Maritime History and Pirate Ships

Talk about hidden treasure! I was out running one Saturday afternoon and caught site of this little place we must have passed a million times. I got closer to see just exactly what it was. A gift shop? It’s right next to Aloha Tower Marketplace so it must be. No, it’s not. It’s a museum! OMG, I love museums! Hawaii Maritime Center

Sign for Hawaii Maritime CenterI made a date with my mother to go a week or so after Easter. So, we did. The Hawai’i Maritime Center is a must-see attraction that is certainly not advertised enough! The shows in Waikiki are great but here is a piece of Hawaii’s history put together so nicely with information that is invaluable! I kept thinking about how it should be a requirement that all Hawaiiana teachers go to this attraction. I think I’ll write a letter to the Department of Education. I don’t remember anyone teaching me this stuff! Largest Marlin Caught Diver's HelmetWhat made me walk into this place to begin with? This big fish! I thought it was strange that they would build such a large model… it’s not a model. It’s a REAL fish. Honest! Then I read signs that said, “World’s Largest Pacific Blue Marlin caught on Rod & Reel in Makaha, Oahu on June10, 1970.” No way! Back to the West side of the island again. Back to my old stomping ground. Well, sort of — I’m pretty sure this guy was out in a lot deeper water than I ever ventured into! I think I would have had a coronary if I suddenly figured out that I was swimming next to something as big as that without knowing it! For you fishermen out there, that is sixteen feet and 1,805 pounds of marlin! Caught with 130 lb test and an angling time of 45 minutes, Captain Cornelius Choy and his daughter, Gail, somehow brought this giant with a 97-inch girth to shore. He was made into a display by taxidermist, Jordon Lee. Anyway, we’re not even in the door yet and already fascinated.

Pirate Ship! Falls of Clyde

I’ve known and have seen that big black boat before. For whatever reason, I envision this ship as black. I don’t even remember the other colors unless I’m looking right at it. I just didn’t know that it was part of a museum. Right outside the museum, practically attached to it in fact, the Falls of Clyde is moored and, while currently undergoing some restorative construction, looks as regal and as pirate-like as it always has. Close-up of Falls of Clyde bow

I suppose that all merchant ships from that era looked a little pirate-like to us uneducated, landlubbers. That would be especially true if the ships were black, which is my overall impression of the Falls of Clyde. Don’t ask. Falls of Clyde National Historic Landmark

Built in Scotland in 1878, the Falls of Clyde is “the only four-masted, fully-rigged ship left in the world.” It is also the only sail-powered oil tanker left in the world.

Rear deck of Falls of Clyde

In 1989 this ship was declared a national historic landmark by the National Park Service of the United States Department of the Interior.

Forward deck of the Falls of Clyde

Even the deck of the ship is something to behold with all of its ties and rigging, and this is with the sails down!

Boat name

Old sign for Falls of ClydeAlongside the ship there was also a restaurant that is currently out of commission. We’ll definitely have to go back and try it when it reopens its doors again. Keep in mind that we’re still not in the door yet and we’re inundated with photos. I ended up with 119 photos from the museum. I got it down to less than fifty. I will try to put them along the way here and if I don’t cover something enough, you can ask me. I can go on for ages but I will share tidbits and commentary between pictures. The amount of information and the unique layout of the Center is, in itself, something to write about.

The tour begins at the elevator door to the 2nd Floor. That’s different. It is set up in a circular path that is very sensitive to dates and representative of a physical time line. This is probably not unusual for any historical center or museum-type setting. But, there is so much to tell and so much history. I had to reach over and shut off my mother’s tape and then my own. The tape was too fast; there was so much to take in with the cases of artifacts and pertinent memorabilia. It was historic, factual overload!

By the time we got to the part of the tape that took us back to the 1st Floor we were both mentally exhausted and ready to turn off our audio devices altogether. For myself that was one thing, but my mother is a retired history teacher and even she was mentally burnt out!

Even the visual, artistic impact was potentially stunning. When the elevator doors open on the 2nd Floor you are met with this painting. There were no lights, what you see here is the artist’s effective use of color. Hey, nice painting. Then, we’re on the way!

Painting of canoes and volcanic island

Captain Cook: Scapegoat?

Slab of rock showing petroglyphsDid he discover the islands? Well, he was the first to report back to his country about it.

Because Captain Cook was a discoverer and a scientific-minded gentleman, he wrote all of his observations down in a journal.

One interesting observation that Captain Cook made was about how closely the Hawaiian language resembled that of the Tahitians.

He wrote,

How shall we account for this nation having spread itself to so many detached islands so widely disjoined from each other in every quarter in the Pacific Ocean. What we know already in consequence of this voyage warrants our pronouncing it to be, by far, the most extensive nation on Earth.

