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Journey Through Oahu's Maritime History

Information about the maritime history of Oahu.

An island located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Oahu has a rich maritime history that dates back thousands of years.

The Polynesian migration to Hawaii and the discovery and settlement of the remote islands in the Pacific was a remarkable achievement that took place before the birth of Christ. At that time, Europeans were sailing close to the coastline of continents before developing navigational instruments that would allow them to venture into the open ocean. By the time European explorers entered the Pacific Ocean in the 16th century, almost all the habitable islands had been settled for hundreds of years. Today the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) carries on the tradition by retracing the early voyages relying on celestial navigation.

Captain James Cook discovered the natural treasures of the Hawaiian Islands for the West in 1778. From there, Oahu became host to other explorers, missionaries, whalers, commercial vessels, tourists and the United States military.

Matson Navigation Company was a welcome sight as they carried goods and connected Hawaii to the world. Their long association with Hawaii began in 1882 when Captain William Matson sailed his three-masted schooner, Emma Claudina, from San Francisco to Hawaii carrying 300 tons of food, plantation supplies and general merchandise. Increased commerce brought a corresponding interest in Hawaii as a tourist destination so Matson included passengers among his precious cargo as early as 1908.

As the early cruise ships began arriving in Honolulu, passengers were greeted by locals who would go out on small boats to meet the cruise ships, climb aboard and sing to the people on the ship. In addition to the music, hula dancing and lei greetings, the Aloha Tower built in 1926 stood just over 184 feet tall with A-L-O-H-A etched in big letters signaling passengers they had reached the tropical destination of Oahu.

In the neighboring pier, Pier 7, The Falls of Clyde is moored at the Hawaii Maritime Center. Boat lovers, sailors and visitors of all ages step back in time aboard the only four-masted, full-rigged ship left in the world. Built in 1878, the ship is a national historic landmark.

Oahu was also an important strategic base in Naval history, being home to Pearl Harbor. The U.S.S. Arizona Memorial welcomes millions of visitors each year in remembrance of the 1,177 sailors who lost their lives on December 7, 1941 and as the symbol for the United States entry into World War II. Next door, the U.S.S. Bowfin Submarine and Museum tells tales of the critical role submarines played in winning the war. Finally the U.S.S. Missouri (nicknamed Mighty Mo), which is permanently stationed at Pearl Harbor, completes the triangle with the signing of the peace treaty on the deck symbolizing the end of the war.

Today, many boats cruise in the waters off the shores of Oahu for diving and fishing charters, vacationing yachters, whale watching tourists, weekend sailors and such. Kayaks and outrigger canoes and even surfers enjoy the pristine waters. More than 125 beaches grace the shores offering visitors and locals the best the islands have to offer.

Once on land, the cultural diversity of Oahu creates the spectrum of dining options from world-class chefs to the small ethnic hole-in-the-wall eateries to satisfy every taste and budget. The rich cultural history comes alive not only in the food, but also in the attractions and activities abundant on Oahu. Whether art galleries, museums, aquarium, shopping, natural beauty, or nightlife, the island of Oahu offers something for everyone.

Article provided courtesy of the Oahu Visitor's Bureau

See also:
- History of Oahu
- The Hawaiian Monarchy
- Regions of Oahu
- More Articles about Hawaii

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