Digest>Archives> January 2002

Ka'ena Point Light, Hawaii, added to Doomsday List

But is it too late?

By Jeremy D'Entremont


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Kim took the pictures and describes the trip to ...
Photo by: Kim Halstead and Bryan Penberthy

The islands that comprise Hawaii are dotted with over 20 lighthouses; many of them modern structures built more for utility than beauty. Oahu’s Ka’ena Point Light was a rather nondescript reinforced concrete tower erected at the island’s westernmost point in 1920. It was established as an unattended acetylene gas light.

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Photo by: Kim Halstead and Bryan Penberthy

According to Love Dean’s book The Lighthouses of Hawaii, this lighthouse was “the victim of more vandalism than any other navigational aid in the Hawaiian islands.” The light was extinguished eleven times due to vandalism in the 1980s, and the lens was damaged by gunfire.

In 1987, a new light was added nearby on top of a tracking station building 931 feet above sea level, and the name of the old light was changed to the Ka’ena Point Passing Light. The tower has been inactive since 1990, when it was replaced by a solar-powered light on a pole.

Located in the Ka’ena Point State Natural Area, the old concrete tower was gradually undermined by beach erosion until it fell to its current prone position on the beach. The once-important navigational aid is now little more than an eyesore and a target for graffiti artists.

This lighthouse is difficult to reach and it can hardly be called a thing of beauty. But it is certainly representative of the state’s important maritime heritage, and is on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Could it be saved by moving it to a museum (such as Honolulu’s Hawaii Maritime Center) or other public site, where it could be restored as an educational exhibit? If not, this one is certainly doomed.

This story appeared in the January 2002 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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