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Leaping Mullet and the Law of the Splintered Paddle, The Ko'olau Range, O'ahu, Hawai'i, USA | by Rana Pipiens
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Leaping Mullet and the Law of the Splintered Paddle, The Ko'olau Range, O'ahu, Hawai'i, USA

"... and found ourselves suddenly on the brink of a precipice some thousands of feet above the grassy plain below... Down this steep a whole army was driven by Kamehameha, at the conquest of the island; and there his victory ended, for no one survived to oppose him." Thus writes the editor of the journal of the voyage of H.M.S. Blonde to Hawai'i (then called still the Sandwich Islands) in 1824-1825. Their's was a voyage of naturalist discovery, but the ship's main task was to convey back to O'ahu the bodies of King Kamehameha II and his wife Queen Kamamalu. They had been visiting London in 1824 where they contracted measles and died.

The dead king's father, Kamehameha I the Great (1758(?)-1819), is the great unifier of the eight islands of present-day Hawai'i. And it was on the edge of this mountain range that the decisive battle was gruesomely fought that gave him his dominion. This is the Battle of Nu'uanu (May 1795), sounding poetical enough; but in the Hawai'ian language it is: Kaleleka'anae, the Battle of the Leaping Mullet. Driven to the precipices of this range, the last 400 surviving men of the army of King Kalanikupule, last king of O'ahu, were driven off the cliffs, 'leaping like mullet' to their death. Kalanikupule escaped into the jungle but was caught a bit later and sacrificed to Kûkaillimoku, Kamehameha's personal war god.

Horrible as these deeds are, Kamehameha also put down the Mamalahoe kanawai, the Law of the Splintered Paddle. This is the first constitutional law of these islands, and it protects all non-combatants in war from grief and injury.

The soft, grassy plain and the wonderful lake in this photo are part of the Ho'omaluhia Botanical Gardens just west of the nice residential town of Kane'ohe.

After examining the plants, we lazed around a bit till our thoughts turned to seafood back at Waikiki; no, not mullet.

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Taken on October 16, 2008