Tami Parker Other Duties as Assigned

Hawaii – Research


Note to my readers: This is not a “post”, per se. It’s a compilation of the research I’ve done on Hawaii in preparation for a book that takes place on a similar (but not exactly the same) set of volcanic islands. Because I’ve never been to Hawaii, I rely heavily on tourist guides and online resources, but it’s nice to have a single place to reference what I find.

I post it mostly in case you’re curious to know what kind of research I do. And heck, once the book’s done, maybe you’ll be interested in going back and seeing where things were influenced.

Hawaii is a volcanic island chain made up of 137 islands, islets, and atols.

There are 6 major islands:

  • Hawaii – “The Big Island” or “Orchid Isle” – known for sportfishing and volcanoes
  • Maui – the “Valley Isle” – known for beach life and whalewatching
  • Lanai – the “Getaway Isle” – known for peace and quiet
  • Molokai – the “Friendly Isle”
  • Oahu – the “Gathering Place
  • Kauai – “Garden Isle” – known for hiking

Sightseeing Opportunities

  • Whalewatching from December to May
  • Sportfishing
  • Volcanoes
  • Beaches
  • Water Sports
  • Beautiful Wilderness
  • Mountain Zipping
  • Fern Forests
  • Waterfalls
  • Swimming Sports
  • Pineapples
  • Surfing
  • The purest water on the planet
  • Canoe Racing
  • Spelunking
    • Bumpy, rocky terrain of lava tubes. Some caves are only a few feet in height, others have high ceilings and stretch for miles.
      • albino crickets
      • blind spiders
      • water emanates from walls and floors
    • maze of small spaces, spacious chambers, and rock slabs while hearing sounds of dripping water.
  • Bogs
    • thigh-high mud
    • trees very small, bonsai
    • Ferns and violets tower overhead
    • mosses are green, brown, orange, white

Hawaii “The Big Island” is known for:

  • deserts
  • venting volcano
  • sunny coastlines
  • snowy mountains
  • fern forests
  • rainbows
  • 4,000 square miles
  • North
    • cooler, petroglyphs, black lava
  • West
    • coffee, sunny
  • East
    • lush ferns, rainbows
  • South
    • volcanoes, lava flow to the sea, continuous erupting


  • Prepare for unexpected weather. Take sweaters, windbreakers, sunscreen, hats, and insect repellent.
  • Leeward (south & west) tends to be dry
  • Windward (north & east) tends to be lush and green
  • There are 2 seasons:
    • Summer (May – Oct)
    • Winter (November – April)
  • Flash Floods happen Octover and November, during the rainy season
  • Muggy August – November
  • Cold at night
  • Swaps from sunshine to rain without warning.
  • Mountains are cloud catchers


Shield volcanoes form over a hot spot and gradually erode as they move on. A caldera forms when the summit collapses inward.

Lava is hot, liquid rock ejected by a volcano.

  • aa – rough, rocky lava
  • pahoehoe – hotter, smooth, ropy lava
  • magma – lava below the earth’s surface
  • lava tubes – formed by lava as it travels. Its crust cools and hardens, while lava flows beneath.
  • Tephra – airborne fragments of hard lava (aka Pele’s Tears)
  • Pele’s Hair – cobweb-like filaments of glass, formed when volcanic gas blows through highly fluid lava.

Flora & Fauna

  • All of Hawaii’s native birds are endemic, existing nowhere else.
  • With no predators, plants developed neither thorns nor noxious odors.
  • Some birds & insects lost the ability to fly.
  • A species might live only on one island, or just one valley.

Fascinating Facts

  • Hundreds of names for wind and rain, each highly descriptive and poetic.
    • Ua hanai – the rain that nurtures the earth
    • Ua awa – a cold, drizzling rain
  • Streams strictly policed with separate areas for bathing & irrigation. Nobody is allowed to enter the water above the area designated for drinking.
  • Below the agricultural terraces are engineered areas to trap silt to protect the reefs.
  • Politics involve high chiefs and lesser chiefs.
  • Religious law includes the death penalty.
  • Large family homes. Adoption is common. No fortifications.
  • Plantations of sugar cane and pineapple primarily. It was hard to find workers because Hawaiians were used to self-sufficiency.
  • The house and the garden were one thing. It was not uncommon to see palm trees in the living room and furniture in the garden.
  • Avoid any plants with rough hair leaves, white or milky sap, an unusual shape, or spiny fruit or seed pods.
  • Leave your shoes at the door before entering a home.
  • Stone walls built into a semicircle for aquaculture
  • Sickness comes from wading in animal-waste contaminated water


