At dawn, many on Kahoolawe take part in a traditional chant to greet the sun from Moaula Iki, the island’s highest summit.
“One of our traditional practices is to call the sun to rise in the morning to start our day,” said Mike Nahoopii, executive director, Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission.
“I’ve never seen this many islands from one spot, including this one, to have a 360 view of this island,” said volunteer David Walfish.
Down by the shoreline, on the beach at Kealaikahiki, voyagers sailed back to Tahiti years ago. A monument there honors all voyaging canoes.
“Families came to Kahoolawe to dedicate the site and sit on this area, study the southern sky and to study navigation,” Nahoopii said.
Petroglyphs recall the island’s ancient population, while a crater known as Sailor’s Hat is scar from the island’s violent past.
In 1965, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission tested the blast effect of an atomic weapon on Navy ships.
“Sailor’s Hat as a feature, as a permanent part of the island, was very dramatic. It drove home the impact the military had here,” said volunteer Tyler Dos Santos Tam.
Yet nature is persistent. Despite the devastation, Kahoolawe is now the largest home to Hawaiian red shrimp in the state.
It’s a sign that no matter what Kahoolawe has been through, the island will survive and thrive.