I spent part of last week on an island called Kaho’olawe. While only a few miles from the island of Maui (state of Hawaii), it’s surprisingly “remote” because of its history and current condition. It served as a live bombing range for the U.S. military until 1990. With the exception of a few areas that have been cleared of unexploded ordnance, Kaho’olawe is littered with anti-personnel mines, bombs, and mortars. Access is restricted and can be hazardous.
The state of Hawaii made Kaho’olawe into a cultural and biological restoration site, where they are trying re-established both the island’s native ecosystem and its native Hawaiian cultural values. I spent three days on the island, at a small station that serves as home base for the restoration activities. While not a rugged outpost by any means—they had power, hot showers, and a great galley—it felt isolated due to the lack of cell phone coverage and internet (I could get one bar on my phone if I hiked up the hill to the helicopter landing pad) and the fact that I couldn’t see any other human settlement. The island had that “wilderness” quiet, something those of us who live in populated areas seldom experience.
What impressed me the most about the island, however, was the night sky. I spent time each night just looking up at the stars. There were so many stars! Even without the moon, I could see by the star glow. I used to know many of the constellations, but these days I remember only a few. The moon was a crescent sliver, and when it dropped low enough on the horizon, it blushed red.
I’m not one to be moved by “spiritual” experiences, but I am moved by natural beauty. Kaho’olawe has been bombed into oblivion, yet the landscape is still beautiful for what is and for what it can be again with a lot of hard work. The night sky is breathtaking—one of the best I’ve ever seen in Hawaii. I can understand why Kaho’olawe was a place where the ancient Hawaiians sent their navigators-to-be to learn the stars. Like the ocean, I never get tired of the night sky.