the Degree Confluence Project

United States : Hawaii

8.5 miles (13.8 km) NE of Pueo Point (Cape, Ni'ihau), Kauai, HI, USA
Approx. altitude: 0 m (0 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest OpenStreetMap topo ConfluenceNavigator)
Antipode: 22°S 20°E

Accuracy: 11 m (36 ft)
Quality: good

Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: North #3: South (with part of Niihau) #4: East (with Kauai barely visible behind clouds on the left) #5: West (looking at Niihau) #6: GPS Unit #7: Lehua (and northern tip of Niihau) #8: Surveying Lehua #9: The Ulua That Didn't Get Away (in the hands of Ken Sakai) #10: Satellite View (confluence at crosshairs, Kauai to the right, Niihau and Lehua to the left)

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  22°N 160°W  

#1: The Confluence

(visited by Lloyd Lee-Lim, Meg Lee-Lim and Ken Sakai)

20-Oct-2004 -- When my wife and I were planning our vacation to Kauai (or Kaua'i, pronounced kuh-why-ee), we considered the two nearby confluences. This confluence, which is near Niihau and Lehua, looked more interesting than 22°N 159°W, which is just in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I learned that it's easy to charter a big tourist catamaran if you have lots of money, but that it's much harder to find locals who own smaller boats if you want something more affordable. It wasn't until we were on Kauai that we finally managed to arrange a trip.

We met Ken Sakai at 5 a.m. at the Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor, near Kekaha on the southwest coast of Kauai. It was still dark when we left on Ken's twenty-foot Radon. Away from any city lights, the view of the stars was amazing. We were also fascinated by the bioluminescent algae glowing in the boat's wake.

We arrived in the vicinity of the confluence shortly after sunrise. Trying to get all zeros when you are on solid ground is much different than trying to get all zeros when you are floating and being pushed by wind and waves. Ken patiently made many slow passes while we took pictures of our GPS unit. The closest approach in our pictures was 19 feet (5.8 meters) with an estimated position error of ±17 feet (5.2 meters) for a total accuracy of 36 feet (11.0 meters). We probably got closer than that, but I accidentally cleared the track log before I could analyze it. After we finished our confluence visit, Ken headed towards Niihau and Lehua.

Niihau (or Ni'ihau, pronounced nee-ee-how), the smallest of the inhabited Hawaiian Islands, is just 3.4 miles (5.5 km) from the confluence. In 1864, the Sinclair family purchased Niihau from King Kamehameha V for $10,000 in gold. Today, the island continues to be privately owned by Sinclair descendants—the Robinson family. Niihau is home to about 150 native Hawaiians, who still speak Hawaiian as their primary language. They fish, hunt, and farm the land. They also earn money by gathering the tiny shells on Niihau to make highly treasured shell leis. The island is undeveloped, with no paved roads and no telephones. Access to the island has been restricted for over a century, but the Robinsons now allow a limited number of helicopter tours and hunting safaris.

As we proceeded through the channel between Niihau and Lehua, Meg shouted with glee and pointed out several dolphins jumping in our wake. When we got closer to Lehua, we saw bright yellow fish swimming just below the surface of the extremely clear blue water. Ken maneuvered the boat close to shore and we jumped off onto Lehua.

Lehua (pronounced leh-hoo-ah) is a little island only 0.7 miles (1.1 km) north of Niihau. The crescent-shaped island is a tuff cone that is part of the extinct Niihau volcano. Lehua Island is a Hawaii State Seabird Sanctuary so some activities are prohibited there, but entry is not prohibited.

We climbed up the steep incline to the top of Lehua. Along the way, we saw many birds and a few rabbits. Looking down from the top, we spotted a pod of dolphins jumping and frolicking inside the crescent. We also saw a tour boat next to the island. When the ocean isn't too rough, Lehua is a common stop for snorkeling and scuba diving. But there was only one person in the water swimming around the boat. Ken said it was probably one of the crew members checking for sharks before the paying customers took the plunge.

On top of Lehua, we hunted for National Geodetic Survey marker TU2064, which was placed in 1926. As expected, the survey marker apparently has been destroyed. However, we were able to find a reference mark and a previously unreported marker. Ken probably was wondering what we were doing on top of a barren island for so long. We slowly and carefully climbed back down the steep slope and jumped in the ocean for a quick swim back to the boat.

Ken parked in a relatively calm spot. We all ate lunch while Ken talked story about his adventures riding a motorcycle in Europe, free diving, spearfishing, scuba diving, and climbing Lehua. I asked him stupid questions like if anyone ever ate the wild chickens roaming around Kauai. (Sometimes, but they are very tough.) He told us stuff like how he once saw a tiger shark as long as his boat.

Ken put his trolling lines back in the water and we headed back to Kauai. After only a few minutes, he hooked a fish! We got out of the way and watched as he reeled it in. When Ken hauled the fish into the boat, we were stunned into silence. He had caught a 60 pound (27 kg) ulua!

Ulua (pronounced oo-loo-ah) is the generic Hawaiian name for several species of fish from the Jack family. When these fish are young, Hawaiians call them papio (pronounced pah-pee-oh). The ulua that Ken caught is a Giant Trevally (Caranx ignobilis). The current state record is a 191 pound (86 kg) Giant Trevally caught off Maui.

The crossing back was slower because the waves were higher than in the morning. It was like riding a baby roller coaster. We said good-bye to Ken at the harbor and thanked him for a great trip. Although we had no idea what this confluence trip would be like beforehand, my wife and I agree that it turned out to be a fantastic adventure.

 All pictures
#1: The Confluence
#2: North
#3: South (with part of Niihau)
#4: East (with Kauai barely visible behind clouds on the left)
#5: West (looking at Niihau)
#6: GPS Unit
#7: Lehua (and northern tip of Niihau)
#8: Surveying Lehua
#9: The Ulua That Didn't Get Away (in the hands of Ken Sakai)
#10: Satellite View (confluence at crosshairs, Kauai to the right, Niihau and Lehua to the left)
ALL: All pictures on one page
In the Kaulakahi Channel between Ni'ihau and Kauai, about 5.5 km from the shore of Ni'ihau.