Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Answer: The mystery of the Hawaiian posts on the North Shore

This was an interesting Challenge. 

Last week I posted a few images of concrete poles standing in a somewhat mysterious forest/jungle on the North Shore of Oahu.  Here are those photos again:  

As I mentioned, these things are scattered all over the place in this forest:  

The poles varying in height from 1 meter to 3 meters tall.  Here's a relatively short one (but I found some that are just barely sticking up out of the ground).  


The Challenge was: 

I'll save you the metadata EXIF extraction:  these photos were all taken within a 100 yard radius of 21.698574, -158.005291  

1.  What's the story with these mysterious poles in the jungle?  Why are they there? 

I started with the obvious aerial image check, looking for any particular pattern I could see from the air.  Using Google Maps (in Earth view mode) I see: 

Now I know a few place names to use in my searching.  It's Kawela Bay Beach Park, with Kakipili Place and Hanopu Street nearby, with the Kamehameha Highway running along the southern edge of the park.  

Zooming in a bit at the place marked with the lat/long you can see the tops (white dots) and shadows (of varying lengths) of the poles.  Just by poking around in the Earth view I could find 12; here I've marked 7. 

I found the posts, but WHY are they here? 

I'll spare you all of the searches I did--but things that don't work include: 

     [ Kawela Bay concrete poles ] 
     [ Kawela Bay concrete posts ] 
     [ Kawela Bay Hawaii cement poles ] 

etc etc etc.  

After about 30 minutes of trying all kinds of searches (including Wikimapia, Wikipedia, etc) all without any luck, I changed tactics.  

I thought that maybe I should try using a search term that was higher profile--something that might appear in the local news or in planning documents.  My next search was to use the resort name Turtle Bay (which is the big resort just a little to the east):  

     [ Turtle Bay Hawaii concrete posts ] 

THAT did it.  With this search I found the Hawai'i Environmental Supplemental Impact Statement for the Turtle Bay expansion from 2011.  This looked promising, so I did a quick Control-F search for concrete in the body of that document and found: 

"...In the early 1970s, the Kuilima Resort opened and the SEIS Lands were transformed once  again with the development of the original hotel, residential condominiums, an 18‐hole golf  course and a wastewater treatment plant.
In the late‐1980s, the residential cottages along Kawela Point and the eastern half of Kawela Bay were demolished, structural fill was brought in, and construction of the foundations for a new multi‐story hotel structure began. 
The structure was never completed, but underground utilities and numerous concrete piles remain today..."
This looked really promising, and it gives me a bunch of new search terms to use in follow-up searches.  (Kuilima Resort  and concrete piles in particular).  

Just to check, I searched for a few images of concrete piles and confirmed that they were what I thought.  Not only are they clearly the same thing, they're even driven into the ground at varying heights.  See this image of a construction site with lots of concrete piles: 

At the end of this report are a couple of useful maps that show the location of the "abandoned hotel construction" where "...numerous concrete piles remain today."  This lines up exactly with the satellite image shown above.  

So it seems pretty clear that an expansion resort hotel was planned, and construction started, but then abandoned after a bunch of the pilings were driven into the ground (at varying heights).  

But, as usual, I want to check around a bit more.  (Always double check!)  

So my next query was:  

     [  Kuilima resort Hawaii pillars ] 

which found a few more mentions of bloggers writing about touring this forested area, and finding this blog post:  "...The guide on my group expedition identified some of the lush foliage, including a spooky banyan tree used in an episode of Lost. Spookier still were some concrete pillars from the long-dead casino project."  (Emphasis mine.) 

A casino is often part of a hotel, but another query: 

     [ Oahu casino Turtle Bay ] 

led to an LA Times article (from 1988) that told the story of a planned hotel/casino development by Del Webb (a famous Las Vegas casino developer) that failed.  But a bit of checking into Del Webb told me that HE was the guy who built the original hotel, the one originally called Kuilima Hotel but now called Turtle Bay.  

Fascinating.  But I thought I should do a bit more checking (I'm a sucker for running down these things).  

During my reading about Turtle Bay, I noticed that they offer horseback riding on the beach and through the Kawela woods.  It was easy to find YouTube videos showing this, so a brilliant idea popped into my head--what if I just called the stables? 

That was a simple search, and just a few minutes later I ended up talking to one of the wranglers about the mysterious concrete pillars in the forest near his stables.  "What are they?" I asked.  This is what he told me:  

"...They're leftover construction from a casino--or a hotel, I don't remember which--that the previous owners were going to build... back in the '80s, if I remember right..."  

I think we've got this one figured out.  It was the beginning of work on a casino/hotel complex that was abandoned, leaving some pillars in the ground, and others in a pile, where they will wait forever to be employed.  

Search Lessons  

1.  Don't get hung up on just one search term--be flexible!  It turned out that "pillars" was a better word than "post" or "pole."  Likewise, I had a hard time finding anything until I switched my geolocation search term from Kawela Bay to Turtle Bay and Kuilima Point.  

2.  Search broadly to find multiple confirmations of the story you find.  Double check.  (Let me say that again:  Double check!)  

 Thanks to everyone who contributed in the comments section.  You folks are amazing!  Great work by Ed, Rosemary, Remmij, Ramón, and Niebyski.  

I also want to highlight something that Ed pointed out in his comments:  After the hotel development was stopped, a huge amount of work went into preserving the Kawela Bay area as an open-space with free public access (and state ownership).  It was a great victory for people who want to keep their shorelines and oceans free for all.  (See this great map that documents what is now in public trust. Let's hope it stays this way.)  


  1. thanks for the vicarious North Shore excursion… and we didn't even have to worry about the multi cyclones…
    the pilings/pillars/perches seem to be popular roosts for the avian population… better than a casino.
    oddly, when I went back to check the pictures, noticed that one "piling" seemed different - seemed to be rising from the ground
    and was a bit more decorative - did the wrangler happen to mention it? Surely you saw it… seems to cast a shadow in the map
    birds seem to like them…
    seemed disparate

  2. What was your query to get the image of the large collection of concrete pillars?

  3. I see now this was a generic image of "concrete piles".

    1. Rosemary - the example photo Dan used seems to have come from Borneo - an intriguing collection! View the gallery. Hadn't thought to search the source until your question.
      Even the "generic" can be interesting. Thanks for the reminder.
      there's a group of 3 piling related pics
      an example - multiple angles

    2. And for remmij


    3. Peisander of Rhodes
      Heinrich Aldegrever
      "He was one of the "Little Masters", the group of German artists making small old master prints in the generation after Dürer."