News

Niihau Interns Work Hard to Restore the Stream and Quarry

People Counts Continue to Grow

Remembering Richard

1586: Year of the “Orphan Tsunami”

HTA Sponsors New Exhibit at MCR

Mahalo Joe!

IUCN World Conservation Congress participants visit Makauwahi Cave Reserve

A Land of Extremes

Niihau Interns Work Hard to Restore the Stream and Quarry

December 25, 2017

Makauwahi Cave Reserve began a program back in 2009, with federal “stimulus” funds, to provide job-training opportunities in conservation, landscaping, and horticulture to unemployed Native Hawaiians. We wanted particularly to focus on helping the Niihau families who have migrated to Kauai from our neighbor island in recent years seeking employment.

Niihau Interns

The Niihau Interns
(left to right)
standing: Henry Nakaahiki Jr., Keaka Kanahele
kneeling: Bernard Koyeg, Joe Kanahele (supervisor), Julie Kanahele

Those federal funds dried up soon after, but thanks to grants from the Wildlife Society, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Hawaii Community Foundation, Hawaii Tourism Authority, and others, we are proud that the Makauwahi Conservation Jobs Program lives on! At last count, 46 interns have participated in this program.

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People Counts Continue to Grow

In recent years we have been guessing, mostly by indirect methods, that the Reserve gets around 30,000 visitors per year. Thanks to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, we were able to install early this year a couple of those infrared-beam people counters like the kind you cross when you enter a big department store. In waterproof cases at strategic locations, they have been counting people for us!

Hawaiian Stilt

Over 40,000 people per year are likely to view the new wayside exhibit funded by the Hawaii Tourism Authority. It features endangered water birds that frequent the wetland restorations, including the rare and beautiful Hawaiian Stilt, as in this photograph contributed by Hob Osterlund.

And, as you might have guessed, it turns out we have been underestimating. Even without the numbers yet in for December, we can say with reasonable certainty that more than 40,000 people visited this year. We know from the registration book in the cave that 15,000 or more got guided tours, and additionally hundreds of local school children participated in our education programs. We also know that about 20% of our total visitation is local, the rest being from the elsewhere in the state, the nation, and the world, including increasing numbers from Asia, Australia, and Europe.

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Remembering Richard

Our Tour Manager, Richard Segan, Richard Segan passed away October 15 at Wilcox Hospital in Lihue. Richard began giving tours on Sundays at the cave in 2012. To that point we had only been able to muster enough volunteer help to open one day per week, but through his energetic efforts, we were able to eventually keep the cave open four days per week, and now five. Since he began informing and entertaining the public with his many wonderful stories, Richard probably gave tours for more than 75,000 visitors. At Makauwahi Cave, Richard will be a permanent part of the legends of this place.

1586: Year of the “Orphan Tsunami”

Newly published evidence from Makauwahi Cave suggests that we may now know precisely which mega-tsunami hit here over four centuries ago and left tell-tale deposits.

In the journal Natural Hazards we published an article recently entitled “The Orphan Sanriku Tsunami of 1586: New evidence from Coral Dating on Kaua`i.” Although radiocarbon dating had previously pinpointed the evidence for some sort of “extreme event” at the cave to within about a century, we used fresh-looking pieces of coral embedded in the tsunami deposit inside the cave to date the event using a high-resolution Uranium-series technique that may be accurate to within just a couple of decades.

Tsunami Models

Scientists ran computer simulations of the two earthquakes inferred to have happened in 1586; a 9.25 earthquake in the Eastern Aleutians (left) and an 8.05 in Peru (right). Predicted tsunami heights for the Sanriku orphan tsunami in Japan matched the Aleutian model much better.

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By David Burney

HTA Sponsors New Exhibit at MCR

December 14, 2016

MCR Staff pose with the new Trailside Exhibit sponsored by HTA

What has a dozen pictures of fossils and artifacts, a giant tortoise, Joe Kanahele at work with volunteers, and a familiar landscape as it might have looked a millennium ago, all in one place? Answer, our new wayside exhibit entitled Makauwahi Cave Reserve: Where Past and Future Meet.

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Mahalo Joe!

December 13, 2016

Joe Kanahele

Joe Kanahele is Makauwahi’s Reserve Caretaker.

