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Monday, March 20, 2000
Star-Bulletin file photo
View from Puu O Mahuka overlooking Waimea Bay.
State on edge over heiau
Despite the tall tales told around the campfire at Pupukea Boy Scout Camp -- tales that this reporter, age 11, believed absolutely -- the gigantic heiau called Puu O Mahuka was NOT accidentally discovered by Army troops on Dec. 7, 1941, as they pursued sword-waving Japanese pilots who had crashed on the beach.
Nope, not at all. The site was known to many, particularly curious archaeologists. You just couldn't get to it easily until the state built a long and winding road to it in the early '60s. Boy Scouts helped keep the road clear.
The heiau is 575 feet long and 150 feet wide, and commands a splendid view over the cliffsides of Waimea Bay. Some folks are worried, however, that work on the crumbling hillside below, which has closed the highway, might damage the heiau.
Although Puu O Mahuka had a fearsome reputation (the name reportedly means "The Hill to Flee From in Fear of Punishment!") it was Hawaiians who destroyed the temple in 1819, by order of King Kamehameha II, in their eagerness to embrace western ways. The heiau has since been cleared by the state, declared a national historic landmark in 1969 and is maintained by North Shore residents such as Butch Helemano.
State Parks officials have measured the distance from the crumbling cliffside to the edge of the heiau, and it's a a couple of hundred feet. More worrisome, though, is a "fish watching stone" further down the slope. "It's not a built structure; it's a loose boulder turned into a platform, and it could conceivably be moved by ground vibrations," said Martha Yent of State Parks Division. "It needs to be studied carefully."
By Burl Burlingame, Star-Bulletin
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