Poor Captain Cook. Historically, or so I have seen and heard myself as I was growing up, Captain Cook was blamed for the ultimate takeover/overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy. His memory has taken a lot of abuse. As a result of taking his new found knowledge back to the rest of the world, Captain Cook has been blamed by many of the Hawaiian people for the eventual downfall of the monarchical rule of the Hawaiian Islands. Fishing hooks during time of Captain Cook

I now believe that was and still is a real stretch! Truth be told, according to the records of the Hawai’i Maritime Center, if it were not for Captain Cook, a scientist eager for discovery, and his crew of biologists, artists and the like, we would have NOTHING of our historic Hawaii. They preserved that for us. They documented it, made artistic renditions of it (there were no cameras, just very talented artisits) and kept it safe for future generations.

Traders or merchants would NEVER have taken the time for such a pain-staking preservation and documentation of what they found. NEVER! Tobacco pipes and holders

One plaque on the wall reads (in part),

Whale tooth and human hair necklaceJames Cook — Discoverer, Not Conqueror… recorded details throughout the Pacific Islands — and especially Hawai’i — that we are still using today, two centuries later, to help us better understand the complex Hawaiian society. James Cook did far more than simply discover Hawai’i for the West. He and the artists and scientists on board provided an accurate window on the Hawaiian Islands at the moment of Western contact — a glimpse of Island life that would have been lost forever had the island been discovered instead by a trader. The sprinkling of photos of different artifacts shown here supports that statement. There are quotes from his Journal and even a sample of his handwriting! It reads, in part,

…surrounded by a multitude of canoes. I had nowhere in the course of my voyages seen so numerous a body of people assembled at one place, for besides those in the canoes, all the shore was covered with spectators, and many hundreds were swimming ’round the ships like shoals of fish.

Cook's Writing

In an unfortunate turn of events, Captain Cook was killed. From what I can ascertain, relations were a little rocky with the locals and there was one morning when Captain Cook was angry because an essential vessel (a cutter) that was their supply boat had been stolen. The details of what followed are varied but Cook apparently forgot his manners and may have overstepped the lines of proper visitor behavior when communicating with the high chief of one of the villages. The Hawaiian people became agitated and concerned that their chief was being led into what they perceived as danger. Such is the nature of language barriers and communication breakdown.

Artifacts from time of Captain Cook's murder

… Quarrels became frequent; sticks and stones were freely used; and Cook decided to sail away, much to everybody’s relief. Within a week the Resolution had sprung her foremast, and they were back again. Trouble began immediately. One of the cutters was stolen, and Captain Cook put ashore in some force to effect restitution. Natives crowded the beach, armed and excited. Stones were thrown and there was some firing. Cook turned, and as he did so was stabbed in the back and speared. He fell dead into the water. Thus died Captain Cook at the age of fifty-one. His indomitable perseverance and courage, his disdain of comfort, his calmness and capacity in danger, and his singleness of purpose, have, with his stupendous achievements, marked him as one of the greatest of Englishmen.

Thank you to the Captain James Cook the Navigator website for that quote. I couldn’t read much more because I still can’t face the fact that Cook was killed over a stupid boat. Did I miss history class that day? Was I too young to care? I will read more later when I can stomach the absurdity of it all. It’s an ethnic conundrum for me. My blood heritage is with Cook and the travelers but my heart and personal history are with the native Hawaiians.

I will interject here that those aboriginal trouble makers were very clever. They hid the boat! How do you hide a boat? You sink it and anchor it to the ocean floor! Clever Map of Russian Fort on Kauaiboys! That wouldn’t work today with engines and what not but it sure worked back then!

Keeping my new information about Captain Cook in mind, we walk a little further down the hall and see the record of the other peoples of the world that “discovered” this small chain of islands. The French, the British, China and even Russia had their eyes on this prime piece of real estate.

In the early 1800’s Tsarist Russia was interested in the fur trade and fishing to be found here. There are still remnants of this old Russian Fort on Kauai!

Here is my editorial comment. I thought about the whole picture and I can’t see it any other way. With all of the global powers encountering such a strategically-located place to dock and restock their vessels, a take-over or an overthrow was inevitable. Since it had to happen eventually, I’m glad it was an American take-over which, I believe, spared a lot of possible bloodshed. This is another story, my opinion, and not a topic for this post. We’ll talk about this again eventually I’m sure. Sandalwood display

The scent of sandalwood has always been one of my favorites. Did I know we had it here? No. The native Hawaiians would use it to scent their tapa cloth. On the right in that glass case are Chinese carvings made from this fragrant wood.

One of the fascinating things about blogging about my city has been the discovery of just how closely linked places and events are throughout the history of the islands. You can actually see how things progressed and where they are now. What I was still to realize was the connection to the U.S. mainland as well. Read on.

Matson? The shipping line? Matson Did All of That?

