Niʻihau: Pele’s Hawaiian Landfall — A History

Hardback: $60.00
ISBN-13: 9781991153845
Published: October 2023

Additional Information

376 pages | 400 color and b&w illus.
  • About the Book
  • Niʻihau basks like a whale—or in some lights, like a jewel—across the sea from Kauaʻi. Fewer than a hundred Niihauans now live there, but it is the spiritual home to many more elsewhere in Hawai‘i. Long known as the “Forbidden Island,” it is seldom visited by outsiders. In this fully illustrated, wide-ranging study, Steven Gentry explores:

    — The natural world of Niʻihau, and how its plants and animals have evolved and adapted to Polynesian and European arrivals
    — Origins of Niʻihau’s inhabitants, their journey to the Hawaiian islands; Niihauan creation myths and voyaging traditions, and the development of a distinctive culture
    — The mixed blessings of European arrival in the Hawaiian islands, 1778
    — Niʻihau’s complex relationship with Kauaʻi
    — Purchase of Niʻihau from King Kamehameha by the Sinclair family
    — Early missionaries and ranching
    — Aubrey Robinson’s leadership and family, 1880s to the 1920s
    — Aylmer Robinson’s stewardship of the island
    — State and private ownership, and preservation of the Niihauan language
    — Dramatic and intriguing stories of island life, past and present

    The volcanic island of Niʻihau arose steaming and hissing from the ocean millions of years ago, but by the time the goddess Pele’s canoe landed on a golden Niihauan beach its fires were no more. In time Niʻihau and the other Hawaiian islands were settled by Polynesian people. Then came missionaries and, after them, ranchers. In 1864 Niʻihau was sold by the king of Hawai‘i to the Sinclair family, whose descendants still own it today. Steven Gentry traces all this history and weaves it into an intimate and engrossing account of this intriguing island.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Steven Gentry, Author

      Steven Gentry shuttled between Honolulu and Wellington for nine years while researching Ni‘ihau: Pele’s Hawaiian Landfall, his second book. His attraction to little-known islands led him first to write a history of the Kermadecs, which lie halfway between New Zealand and Tonga, published in 2013. Originally trained as a civil engineer in New Zealand and at Berkeley, California, Gentry traveled the world as a consultant on agricultural development projects. On retirement he turned to historical writing.