Nihoa and Necker mark the transition from the southeastern high islands of the Hawaiian archipelago to the atolls scattered throughout the northwestern part. According to Hawaiian oral traditions and the archaeological record, these islands were the northwestern frontier of the lands populated by the first Polynesian settlers.
Nihoa and Necker were uninhabited at the time of their “rediscovery” by European navigators in the late eighteenth century although evidence of a prior occupation covered the landscape—houses, agricultural terraces, platforms and heiau-like structures. The 1923 and 1924 Tanager Expeditions (named after the research vessel, a converted mine sweeper) were organized, in part, to record cultural sites and collect archaeological specimens from Nihoa and Necker.
The Bernice P. Museum Bulletin 53, authored by Kenneth P. Emroy and published by the Museum in 1928, was based on the Tanager Expeditions. This exact reprint, now a baseline of twentieth century knowledge regarding the archaeology and technology of Nihoa and Necker, allows today’s scholars to reinterpret the original data collected almost 80 years ago. More importantly, it allows for Native Hawaiian researchers and cultural experts to approach the information from a point of view guided by the traditional and contemporary practices of their culture now enjoying a renaissance.
Author: Kenneth P. Emroy