An 1835 Map of Hawai’i

Among the items I found in the NYPL image collection was an 1835 map of the Hawaiian Islands. I included it in the posting on the collection, but the map truly deserves a closer look. It preserves the western view of the islands as of the early 19th century.

The map is reasonably accurate, looking at the coordinates given for key points in the islands shows that they are correctly plotted. The outlines of the islands are mostly familiar. The shapes of Molokai, Maui, and parts of Hawaiʻi do show some odd features that look odd to anyone with a good knowledge of local geography. Any number of points and bays seem exaggerated, note the peninsulas on the north shores of Oahu and Maui. Notably Kealakekua bay is drawn as much more sheltered than it really is, an odd inaccuracy in a maritime map.

Continuing inspection reveals a number of other oddities… There are two islands marked on the map south of Niʻihau, named Tahoora and Papappa. Modern navigation maps mark only one island here, Kaʻula. Tahoora (Kaʻula) was spotted by the Cook expedition and recorded with that name. Reference to Papappa can be found in the 1870 Seaman’s Guide to the Islands of the North Pacific, Part II, W. H. Rosser. Apparently local fisherman reported another island south of Kaʻula. A number of ships looked for such an island in vain. The guide lists its existence as “doubtful”.

Map of the Hawaiian Islands 1835
Map of the Sandwich Islands (Hawai’i) issued in 1835 by Jacobus Boelen

It is also interesting to note that the coordinate system used is referenced to Greenwich. Thus the longitudes marked at the bottom match those found on modern maps. At the time the prime meridian, the location of zero longitude, was hotly contested between several possible locations. It was not until the 1884 International Meridian Conference that Greenwich became the accepted standard worldwide. This was over the objections of the French who abstained from the vote and continued to use the Paris meridian until 1911.

Of course it is the place names that are the most fascinating feature of the map. Setting aside the Dutch vocabulary and looking just at the transcriptions of the Hawaiian place names one sees familiar names as they were used two centuries ago.

Looking about the map one will note Owhyhee in place of the modern Hawaiʻi, Mowee and Woahoo as the old versions of Maui and Oaho, quite recognizable. If you have read the old accounts you may recognize Atooi as the island of Kauai. We also see Mowna Kaah printed on the map for present day Mauna Kea, similar to the Mauna Kaah found in the Cook expedition journals as the first written version of the mountain’s name.

Map Name Current Name
Atooi Kauai
Honoruru Honolulu
Karakakooa Kealakekua
Mowna Kaah Mauna Kea
Mowna Worroray Hualālai
Mowna Roa Mauna Loa
Morokinne Molokini
Morotoi Molokai
Mowee Maui
Oneeheow Niʻihau
Oreehoua Lehua
Owyhee Hawai’i
Ranai Lanai
Tahoora Kaʻula
Tahoorowa Kahoʻolawe
Woahoo Oahu

Currently accepted place names compared to the names found on the 1835 map by Jacobus Boelen

The Name of Mauna Kea

It has gotten a bit confusing of late. As the argument rages over the summit of Mauna Kea even the name of the mountain is something that few can agree upon. Mauna Kea, Maunakea, Mauna Akea, Ka Mauna a Kea, or Mauna a Wakea are all used by the various parties involved. This is not an idle question, what to call the mountain, the various names are used to present a point of view, a context from which to view the mountain.

Mauna Kea White
Mauna Kea with a fresh covering of snow and ice
The argument has even become contentious on occasion as many insist the correct name is Mauna a Wakea, essentially the mountain of the god Wakea. As this is heavy in religious connotation and procliams the sacredness of the summit, one can understand why this name has become such a symbol.

“The districts of Amakooa and Aheedoo are separated by a mountain, called Mauna Kaah, which rises in three peaks, perpetually covered with snow, and may be clearly seen at 40 leagues’ distance… On doubling the East point of the island, we came in sight of another snowy mountain, called Mouna Roa.” – Journal of the Cook expedition March 17791

The name of this mountain is found in the journals of the Cook expedition, recorded as “Mauna Kaah”. This would be the first record of the mountain’s proper name in writing, and possibly the most accurate record of the ancient usage. The journal does not translate Kaah, but does translate Mauna as mountain. Attempting to translate kaah or kaʻah using modern references does not seem to yield any useful result.

“the summit of the mountain Monakaa, which had been obscured by the clouds since our making the land, was now clear” – Captain Joseph Ingraham, May 22, 1791

Continue reading “The Name of Mauna Kea”