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Molokaʻi
Sobriquet: The Friendly Isle
Molokai.jpg
Satellite image of Molokaʻi.
Geography
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Area 260 sq mi (670 km2) ([[List of islands by area|5th largest Hawaiian Island]])
Elevation 4,961 ft (1,512 m)
Highest point Kamakou
Country
Symbols
Flower Kukui
Color ʻŌmaʻomaʻo (green)
Demographics
Population 7,345 (as of 2010)
Density 28/sq mi (11/km2)

Molokaʻi or Molokai (/ˈmɒlək/; Hawaiian: [ˈmoloˈkɐʔi]), often called the "Friendly Island", is an island in the Hawaiian archipelago. It is 38 by 10 miles (61 by 16 km) in size at its extreme length and width with a usable land area of 260 square miles (673.40 km2), making it the fifth-largest of the main Hawaiian Islands and the 27th largest island in the United States. It lies east of Oʻahu across the 25-mile (40 km) wide Kaiwi Channel and north of Lānaʻi, separated from it by the Kalohi Channel.

The island has been known both for developments by Molokai Ranch on much of the island, for pineapple production, cattle ranching and tourism. Residents or visitors to the west end of Molokaʻi can see the lights of Honolulu on O'ahu at night; they can view nearby Lānaʻi and Maui from anywhere along the south shore of the island. In Kalawao County, on the Kalaupapa Peninsula on the north coast, settlements were established in 1866 for quarantined treatment of persons with leprosy; these operated until 1969. The Kalaupapa National Historical Park now preserves this entire county and area.

Geography

East Molokai
Eastern Molokai with a portion of Kamakou and Molokai Forest Reserve

Molokaʻi developed from two distinct shield volcanoes known as East Molokaʻi and the much smaller West Molokaʻi. The highest point is Kamakou on East Molokaʻi, at 4,970 feet (1,510 m). Today, East Molokaʻi volcano, like the Koʻolau Range on Oʻahu, is what remains of the southern half of the original mountain. The northern half suffered a catastrophic collapse about 1.5 million years ago and now lies as a debris field scattered northward across the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. What remains of the volcano on the island include the highest sea cliffs in the world. The south shore of Molokaʻi boasts the longest fringing reef in the U.S. and its holdings—nearly 25 miles (40 km) long.

Molokaʻi is part of the state of Hawaiʻi and located in Maui County, except for the Kalaupapa Peninsula, which is separately administered as Kalawao County. Maui County encompasses Maui, Lānaʻi, and Kahoʻolawe in addition to Molokaʻi. The largest town on the island is Kaunakakai, which is one of two small ports on the island. Molokai Airport is located on West Molokaʻi. The United States Census Bureau divides the island into three census tracts: Census Tract 317 and Census Tract 318 of Maui County, Hawaii, and Census Tract 319 of Kalawao County, Hawaii. The total 2010 census population of these was 7,345, living on a land area of 260.02 square miles (673.45 km2). Molokaʻi is separated from Oʻahu on the west by the Kaiwi Channel, from Maui on the southeast by the Pailolo Channel, and from Lānaʻi on the south by the Kalohi Channel.

Ecology

Halawa Molokai
Halawa Bay Beach Park, located at the extreme east end of Molokaʻi

Molokaʻi is split into two main geographical areas. The low western half is very dry and the soil is heavily denuded due to poor land management practices, which allowed over-grazing by goats. It lacks significant ground cover and virtually the entire section is covered in non-native kiawe (Prosopis pallida) trees. One of the few natural areas remaining almost intact are the coastal dunes of Moʻomomi, which are part of a Nature Conservancy preserve.

