** Ke Kai Hoee Weliweli / The Terrifying Tsunami

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** Ke Kai Hoee Weliweli / The Terrifying Tsunami

Lives Lost

Disasters in Hilo!

Many Letters to the Kuokoa.

A letter from a Chinese friend!

There was unparalleled shock and surprise when the sad news was brought on the morning of this past Sabbath, that the "Tsunami" and the "Receding Sea" had visited the town of Hilo, on the 10th of May, and leaving a cargo of sadness and heartbreak.

In the letter below, written by a Chinese friend of Hilo, and sent here to the Minister of Finance, the disasters and the strange acts of The Lord Almighty in the District of Hilo will be seen. This letter should be read with touching grief:

Kaupakuea, May 14, 1877

Great regards to you:

Within these days, the Lord is displaying his great power, in the sending of the great terrifying signs, so that man will know and remember his diminutive stature within the palm of Jehova the Lord, he who made all things.

In the days that passed, the destruction of the sugar mill of Kohala by fire, and after some short days immediately after, the sugar mills of Kaupakuea and Pāpaʻikou were destroyed by fire, and indeed on the day just passed, (the 10th of May 1877) the Lord sent again another great terror, that the eyes of man have seen. In the early morning of that day, a little before the striking of the 5th hour [5 o'clock], the Receding Sea arrived. In the words of some old folks, no great tsunami has been seen since the receding sea in the time of Keaweikekahialiʻi and Kanaʻe, only now has it been seen.

In the early morning of Thursday, the 10th of May, the shouting voices of the people were heard in all the places adjacent to the shores from here and there of Hilo town. And shortly after, the receding of the sea was seen, from 200 to 300 feet perhaps from the shoreline outward. And the people saw a receding sea, and they immediately began to run. Some people were caught by the sea, and some died, but, perhaps because of the love of the Lord for that which he made, the ocean finished with few lives afflicted.

Waiākea was the place directly entered affected by this trouble, because shortly after the Lord finishing his wondrous work, and in looking back at the action, not one building was standing at Waiākea, it was laid to waste - it was completely taken by the sea far upland, and was broken to dust, except the meeting house, and yet that house was taken and left within the forest unharmed; it was perhaps three to four hundred feet its original foundation to its new foundation where it stands. A bridge of Wailoa was taken far upland by the sea, and left in the forest, about a quarter mile distance. This new house of Kapena Hopu of the Pauahi schooner, the top half was picked off, as were the houses of others.

At Waiākea, at the time the sea was rising, everyone ran without thinking about their little children,

"Abandon the small breath,

Take care of the big breath,"

and others ran taking their children along, and then the strong surge of the sea snatched them from the arms of the parents. One, K[i]onehu was his name, ran with his small daughter in his arms, who was eight months old, but because of the power of the sea, they both were completely lost. And when the sea event ended, were sought and found with some other little children who were left in a rocky crevice; another child was found with a large stone on its chest, and was dead. Another child and one of the little girls previously spoken of were found, their hearts still warm with shallow breathing, but they were warmed by the fire and revived.

As the sea began to rise, the agitation of the whaling ship and a schooner Mele Eleua was seen while being anchored in the harbor at that time; they were swept away and taken by the sea and run aground, to the place close to the sand, and in the returning of the sea, those ships were again drawn far out, thankfully they released a second anchor, or would have gone ashore to stand watch.

This is the fishpond that R. A. Laimana recently built seaward of Waiākea, which turned to  nothing, and when some people went to look for personal property, they ocean fishes, scattered in the shrubber, they being large ulua, octopi, crabs and so on.

Our Store in Hilo wasn't greatly damaged, but the buildings adjacent to ours, and standing within 20 feet, were broken and some were crooked, and the front of one was upturned.

By what I heard, the number of buildings affected by this sudden disaster was between forty and fifty, and the majority of them were reduced to rubble.

Here is a sad thing regarding a friend of ours and a good citizen of Hilo, namely Rev. J. H. Pahio, in the rising of the sea, he left his dwelling place and went through Hilo for work, and while he was in Hilo with his family, was caught by the sea, he tried to run with his small child on his back, and before escape could be had, he fell in the water and fell again and afterward arrived in a completely dry place, left his boy he was carrying on his back, turned again to search for his wife and daughter because at the time he was running, he saw his wife behind with the daughter on her neck, but when the sea crested, Pahio turned again to look, the wife and daughter weren't there, so he searched again but the wife and daughter were found unharmed, the Lord showed compassion for his servant.

The receding sea was seen at Kahaliʻi drying out all the way until the small islets outside of the sugar warehouse of Onomea and when the sea rose again, it rose all the way to the government road. I heard the receding and rising was seen by some at Hakalau but was not a problem. The district of Hilo One, Sandy Hilo, was the only place that took damage. I forgot, at the time that a house was being taken by the ocean seaward of Waiākea some people were calling out because some people were seen inside the aforementioned house, and at the time they got to it, there were two men and a woman stuck and tangled in trash, not able to move. They were quickly released, and were very weak yet they're lives weren't endangered - The caucasian man seaward of Waiākea named Parker, was very close to his end in the knowledge of the doctor.  He received many wounds at the time when his house was lost and so did his family that was living with him, but they weren't gravely injured like Parker. The people of Hilo who weren't greatly troubled are helping those who were harmed by giving food, fish, and clothes with the things that warm life these days, because it is raining a lot in Hilo these days.

The acts of the Lord are truly terrifying.

With much love,

W.S. Akana. 


(click image for original Hawaiian text)

Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, May 26, 1877
, Book: 16, Number: 21, Page: 2