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Mission Blog: August 10, 2009
Nihoa Island

By Kekuewa Kikiloi, Archaeologist

Archaeologist Kekuewa Kikiloi taking field notes at a small valley on Nihoa.

Archaeologist Kekuewa Kikiloi taking field notes at a small valley on Nihoa. Click on thumbnails for a larger image.

We accessed Nihoa Island today with a party which included myself, Anan Raymond (Regional Archaeologist U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services), Jonathan Putnam (National Park Service), and the UNESCO World Heritage Site Evaluators - Ian Lilley (ICOMOS) and Jerker Tamelander (IUCN). Nihoa Island is part of an important cultural landscape and seascape that is currently under nomination for World Heritage status. Our site visit today was to provided Ian and Jerker the opportunity to experience the island and to see its natural and cultural resources.

UNESCO World Heritage Site Evaluator Jerker Tamelander and National Park Service representative Jonathan Putnam take a break during the day's survey of Nihoa.

UNESCO World Heritage Site Evaluator Jerker Tamelander and National Park Service representative Jonathan Putnam take a break during the day's survey of Nihoa.

Nihoa Island is located approximately 150 miles away form Ni'ihau and is the first island in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. It is approximately 171 acres in size and has some of the best biodiversity and archaeological resources in Hawai'i. Our day was spent in the company of hundreds of thousands of seabirds that call that island home. We we're able to see rare and endangered birds such as the Miller bird, and the Nihoa finch, which followed us around in the gulches. As we made our way to East Palm Valley our visitors were impressed with monumental architecture of the settlement complex there.

FWS Regional Archaeologist Anan Raymond at Nihoa.

FWS Regional Archaeologist Anan Raymond at Nihoa.

Nihoa Island has had very little rainfall this summer as most of the vegetation is brown and the few water seeps on the island have been reduced to only a trickle. Also, the invasive large grasshoppers that first appeared in 2002 and almost ate the island bare, has reappeared in large numbers once again. The combination of these effects has actually had a collateral effect of allowing the cultural resources on the landscape to become more visible. Over the course of the day, I've seen more features (retaining walls, terraces, mounds, etc.) appearing in areas that I've walked many times before. It made me sort of wish that I was staying here
Archaeologist Kekuewa Kikiloi at Nihoa.

Archaeologist Kekuewa Kikiloi at Nihoa.

to map these things before they disappear with the vegetation re-growth that will come with the seasonal rains.

Tomorrow morning, we arrive at Mokumanamana, the next island in the chain.

 

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