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Susan Cochran
Copyright © 2016

Moloka'i, Hawai'i
My current work with the U.S. Geological Survey is focusing on the plight of coral reefs. One of our study sites is the island of Moloka'i, Hawai', where I worked with our team several times a year from the late 1990s through the mid 2000s, and then once a year for several years thereafter. The south shore of Moloka'i has the longest and richest barrier reef of all the Hawaiian islands, yet it is beginning to be threatened by both natural and human-induced impacts. Agriculture, coastal development, overgrazing, and eroding highlands all contribute to the sediment load on the offshore reef, smothering coral and adversely affecting the ecosystem. Over these years Moloka'i established a very special place in my heart. The following are some of my favorite pictures of the island.
Above: Some of my favorite underwater images.

Left: During one of our USGS experiments we had an underwater camera positioned above a gridded concrete block in order to study sediment settling rates. The camera was programmed to take a digital image every six hours. We couldn't figure out why the block appeared to be cleared off every few days even though there weren't any large waves. Then one image caught this cute little guy peeking out from under the nearby coral head. Mystery solved. Apparently we'd placed our block right at the octopus' front door.

Right: This sign greets visitors as they're pulling out of the airport and gives the first clue that life on Moloka'i is a little different than other Hawaiian Islands they may have visited.
Above: Sunsets on Moloka'i are always a sight to behold.

Left: One of my favorite photos was this one I took of the moon setting early one morning before sunrise.

Right: The colorful plantation homes of Mauna Loa on the west end of Moloka'i, as seen from the road to Hale O Lono harbor.
Left: I call this photo Father Goose Beach. If you've seen the old movie with Cary Grant and Leslie Caron you'll know the scene I mean. It wasn't filmed here, but it sure looks just like it.

Below Left: A local fishing boat tied up near shore.

Below Right: Interesting driftwood.

Above Left: Halawa Bay from the overlook on the east end of the island. The Halawa Valley still has some old taro farming.

Above Right: An old abandoned church down near the beach at Halawa Bay.

Left: Me at the Kalaupapa Peninsula overlook on the north coast of Moloka'i.

Molokai's history is entwined with that of the dreaded leprosy, or Hansen's disease. The small peninsula on the north shore of the island, called Kalaupapa, was set apart by King Kamehameha V to be used for isolating patients with this highly contageous disease. Bordered on three sides by the ocean, and on the fourth by the highest seacliffs in the world, persons sent here were effectively incarcerated for the remainder of their lives. Living conditions were horrendous, and supply shipments were few. In 1873, Joseph De Veuster, known as Father Damien, arrived in Kalaupapa to minister to the patients, eventually contracting the disease himself and dying in 1889.

Nowadays, Hansen's Disease is controlled with the use of sulfer antibiotics and patients are no longer kept in isolation. However, a limited number of elderly patients still live on the Kalaupapa peninsula. Many were sent there as small children, and this is the only home they know. In 1980, the Kalaupapa National Historical Park was established with strict guidelines for visitors. Because this is still the home of patients, visitors are limited to those who take a structured guided tour only. To get to the peninsula and board the official bus tour, one can either fly, hike down the 1700 ft cliff on a 2.9 mile trail with 26 switchbacks, or take the famous Molokai Mule Ride. (I took the mule :)

Below Left: Father Damien's St. Philomena Church at Kalawao on the Kalaupapa Peninsula.

Below Right: Father Damien's Grave next to the church at Kalawao.

Additional photos from throughout the years can be seen in these photo albums from my Facebook page (you don't have to be a Facebook member to view the photos using the following links):