This week’s blog comes from Kathleen Stacey, Head of Collection Management at the Library of the University of Hawai’i. Kathleen very kindly hosted one of HSBI’s ‘Wee Brits’ recently, whose travels can be followed at https://twitter.com/RavBritOnTour.
When Sgt. Rav arrived in Hawai’i, my plan was to take him to lots of places that demonstrated the connections between Hawai’i and Great Britain. Time and circumstances, alas, shrank this ambition a bit, but I did manage to find a few places on the Big Island of Hawai’i where the Sgt. could explore those connections.
The first and main one is our state flag. Based on the original flag of the Hawaiian Kingdom, it has a Union Jack in the corner, with eight stripes representing the eight main Hawaiian islands. King Kamehameha I had great respect and admiration for Great Britain, and many ties with the UK, and thus wanted to incorporate the Union Jack into his flag. It remains the only US state flag with a Union Jack! Somehow, I didn’t manage to get a photo of an actual flag flying anywhere, but there’s a good rendering of it on the cover of the book Sgt. Rav consulted, Little Britain: Letters from the Hawaiian Kingdom, by Joan Burchardt.
The two places that Sgt. Rav visited that had the strongest British connection are Captain Cook and Waimea. Waimea, in the northern part of the Big Island, is also called Kamuela to distinguish it from another Hawai’i town called Waimea, which is on Oahu. Our Waimea, at high elevation, is cool and rainy. There are huge cattle ranches all over this part of the island, with the biggest being Parker Ranch. The cattle industry began with the gift of cattle to King Kamehameha I by British Captain George Vancouver in 1793. The cattle really liked their new home, and quickly multiplied almost out of control. The original kapu (ban) that the King enforced on hunting the cattle was lifted, and a thriving ranch community continues to this day. The Hawaiian cowboys, called paniolo, are a big part of the culture of this area. Not only did Sgt. Rav visit the statue to the paniolo in Waimea:
He also enjoyed a hamburger made from grass-fed Big Island beef, which is delicious!
The other important British connection that Sgt. Rav visited is the town of Captain Cook, on the west coast of the Big Island.
Captain James Cook of the British Royal Navy “discovered” the Hawaiian Islands, and named them the Sandwich Islands after his sponsor, the Earl of Sandwich. It was on the Big Island, in Kealakekua Bay, that he met his demise at the hands of native Hawaiians. The exact spot where he died is marked by a monument on the shore of the bay. Because it is now inaccessible except by water (or a very long hike!), we had to look at it from across the bay. There’s a nice state park where you can look across. We got there right at twilight on a cloudy day, so the monument, a white obelisk, is barely visible:
I think the Sgt. enjoyed his historical tour – I know I did! As did my husband Scott and friend Amy. None of us had ever visited Kealakekua Bay before, so it was great to tick that off our list! And of course, the Big Island beef hamburgers were a welcome bonus!