Saturday, March 1, 2014

Molokai Day Trip from Honolulu to Visit St. Damien's Mission to the Hansen's Disease Colony

In the fall of 1969 Mom and Dad (Dorothy and Ralph Cochrane) visited Hawaii, Fiji, American Samoa, Australia, and New Zealand.

Mom came home with thrilling tales of their stop at Kalaupapa, Molokai, to visit the remote Hawaiian colony for patients with Hansen's Disease (commonly called leprosy) founded by the king in 1866 as an isolation site for sufferers of the disease, which was considered highly contagious. With the discovery of Sulfa drugs in the mid-20th century, the number of leprosy patients, medical staff, and resident families started a slow, steady decline.

Most of all Mom told us about a 19th century Belgian priest, Joseph de Veuster (Father Damien, who was declared a Saint in 2009). He came to Molokai in 1873 after nine years as a missionary in Honolulu to serve the leprosy patients. Eventually, he contracted the disease, and died on Molokai in 1889.

In 1980, eleven years after our parents' visit, President Jimmy Carter signed the law creating the Kalaupapa National Historical Park. Administered by the National Park Service, the mission is to protect the surviving patients/residents and halt potential development, at least so long as the patients and their children who grew up here survive. That population is now fewer than 20 people, all in their 70s and 80s. Once the last resident dies, the fate of the park is in doubt. Given that this is one of the last truly undeveloped and unspoiled places in Hawaii, we and others are contacting our representatives in Congress, as well as Hawaiian authorities, to urge its preservation.  

Kay, Louie, and I embraced the idea of taking a day trip from are the photos to prove it... It was a highlight of this trip and of our time together reliving something our parents did 45 years ago.

Striking off on Makani Kai Air for the 30-minute flight

Reminds Kay and me of our childhood flying with Dad in his small plane

Lighthouse near the  "Kalaupapa International Airport," Molokai

Kalaupapa from the air...the cliff to "topside" Molokai is 2,000 feet.
Some visitors ride mules or walk down from topside. We preferred to fly in!
Waiting for our local guide and resident, Norman, to arrive in his old yellow school bus
Kalaupapa harbor
St. Philomena Church in Kalawao (built by Father Damien)
It's the site of the original colony established in 1866 a few miles from Kalaupapa.
Residents eventually moved to the other side of the peninsula to take advantage of the drier climate and more accessible harbor.
Cemetery where Father Damien was originally buried. The grave stone survives (the dark cross), but his remains, except his right hand, were sent back to Belgium decades later at that government's request.

Time to return to Oahu...the short runway ends very close to rather spectacular waves!
Topside Molokai from the air

Molokai is sparsely inhabited.

Honolulu's Punchbown Crater National Cemetery

View of downtown Honolulu

Honolulu harbor where cruise ships dock

Landing at Makani Kai Air's runway adjacent to the main Honolulu airport

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