In case you didn’t notice, the Falls of Clyde was a ship from the Matson Lines. Interesting. Just keep that in mind for now. While I was trying to figure out why there was a cow hanging from the rafters my mother said from behind me, “There’s the Lurline! I was on that ship.” What? Photo of the Lurline
Thinking she had lost her mind I said, “When were you on that ship?”
“When I was a young girl.”
“Why were you on that ship?” Lurline replica

Lurline life preserver“To get to Los Angeles.”
“Why?” Leave it to me to be provincial. I have been accused recently of being parochial. I don’t particularly care for the other adjectives that are synonymous with parochial. In fact it’s potentially a rather insulting thing to call someone.
“Just because,” was the response I got from Mom. I think that means she doesn’t exactly remember. But, she remembered that boat and what it looked like, inside and out! Check out the stack on top of the boat — “M”, and check out that life preserver — Matson Lines!

Wait, it gets better! Another glass case with brochures in it. I caught site of that sign, “Matson builds the Royal Hawaiian and Ignites the Tourist Boom” and my immediate reaction was, “You have GOT to be kidding me! Why did I not know this?!?”
Matson show case
Many people know that the Royal Hawaiian Hotel was the first hotel in Waikiki, in Hawaii for that matter. But, I don’t think many people know that it was Matson that built it, along with our other largest hotels! I certainly didn’t know. Hotel flyers

This stuff just amazes me. I had no idea. I know Matson. They bring our Christmas trees. On my way to work in the morning I try not to get run over by their containers when they’re delivering groceries to my favorite grocery store. Matson container delivering groceries to Safeway

Cow being loaded on a shipSurprised by much of what was in this little building, this connection to Matson was yet another knowledge tidbit that left me stunned and scratching my head.

By the way, remember that cow that I was trying to figure out? It was to show people how they were loaded for transport. This was another taxidermist project; the cow was real.

That was not the only method of transport. As seen here, the primitive method aboard canoes worked pretty nicely too. Yes, a real pig — another taxidermy wonder. Wild pig like this makes the best lau lau! What is lau lau? It’s butterfish, pork and chicken wrapped in layers of taro leaves and ti leaves. It is then steamed until done. Personally, I don’t care for the butterfish but I do love the ones with pork!

Wild pig onboard canoeI was irritated that the Undersea Communications display was under repair. I wanted to see what they had to share about that. I will have to go back when I start talking about our marine mammals and/or about the arrival of the Hawaii Super Ferry. Another post at another time.

Moving right along… I continued to be surprised. Fortunately these things were not as emotionally jarring as the information about Captain Cook. Apparently, being too close to the impact of historical fact can shake you if you let it. That’s my study in psychology for the day.


Whaling store

Many of the native Hawaiians joined the whaling ships to go out and seek their fortune or just for the adventure of it. A very interesting point to make about the Hawaiians was that their cultural/religious system included much reverence to nature and the spirits attributed to different creatures or aspects of the natural world. Life on the ship

There is much to be said about aumakua (family gods or personal gods often taking the form of a particular animal and acting like a spiritual guide). We will talk more about the aumakua at a later time but I mention it here to make the point about the overall respect given to nature. For any good fortune that came their way, such as the first catch of a kohola (humpback whale), the Hawaiians would make an offering to the land (aina).

Whale boat

There were problems with the whaling expeditions but aside from that, whaling became quite a big thing. The respect for these huge beasts remained and still does today. An ode to the humpback whale

Another thing that attracted me to the Hawaii Maritime Center was the promise of a whale skeleton. The skeleton was given a name by a 7th-grade student in Kamehameha School.

Naming the whale skeleton

It was difficult to get a good shot of this skeleton with the limited amount of space available but here are a couple of shots. Front view of whale skeleton Rear view of whale skeleton

Advertiser note to staffNear and dear to my heart and to the heart of many other bloggers, is a little bit of American literary history. This little reminder sign caught my attention and made me chuckle. I’m sure this newspaper is the same one that is now known as the Honolulu Advertiser. They can correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think so! I thought this was cute and I’m glad they preserved it.

In addition, there is this photo of Bob Krauss. Portait of Bob Krauss with maile lei

Bob passed away on September 10th of last year. He was a much loved writer for the Honolulu Advertiser. In an article published in the Advertiser that same afternoon they printed the following:

In his last column on Aug. 27, he said he had opted for heart surgery at his age because he wanted to be able to keep writing, which was his great love. He wrote: “I could play it safe and turn into a couch potato. But that would mean I’d have to stop writing stories for you.”

Falls of Clyde book by Bob KraussHe was a very popular columnist and a tribute to him can be found here. He also wrote this book, the Falls of Clyde. I guess I’ll have to buy a copy which the Hawaii Maritime Center is selling in their little gift shop section, of course. I guess I’ll have to get a copy and read it so I can let you know if it’s any good or not. Since Mr. Krauss was so respected and well-liked, I have high hopes for this publication.

