The Leaping Mullet
Nuʻuanu Pali State Wayside, Island of O’ahu, Hawai’i
Nuʻuanu Pali State Wayside is a popular lookout at the top of Nu’uanu Valley on the Island of O’ahu. There are stunning views of the pali, Kaneohe and glimpses of Kailua. Everyone who visits remembers the roaring winds and the incredible vistas. The current Pali highway is the third road to be built. For over 1,000 years, the Hawaiians used the route to walk from the leeward and windward sides of O’ahu.
It’s also a place of that shaped the history of Hawai’i. Arguably one of the most famous battles of ancient Hawai’i.
The Battle of Nuʻuanu (Kalelekaʻanae or leaping mullet), fought in May 1795 was a key battle in the final days of King Kamehameha I's wars to unify the Hawaiian Islands. It is known in the Hawaiian language as Kalelekaʻanae, which means "the leaping mullet", and refers to the Oahu warriors driven off the cliff in the final phase of the battle. It was historic as the first time the Hawaiian islands were unifed under one rule.
The Battle of Nuʻuanu began when Kamehameha's forces landed on the southeastern portion of Oʻahu near Waikiki. After spending several days gathering supplies, Kamehameha's army advanced westward, encountering Kalanikupule's first line of defense near the Punchbowl Crater. Splitting his army into two, Kamehameha sent one half in a flanking maneuver around the crater and the other straight at Kalanikupule. Pressed from both sides, the Oʻahu forces retreated to Kalanikupule's next line of defense near Laʻimi. During this part of the battle, both Kalanikupule and Kaiana were wounded, Kaiana fatally. With its leadership in chaos, the Oʻahu army slowly fell back north through the Nuʻuanu Valley to the cliffs at Nuʻuanu Pali. Some warriors escaped down the cliff while 400 warriors defended and eventually either jumped or were pushed over the edge of the Pali.
I have spent the last year visiting the site before dawn usually around 4:30am to take sunrise pictures and for me it’s become an epic test of my ability to deal with fear. I am usually by myself with no one around for miles in any direction. The wind is howling, literally. Everything is moving and it’s dark. My mind is playing tricks on me as I see movement out of the corners of my eyes. It always turns out to be nothing but my heart races for a moment. The history of the spot being where hundreds of Hawaiians died in the famous Nu’uanu battle, it just feels creepy. Really creepy but the photographs are some of my favorites. The photographs keep me coming back. I guess I am a leaping mullet but each time it gets a little easier.
And this picture is one of my all time favorites. If I painted this would be my canvas.