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Necker Island

Mokumanamana Sunrise. Photo by Aulani Wilhelm.About 155 miles northwest of Nihoa lies Mokumanamana, a small basalt island that is 1/6 square km, or 46 acres, in size. Although the island is the second smallest of the NWHI, it has the second largest surrounding marine habitat (almost 385,000 acres). Large offshore areas include Shark Bay on the north side, West Cove and Northwest Cape as well as miles of shallow reef to the southeast.

Mokumanamana is known for its numerous wahi pana (religious places) and mea makamae (cultural objects). Fifty-five cultural Basalt alters, marae, line the spine of Mokumanamana.  Photo by Monte Costa.places are known, of which 33 are religious, 17 are shelter caves, and 2 sites are of unknown function. These cultural sites are thought to date primarily before the habitation sites on Nihoa Island were abandoned in the eighteenth century.

Because the island is small, dry, and has little soil suitable for agriculture, Hawaiians probably traveled to Mokumanamana from Nihoa and other Hawaiian Islands primarily for religious purposes. It has also been theorized that the shrines which line the spine of the island may have been used for navigational purposes during the great trans-pacific voyages of the early Hawaiians and Polynesians. In addition to constructing shrines, Hawaiians made ki'i pohaku or stone human images while on Mokumanamana. More than 11 of these stone ki'i are known. Other activities that took place on the island are indicated by the production and use of stone adzes, grindstones, stone bowls, and fishing tools.

In 1786, Compte de La Pérouse, a French explorer, visited Mokumanamana and named it "Necker Island" after Jacques Necker, the finance minister under Louis XVI. In 1857, Kamehameha IV sent Captain John Paty to claim Mokumanamana for the Kingdom of Hawai`i. His claim was contested until 1894, when the island was annexed by Hawai`i's Provisional Government.

The Tanager Expedition visited Mokumanamana in 1923-24 and to conduct biological and cultural research. Members of the Native Hawaiian organization Hui Mälama I Nä Küpuna O Hawai`i Nei visited Mokumanamana in 1997 to rebury ancestral human bones that were removed from the island in the 1920s.

Terrestrial animal life on Mokumanamana includes the blue gray noddy, land snails, wolf spiders, bird ticks, and 15 endemic insects.

Marine life includes gray reef sharks, manta rays and sixteen species of stony corals. Hawaiian monk seals are seen on the island's rocky shores. A great abundance and diversity of sea cucumbers, sea urchins, and lobsters are found in Shark Bay. Little coral life exists in the shallow areas due to the constant wave action that scours the underwater basalt yet Mokumanamana is the most easterly island in the Hawaiian archipelago where table corals, Acropora spp., are found. Most reef life is found in holes and elevated areas protected from the currents. Below the shallow reef are extensive deeper "shelves" that extend many miles from the island, especially to the southeast. These broad offshore areas are used for commercial fishing and a large percentage of the gray snapper (uku, Aprion virescens) landed in the state comes from these shallow banks.

Visiting Mokumanamana is permitted only for scientific, educational and cultural purposes in order to protect its significant natural and cultural resources. Approval must be given by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is mostly granted to those doing cultural and scientific activities.

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Questions from Kehau Enos, Hauula Elementary School, 9/10/02
Replies and translation by Bonnie Kahape'a

Aloha mai! Pehea 'oe me na po'e 'aukai? Makemake na keiki e maopopo ina hiki ia 'oe ke huli a loa'a/noi'i paha no na pane o keia mau ninau:

1. Aia na honu ma laila? Ina 'ae, loa'a ia lakou na "tumors?"

Are there any turtles there? If so, do they have tumors?

I ka makou ike huaka'I I Nihoa a me Mokumanamana, ua ike makou I na honu nui a me na honu iki. 'Ae, wahi a kekahi, loa'a no kekahi o lakou I ka ma'i. I ka po'akolu, I Mokupapapapa (French Frigate Shoals) ana makou. Ma ia aina no, noho 90% o na honu Hawaii ma laila. Hanau 'ia na honu I ia aina a hele lakou I na mokupuni ewalu o Hawaii a ho'I akula lakou I ko lakou one hanou a hanou akula lakou.

During our trip to Nihoa and Mokumanamana, We saw big turtles and small turtles. And Yes, according to one person, some turtles do have tumors. On Wednesday, we will be going to Mokupapapapa (French Frigate Shoals). On this island, 90% of Hawaii's green sea turtles hatch here, go to the main Hawaiian islands, and return here to lay eggs of their own.

2. Nui ka 'opala i loko o ke kai ma laila?

Is there lots of trash there?

'Ae, ua 'ike makou I ka 'opala ma ka aekai ma Nihoa a me Mokoumanamana a me ka 'opala e lana ana I ke kai. Wahi a ka lohe, e nui aku ana ka 'opala ma na moku e hiki mai ana ma ia huakai.

Yes, we saw some trash on the shore and tidal area on Nihoa and Mokumanamana and trash floating in the ocean. According to what I heard, we will see more evidence of trash as we move up the island chain.

3. 'Oi aku ka maika'i o ke ea i laila?

Is the air better there?

I kuu mana'o, 'Ae, pa maila ma makani o ka moana a hau'oli no au.

As for me, yes, the ocean breezes blow and I am Happy.

4. He aha ke 'ano o na mea kanu i laila?

What kind of plants are there.

Ma Nihoa, loa'a ka loulu Nihoa. Ma ia wahi wale no! Ma Mokumanamana, loa'a 'elima mea kanu Hawaii, o ka ohai 'oe o ka ihi 'oe, o ka akulikuli oe, o ke kakonakona 'oe, o ka 'aweoweo 'oe?

At Nihoa, the is an endemic Nihoa Loulu palm. On Mokumanamana, there are only five plants, all are native. The ohai, the ihi, the akulikuli, the kakonakona, and the aweoweo.

5. Aia na manu HawaiŽi ma laila?

Are there any Hawaiian birds there?

He elua manu Hawaii ma Nihoa. 'O ka Nihoa miller bird kahi manu kaka'ikahi loa.

Nihoa has two endemic land birds. The Nihoa Miller bird is very rare.

6. Aia na "non-native" mea ma ka 'aina ma laila?

Are there any non native things there? Ma ka mokupuni o Mokumanamana, 'a'ohe mea 'e ma laila he wahi nani loa a maoli no.

On Mokumanamana, All the plants and birds are NATIVE.

'O ia wale no i keia ke Akua e ho'opomaika'i ia 'oe me na 'aukai 'e a'e. A hui hou e ku'u tita! :) kehau me na keiki o ka papa alaka'i.

Aloha e na keiki mai ke ala polohiwa a kane! He maika'I wale keia huaka'I. Ua pa ia ka naau I ka nani o ko kakou kupuna. E lekauila hou mai ia'u! Ke Akua pu me 'oukou.

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Index map showing location of Mokumanamana.

Bathymetric map of Mokumanamana. Click for large map.

IKONOS image of Mokumanamana. Click for larger image.

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