Ancient Nothings

An ancient megalith here on Hawaiʻi? That would be cool, check this out!

A YouTube video of a supposed ancient megalith in North Kohala
The video I find linked on a local Facebook group shows a rayed structure on the ground a few miles north of Kawaihae, with lines radiating from a central point for a mile or more, an enormous compass that points at destinations near and far from the islands.

It is a striking feature, but it is quite the jump to claim that this is a geoglyph created by an ancient civilization.

The video explains that the feature is 120,000 years old based on the geologic datings of the lava flows on the western slope of the Kohala. Part of this dating is based on a map of the island inscribed around the compass.

I know this area fairly well, even know some of the local ranchers, I find the evidence provided by the video a bit lacking. There are more than a few real archaeological remains in the area, remains of the rich Hawaiian culture that existed in the area before western contact.

As soon as I looked at the Google satellite imagery I had a pretty good idea of what I was looking at. A few moments of research confirmed my suspicions… The pattern on the ground is a paddock system used to control cattle movements in a section of range land. I am a bit disappointed, but not really surprised.

The entire Kohala western slope is or was cattle ranches. While the famous Parker Ranch is found in Waimea and the slopes of Mauna Kea, the west side of the Kohala is divided among a handful of smaller family ranches. Kahua Ranch, Ponoholo Ranch, Puakea Ranch, Anna Ranch, most of these ranches are still working cattle operations.

Google map of the supposed geoglyph
There are a number of ways that ranchers will subdivide acreage to control the foraging of cattle. From simple squares, to what is called a wagon wheel, each method has advantages and disadvantages. In this case we are looking at a wagon wheel or cell center paddock.

The likely reason this method was used here is water distribution, all of the paddocks in a wagon wheel arrangement can share a single water distribution point. The lower slopes of the Kohala are quite dry, requiring a reliable watering system to allow grazing. Sure enough, zooming into the satellite imagery there are a set of troughs at the central apex.

We are looking at a paddock system, probably dating from the late 20th century, certainly not 120,000 years old.

I did follow some of the supposed alignments… Yakutat, Alaska? Nope. Starbuck Island? Only if you fudge it by about a degree. If you put a random line on the ground and follow it across an ocean it will probably line up with something.

That map of the island around the compass? It would only be correct if somehow the geologic formation sequence of the island was reversed, with Kohala forming last instead of being the oldest volcano of our island.

The claims are just wrong.

The Kohala taken from the drone on a windless afternoon
Ranch land along the western slope of the Kohala

The video goes on to show a set of features on the seafloor that are supposedly related. Straight lines are shown in numerous locations across the seafloor surrounding the islands. In this case the lines in the maps are not even there, the video author is chasing ghosts created by technology and how the maps are made.

The process we use to map the seafloor is data from oceanographic vessels weeping back and forth over the ocean, each pass mapping a swath of seafloor. When these swaths are stitched together you get a map of the entire ocean floor. Unfortunately where each swath stitches to the next artifacts appear, straight lines abound in the maps where there really are no such features. Just a result of the process.

While some might complain that we have such poor maps of the ocean floor, consider just how amazing it is we have such maps at all!

Maybe it is not such a surprise that someone looked at a satellite shot, saw an interesting feature and jumped to completely unsupported conclusions. What is more discouraging is how many comments indicated support of the idea. Are that many people so out of touch with reality that they will see ancient geoglyphs in cattle paths?

This is the alternate reality created by docu-dramas like Ancient Aliens and In Search Of. These shows are followed by a disconcertingly large group of people who have lost the ability to critically examine evidence, who desperately want there to be UFO’s and ancient advanced civilizations.

We can push back, try to educate our fellow citizens, but it feels like a losing battle. Reality, as fascinating as it can be, is just boring by the standards of modern media.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

2 thoughts on “Ancient Nothings”

  1. Come on Andrew peps allways want something weird to belive in,thats human nature. The world is so bland to some they crave mystery. I find mine underwater and above land ,in the stars,just like you.

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