Then there’s a picture with a short, mock recording of Mark Twain. He was in Hawaii in 1866 and got his first big scoop about the famous clipper ship Hornet. Twain is credited as saying that this was his beginning as a “literary person.” Here again is a link, or contribution if you will, to Hawaii’s contributions to American history.

Mark Twain audio
Eventually, things moved from transport by sea to transport by air. This transition was via “Seaplanes and Flying Boats.”

Seaplane exhibit

Airplane propeller

Since this propeller was on the lawn at the front of the building, I must assume that it’s connected to this part of the exhibit.

We’re ready to move downstairs now. The hostess downstairs just looked at us and grinned. She said that most people just hang up the tapes at that point and continue on their own. I will be honest and say that I was done.

Historical medicines
Downstairs were more miscellaneous topics and less of a time line. There was still much information to share but not quite as organized as the 2nd Floor. There were Tattoo shopdisplays of the medicines taken on the ships, and other odds and ends.

And then there’s something that has become very familiar to most of us. The tattoo has become a popular item these days and it was back then too.

How can a building so small be so filled with all this history? I have to thank Captain Cook and the Falls of Clyde for not burying this treasure of knowledge.

The “X” on the proverbial treasure map is on Pier 7, adjacent to Aloha Tower Marketplace.

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14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Michele // Apr 30, 2007 at 7:42 am

    Wow, that was a cool history lesson… loved the big fish! Very well put together. It was almost as if I was there. Thanks for sharing!!

  • 2 Evelyn // Apr 30, 2007 at 10:25 am

    Thanks for reading, Michele! It was a work from the heart and the experience of that visit is not one that I will forget anytime soon.

  • 3 Walt // Apr 30, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    Evelyn, that was Fantastic! Did you get any pictures aboard the Falls of Clyde? I’m tempted to call them and order the book on her myself.
    I especially liked the history of the Matson Line. I also enjoyed your take as an Hawaiian on Capt. Cook. He is wrongly maligned throughout much of the pacific.
    Great post, its no wonder it took you so long to finish.

  • 4 Evelyn // Apr 30, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    I got a picture of the deck from way above it but it was closed off to the public. I guess it was pretty badly in need or restoration.

    While I am not ethnically Hawaiian, the rest of me is. The whole thing about Capt. Cook upset me very badly. I found myself defending the natives, then defending the good Captain and then back the other way again.  That was certainly not something I expected to have happen!

    Thank you, Walt.  I tried not to leave anything out and comments like yours make it all worth it!

  • 5 The DC Traveler - The DC Traveler Hosts a Carnival of Cities // May 7, 2007 at 2:49 am

    […] Evelyn’s blog Homespun Honolulu tells us about the must-see Hawaii Maritime Center . It’s filled with information and artifacts about whaling, fishing, Captain Cook, Hawaiian history, tattoos and lots more about the sea. There’s even the Falls of Clyde built in 1878, the only four-masted, fully-rigged ship left in the world, which is now a national historic landmark. […]

  • 6 John // May 7, 2007 at 5:57 pm

    That place looks like an interesting resource. I love old maritime museums.

  • 7 Evelyn // May 7, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    Thank you, John, for stopping by and for leaving your comment. It was certainly a memorable visit for me! Such a tiny space with so much to say! 🙂

  • 8 Carole // May 8, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    Wow! Great article, Evelyn! I really enjoyed the pictures and LOVED your commentary. Well done.

  • 9 Evelyn // May 9, 2007 at 3:57 am

    Hi Carole! Thanks for reading and for the kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I just… got involved with the place. It was a history lesson for me too! 🙂

  • 10 THeHobbyGuy // May 14, 2007 at 2:16 am

    Wow! I will definitely put this on my places to visit.

  • 11 Evelyn // May 14, 2007 at 7:23 am

    Hello TheHobbyGuy! When I visited your site I didn’t think about it but, yeah, I think you would find some of the stuff in this place pretty cool! Lots of artifacts and handicrafts that I think you would find at least mildly interesting.

  • 12 The Falls of Clyde Has Friends! // Oct 5, 2008 at 3:21 am

    […] the Falls of Clyde and came to understand and appreciate its significance even more.  In fact, one of my favorite posts was the one I wrote about just that — the Hawaii Maritime Center adjacent to Aloha […]

  • 13 Homespun Honolulu // Nov 9, 2010 at 6:23 am

    […] shares a Homespun Honolulu blog post that is one of my favorites, Maritime History and Pirate Ships.   This is posted here in case readers were wondering why I am so dearly attached to the Maritime Museum […]

  • 14 Homespun Honolulu » Maritime History and Pirate Ships | Pirate Ships // Sep 27, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    […] Follow this link: Homespun Honolulu » Maritime History and Pirate Ships […]

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