Joe Kanahele, the project’s longest serving employee, wishes all our visitors and supporters “Mele Kalikimaka.” His devoted work as a part-time Reserve Caretaker began in 2009 and continues to this day. Mahalo to Joe for making sure the place looks good for our many visitors, and for protecting the precious resources of the cave and its surroundings. Please contribute to MCR this year to help continue to pay Joe and our other employees for all they do for the place.

IUCN World Conservation Congress participants visit Makauwahi Cave Reserve

IUCN-Wolrd Conservation Conference at Makauwahi

Attendees of the IUCN-Wolrd Conservation Conference on a tour of Makauwahi Cave Reserve

Several participants from the IUCN-World Conservation Congress, held in Honolulu in September and attended by over 10,000 scientists and conservationists from 192 countries, also visited Makauwahi Cave Reserve afterwards. We offered a daylong tour as part of the Kaua`i Conservation Expo and Expeditions, sponsored by the Kaua`i Conservation Alliance, Kaua`i Visitors Bureau/County of Kaua`i, and National Tropical Botanical Garden.

Another day, we also had a less formal visit from some friends from four decades ago, Dr. Mark Stanley Price of Oxford University, England, and his family. Lida and I know Mark from our earliest days in Kenya, back around 1977. Mark is an expert on antelopes, and is perhaps best-known for his work with successful “rewilding” of the Arabian oryx, a big beautiful antelope that was extinct in the wild but had survived in private collections and zoos. In the days before their visit to the cave, I had participated with Mark in a roundtable discussion, one of the myriad “Knowledge Café” offerings at the WCC in Honolulu. Our theme, as you might guess, was “Re-wilding: What is it and why is it important?” He was very interested in seeing our work using big tortoises to control invasive weeds, and sheep to weed our traditional Hawaiian lo`i and restored wetlands.

Lida, Billie Dawson, and I also hosted a booth at NTBG after the WCC, displaying some of the larger artifacts and fossils from the cave excavations in years past.
A few weeks before, Lida and I attended the Island Biology 2016 symposium in Terceira Island, Azores, Portugal. We presented a poster on MCR and gave slide presentations on the cave’s troglobionts (blind cave organisms) and another on research we are currently doing in Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands. This conference hosted over 400 scientists working on all aspects of islands, from 46 countries.

By David Burney

A Land of Extremes

December 11, 2016

March 06 Flood

The March ’06 Flood filled the sinkhole with water.

Recent rain down at the cave has raised hope that the longest drought we have recorded there in over a decade is being broken, but so far it’s just a little “greening up” and not enough to make up the deficit.

The flooded stream at Makauwahi Cave Reserve.

In almost a dozen years of keeping daily rainfall records at MCR, a recurrent theme has been generally scant rainfall (from 23-50 inches per year), punctuated every few years by floods and droughts. The current drought is a doozy, lasting 33 months so far. Fortunately, most of our native plants growing so profusely on the Reserve today are well-adapted to drought, and often cope by dropping their leaves until rain returns.

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By David Burney

Hey Santa!

December 29, 2015

Mahalo to Santa for all the gifts to the Reserve this year:  thanks to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, for instance, for partially funding our much-needed new bridge; and to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA), Grove Farm, and the Community Restoration Partnerships for helping get our Native Plant Nursery off to a great start.

But dear Santa, not to sound greedy, but the project needed some other things that were on your list that haven’t arrived yet.  If you know any generous elves that haven’t had a chance to click our PayPal button on the website www.cavereserve.org, give ‘em a nudge, will you?  We need new picnic tables, a new wind turbine for our off-grid electrical system, another print round of trail brochures…well, you know, the list goes on…

Antioch Interns Experience “Time Vertigo”

Antioch interns Melissa Rudie and Steven Taylor take a rest from clearing invasive kiawe trees.

“’Time vertigo’ is what David Burney calls the strange feeling of seeing so many different time scales at once.  With your eyes alone you can see half a million years of history as soon as you walk into the cave.” So wrote Antioch College intern Melissa Rudie in her final report and blog for her educational experience at Makauwahi Cave Reserve.

Steven Taylor and Melissa were the latest of many interns over recent years at the Reserve.  In his report, entitled “Meeting the Past on a Pacific Island Adventure” Steven described his whole progression from when he landed at the airport until he left eleven weeks later.  One of his favorite parts was his opportunity to make friends and work with our two Niihauan employees – Joe and Keaka Kanahele. Read More…