Tuesday, March 30, 2010


WHICH WAY IS UP?: Excuse us if we’re off chasing a pet peeve today but this weekend’s rescue in Hanakapi`ai has highlighted a problem somewhere in describing island locations.

We’re not quite sure where the problem is but we’re pretty sure it’s once again promulgated confusing if not erroneous information being disseminated.

Though the county press release doesn’t appear on the county web site today, the “lede” in the local newspaper says:

A multi-agency response Sunday afternoon led to the successful recovery of a family who got into trouble off Hanakapi`ai Beach on Na Pali Coast, a county press release states.

A 43-year-old father and his two sons, ages 10 and 12, were rescued from a cave west of Hanakapi`ai Beach on Sunday after a long operation, the release states (emphasis added).

Two problems appear to those who know Hanakapi`ai as well those who’ve noted a fairly recent penchant in describing directions in both county press releases and stories in the local newspaper.

First of all, while there are a couple of “temporary” caves that “appear” on the Ke`e Beach side of Hanakapi`ai – usually in the summer but sometimes in the spring- there are never any that appear “around a bend” on the Kalalau side.

You can probably see where we’re going here especially after reading this penultimate sentence in the newspaper which says:

Since 1970, there have been over 30 drowning deaths at Hanakapi`ai, according to various sources including Patrick Durkin’s Kaua`i Beach Hazard Survey and the Web site teok.com (The Edge Of Kaua`i Investigations), which indicates people getting swept westward from Hanakapi`ai Beach normally find no safe exit point for three to six miles (emphasis added).

That, as we said, is because there aren’t any. We suspect the editor might have known that but accepted the “west” description given by the county at face value and sought to reconcile it by describing a rather miraculous appearance of a cave on the Kalalau side.

It’s all because whomever is giving directions- whether the county or the paper- is using the continental designations of “east, west, north and south” rather than the island-friendly mauka and makai for toward the mountains and toward ocean and. more to the point, common reference points- such as Ke`e and Kalalau or `Ewa and Diamondhead in Honolulu- to indicate direction around the island.

This results in the wrong directions being reported because very few places are really strictly east or west as they move in a circular manner rather than straight lines. That’s has led to “choke” confusion in describing numerous car crashes and other police fire and rescue incidents.

Our road signs don’t indicate east west north and south simply because it leads to confusion especially if you’re going from say the northern most point on the island in Kilauea to the end of the road. While most might think and say you’re traveling “further north” actually you’re moving in more a westerly direction.

One more thing- we’ve noted that, as a matter of fact, the Honolulu newspapers always leave out mention of the four continental directions from their county-press-release- based reports as one did today.

So how ‘bout it Kaua`i folks- how about getting with the program and giving us directions in the terms we’re used to hearing and can use?

We now return you to your regularly scheduled rants.


Anonymous said...


Q: Which way did they go?
A: "They went that way!!!"(says Tickle the Clown while smiling big, and pointing in two opposing directions.)

Snicker, snicker.

Dear Mr. Parx,
I love you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
signed, Smokey Rain

woody said...

I am the 43 year old father in the story. My sons were swept to the left of the Beach as you face the ocean. It is west. We were not in a cave but rather a small depression I was able to get us into just above the waterline. After I rounded the corner I only saw my younger son about 50 feet away in water that looked like the inside of a giant washing machine. Massive waves the size of cars pounded us. I thought Connor might be dead at that point because he was nowhere in sight. I went for Jack screaming for him to swim toward me with all of his strength, but I doubt anything could have been heard He would disappear under the massive waves for what seemed to be 15-20 seconds at a time then miraculously reappear. He is one tough little boy. Eventually we reached each other and I got him in the ring. The cliff walls were sheer and slimy, and the closest hand hold was way above my head an out of reach, but I was in the end able to get to it by timing the water rise. With one hand on I was able to push him up to a point where he could grab and he was able to pull himself to the first ledge. Just then a huge wave came and blasted him into the wall and back into the water. I got back in and we repeated the whole ordeal. When I got him up I shouted for him to climb as high as he could and he got into the small cave and he did a great job! I began looking around for Connor and to my amazement he was in the water about 15 or 20 feet from our location. He had been able to get onto a small rock but had gotten knocked off, I think by the same wave that had knocked Jack off. I was able to toss the end of the ring to him and pull him over to our location and got him up the rock and into the depression. This was not really what I would call a cave, more of a big edge barely out of the waves and extremely difficult to reach with the boys. We are reasonable rock climbers and my older son is a gymnast. timing the waves and not panicking was also key.

Andy Parx said...

Thanks so much for the explaination Woody- what an oprdeal. Glad to hear you're all safe. What I was wondering was how exactly he was swept from land into the water.

I guess the use of the word "cave" was part of the problem although the main point is that we in the islands don't use the standard directions because the circular nature of the island often makes it in accurate.