The eastern half of the island is a high plateau rising up to an elevation of 4,900 ft (1,500 m) on Kamakou peak and includes the 2,774 acres (11.23 km2; 4.334 sq mi) Molokai Forest Reserve. The eastern half is covered with lush wet forests that get more than 300 in (7,600 mm) of rain per year. The high-elevation forests are populated by native ʻōhiʻa lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha) trees and an extremely diverse endemic flora and fauna in the understory. Much of the summit area is protected by the Nature Conservancy's Kamakou and Pelekunu valley preserves. Below 4,000 feet (1,200 m), the vegetation is dominated by exotic flora, including strawberry guava (Psidium littorale), eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp.), and cypress (Cupressus spp.). Introduced axis deer (Axis axis) and feral pigs (Sus scrofa) roam native forests, destroying native plants, expanding exotic plants through disturbance and distribution of their seeds, and threatening endemic insects. Near the summit of Kamakou is the unique Pepeʻopae bog, where dwarf ʻōhiʻa and other plants cover the soggy ground. .

Molokaʻi is home to a great number of endemic plant and animal species. However, many of its species, including the olomaʻo (Myadestes lanaiensis), kākāwahie (Paroreomyza flammea), and the Molokaʻi ʻōʻō (Moho bishopi) have become extinct. Molokaʻi is home to a wingless fly among many other endemic insects.

History

It used to be thought that Molokaʻi was first settled around AD 650 by indigenous peoples most likely from the Marquesas Islands. However, a 2010 study using revised, high-precision radiocarbon dating based on more reliable samples has established that the period of eastern Polynesian colonization of the Marquesas Islands took place much later, in a shorter time frame of two waves: the "earliest in the Society Islands c. 1025–1120, four centuries later than previously assumed; then after 70–265 years, dispersal continued in one major pulse to all remaining islands c. 1190–1290." Later migrants likely came from Tahiti and other south Pacific islands. Although Captain James Cook recorded sighting Molokaʻi in 1778, the first European sailor to visit the island was Captain George Dixon of the British Royal Navy in 1786. The first significant European influence came in 1832 when a Protestant mission was established at Kaluaʻaha on the East End of the island by Reverend Harvey Hitchcock. In the late 1800s, King Kamehameha V built a vacation home in Kaunakakai and ordered the planting of over 1,000 coconut trees in Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove.

Leper colony

Leprosy (later known as Hansen's disease) was among Eurasian diseases introduced to the Hawaiʻian islands by traders, sailors, workers and others who lived in societies where these diseases were endemic. Because of the islanders' lack of immunity to the new diseases, they suffered high rates of infection and death from smallpox, cholera and whooping cough, as well as leprosy. Sugar planters were worried about the effects on their labor force and pressured the government to take action to control the spread of leprosy.

The legislature passed a control act requiring quarantine of people with leprosy. The government established Kalawao located on the isolated Kalaupapa peninsula on the northern side of Molokaʻi, followed by Kalaupapa as the sites of a leper colony that operated from 1866 to 1969. Because Kalaupapa had a better climate and sea access, it developed as the main community. A research hospital was developed at Kalawao. The population of these settlements reached a peak of 1100 shortly after the turn of the 20th century.

In total over the decades, more than 8500 men, women and children living throughout the Hawaiian islands and diagnosed with leprosy were exiled to the colony by the Hawaiian government and legally declared dead. This public health measure was continued after the Kingdom became a U.S. territory. Patients were not allowed to leave the settlement nor have visitors and had to live out their days here. In the 21st century, there are no persons on the island with active cases of leprosy, which has been controlled through medication, but some former patients chose to continue to live in the settlement after its official closure.

Father Damien de Veuster, a Belgian priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary served as a missionary for 16 years in the communities of sufferers of leprosy. Joseph Dutton, who served in the 13th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the American Civil War, and who converted to Roman Catholicism in 1883, came to Molokai in 1886 to help Father Damien and the rest of the population who suffered from leprosy. He stayed there until his own death in 1931. Mother Marianne Cope of the Sisters of Saint Francis of Syracuse, New York, brought six of her Sisters from to work in Hawaiʻi with leprosy sufferers in the late 19th century, also serving on Molokai. Both Father Damien and Mother Marianne have been canonized as saints by the Roman Catholic Church for their charitable work and devotion to sufferers of leprosy. In December 2015, the cause of Joseph Dutton was formally opened, obtaining him the title as Servant of God.

Towns and villages


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