First, a lesson in the Hawaiian language. Every letter in the hawaiian language is pronounced. Therefore this place is pronounced noo-oo-ahnee pahlee. Pali means cliff or steep place.
Not every day in ancient Hawaii was peaceful. In fact most days probably weren't. This vicinity saw, perhaps, some of the most vicious fighting in Hawaiian history.
Japanese and (arguably) Spanish explorers had already discovered the Hawaiian Islands, possibly as early as the 1500s. There is even some evidence that Cook had a Spanish map to guide him through the vast Pacific.
In January and February of 1778, Captain Cook discovered the Hawaiian Islands, first Oahu, Kauai and Niihau. He left the group to explore for the Northwest passage but returned to the Hawaiian Islands in November when winter set into the Bering Strait.
On his return trip he visited the other islands. I won't delve into Cook's fate, but once the islands were discovered other caucasians followed. Sailors deserted their ships and became mercenaries. Island kings traded goods, notably sandalwood for iron goods. Axes and knives made from iron were much better than obsidian or shark teeth blades.
But to really fight a war takes a gun. To fight an even better war takes a cannon!
Prior to Kamehameha each island had its own king and royalty, although marriage between the ruling classes was encouraged, just as the ruling class of Europe were all interrelated.
Kamehameha, born in 1740, was a minor Hawaiian royalty who managed to gain control of Hawaii and gradually the other islands. In time, the last obstacle to his dream of being the first ruler of the entire island group was blocked only by King Kahekili originally of Maui but who had conquered Oahu as well.
In 1795 Kamehameha invaded Oahu with around sixteen thousand "spears" as Hawaiian warriors were known. Along with the spears, both sides had a hundred or so muskets. The real difference was the swivel gun that Kamehameha's forces used.
About three miles outside of Honolulu where the Nuuanu valley rises to the great Koolau mountains of the windward coast, Kahekili's forces had built a stone wall to block the advance of Kamehameha's forces. The swivel gun made short work of the wall and killed many of the Oahuans. The invading Hawaiians also suffered many losses as the Oahuan force rained spears and musket balls on the invaders. But it was the Oahuans who broke and ran first.
The way downhill, to the west, was blocked, so the fighting proceeded up the mountain. Eventually the forces of Kahekili were trapped with the steep slopes of the mountain rising on the right and left, Kamehameha's forces in front and the 600 - 1,500 foot drop off the pali behind them. Many brave warriors plunged or were thrown over the cliff to their death and many others, on both sides, were killed by knives, axes, spears, guns and cannon.
The H3 freeway that passes through the Nuuanu valley is one of the most expensive in the whole interstate system. 16 miles cost $1.6 billion - $100 million per mile! The road was so costly because of the rerouting and studies that were necessary to avoid all the Hawaiian holy places, cemeteries and archeological sites.
There are those who even today claim to have seen many spirits wandering the road at night and there are lots stories of the ghosts of the Nuuanu valley.
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