  • No daily tasks are begun without prayer.
  • Every family had an aumakua or guardian spirit – often represented in animal form such as shark, lizard, owl, or turtle.
  • Primary gods: Lono, Kane, Kanaloa, Ku.
  • Supreme Being: Io
  • Madame Pele
    • goddess of fire and volcanoes
    • appears as a beautiful woman or old crone
    • love affairs, rivalries, jealousies
    • Her presence in obsidian stretches of hardened lava, fiery rivers of lava flowing to the sea, trembling of the earth.


  • Most art was religious at its heart. Woodcarvers were priests expected to know religious ceremonies. They often relied on the natural beauty of wood.
  • Featherwork was also art. Scarlet, yellow, black native birds gave feathers for cloaks, capes, helmets, and leis.
  • Kapa is a cloth made from tree bark. Fragrant flowers and herbs pounded into the cloth added a permanent fragrance.
  • Mats are woven from sedge.
  • Jewelry from shells, dog teeth, whale ivory, feathers, and flora.
  • Tattoos very common.
  • Scrimshaw – between whales, life aboard a whaling ship was boring. Carving, etching, whittling bones, teeth, and baleen was common — but only foreigners whaled, and they brought with them booze and debauchery.


  • soft, with repetition.
  • only 7 consonants: h, k, l, m, n, p, w


  • can be made from anything
  • Hierarchy:
    • plumeria is most common
    • pansy most expensive
    • flowers from the giver’s garden most appreciated
  • Always given with a kiss
  • Can be sewn, woven, made with ferns, braided to make a base


  • Guava
  • passionfruit
  • lychee
  • mango
  • mountain apple
  • papaya
  • pineapple
  • starfruit
  • coffee
    • white blossoms in spring, cherry red berries in fall
  • orchids
  • hibiscus

Fish & Animals

  • Yellowfin tuna
  • Pacific blue marlin
  • red snapper
  • wahoo
  • moonfish
  • pink snapper
  • jackfix
  • crab
  • jellyfish swarms after a full moon for 7-11 days
  • Tiger shark
  • spinner dolphins
  • octopi
  • manta ray
    • spiritual
    • otherworldly
    • “huge butterfly”
    • No teeth, no stingers, no barbs
  • turtles
  • eels
  • schools of fish
  • goats
  • boar
  • wild black tail deer
  • feral red chickens “junglefowl”


  • coconut palm
    • Look out for falling coconuts!
  • fir
  • redwood
  • eucalyptus
  • Botanical gardens resist plant extinction


  • pig
  • sweet potato
  • taro
  • fish
  • onion + tomato
  • coconut pudding


  • drums
  • gongs
  • singing
  • ukulele
  • flutes

Water Notes

  • The powerful curling waves
  • swell up
  • long raging surf
  • crest
  • breaker
  • emerald body
  • rip current
    • swim diagonally
    • waves mean currents
  • Do not turn your back on the ocean. Waves can take you by surprise.
  • turquoise water
  • Tsunamis destroy villages – up to 100 ft high, 600 mph.
  • Frothy waves crashing look like a sea of whipped cream


“Hawaiians take a few grains of salt on the tongue because it tastes like the sea, like the earth, like human sweat and tears.” ~Maxine Hong Kingston

“She rides the waves like a bird; she knows the heartbeat of the people.”

“Every canoe has a destiny.”

1 comment

  • Hey, I can contribute mildly. The state fish is the humu humu nuku nuku apua’a. And I knew that (minus the spelling) before I saw https://video.disney.com/watch/hawaiian-vacation-4c483e01d8c65975e9a17f30 thankyouverymuch. (But I didn’t know about the nene).

    That volcano’s “move” (because of plate movement over and around hot spots) was something I only learned about last week and is apparently really obvious when you look at a satellite image of Hawaii. That fun fact, brought to you by my geologist dad, was quickly followed by learned about an eventual supervolcano in Yellowstone that’s going to be pretty awful (probably not during our lifetime, but probably one of the next two generation’s).

Tami Parker Other Duties as Assigned