wooed by his father in a letter and consenting by return mail. Genetically, Akaji is Japanese; economically, he is a byproduct of the sugar-cane industry; sociologically, there is little unique about him at all—he is a typical islander, in a short lifetime Americanized, acclimated, assimilated and absorbed.
The visitor who allows himself some slack time to wander about, visiting a volcano here, a seacoast there, is taken by the remarkable capacity these small islands have for absorbing almost anything, whether it be a mile-wide stream of hot lava, a tidal wave, an incursion of mongooses and rats or a touring busload of Stetsoned Texans. The land itself seems to exert a gentle, undiminishing influence on the people, imbuing many crass, latter-day prospectors with the instinct of the old Polynesians to share the pleasures of the land with all comers. The land has this effect perhaps because the islands themselves, like their human culture, are new and alive, sustained still by an inner fire. The oldest of the inhabited islands, Kauai, boiled up out of the sea only about 10 million years ago—just yesterday, as geologists measure things. The frothy seas are continually tearing away at the windward sides of all the islands, the homemade weather wears down the mountains; the dynamic forces of eruption are still building. The necessary industry and agriculture have changed the scene, and here and there the garish architecture, the cheap tinsel and neon and brassy pretensions of tasteless men offend the eye. But the land is still alive, and with the help of appreciative people is preserving its soul and its essential character.