Posted by: Loren Coleman on February 12th, 2007
Na Pali means “The Cliffs” in Hawaiian. The secluded green valleys of the Na Pali Coast are said once to have been home to an ancient race of little humans called Menehune (seen above in the Hawaiian Medical Association’s publication logo). The Menehune are the tiny people of the Hawaiian Islands, who are perhaps related to the Flores Hobbits, Homo floresiensis.
In more recent years, the Na Pali location has become familiar to movie goers worldwide. The beautiful scenery has served as the backdrop for such movies as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, and the remake of King Kong.
On Saturday, February 10, 2007, one of Hawaii’s most renowned and celebrated naturalists, David Boynton, 61, (above) died in a tragic fall while hiking along a cliff trail to his favorite remote Na Pali Coast beach. His body was recovered on February 11th, at the base of a 300-foot cliff on the north face of the Miloli’i Valley wall. He had been hiking regularly down the rugged Na Pali cliffs to photograph sea turtles on Miloli’i beach, which is inaccessible during much of winter due to rough sea conditions.
Boynton was the creative force behind the development and the current director of the Koke’e Discovery Center, a facility in Koke’e State Park. One of his educational tools was an audio recording of the last known ‘o’o ‘a’a, an extinct black/gray and yellow Kaua’i forest bird that would sing its complex song over and over, a call for a mate. Boynton was especially interested in this bird, and was always on the lookout for a possible survivor. Boynton was a specialist on the bird’s last known habitat, the Alaka’i Swamp.
The o’o'a’a bird, also called the Kaua`i `O`o (Moho braccatus).
On Hawaii in the late 1800s, the o’o'a’a bird was common. By 1928, the o’o'a’a was said to be rare, and by 1960, a survey turned up a mere dozen of the birds, according to Sheila Conant in Atlas of Hawaii. In the early 1970s, a pair of o’o'a’a was spotted trying to raise their young in nests among the ohia trees of the Alakai Swamp, near Halehaha Stream. But a decade later, biologists keeping tabs on the pair reported hearing just one o’o'a’a, singing alone. Despite several expeditions to relocate the o’o'a’a, none has been seen since 1987.
The Kaua’i o’o'a’a was a black bird that measured approximately 8 inches long. Its belly and undertail coverts are brown, and its throat was streaked with white. Its one distinct feature was its yellow leg feathers which stood out against a black body.
David Boynton’s photograph of Alekoko (The Menehune Fishpond).
Boynton was also a noted wildlife photographer. He was born and raised on the island of Oahu, received his B.A. in Anthropology in 1967, and lived on Kaua’i for the past two decades. He helped to organize the Kaua’i Group of the Sierra Club, and was an active member of the Conservation Council for Hawaii (the local NWF affiliate). His broad knowledge of Hawaiian natural history, especially birds and native flora, led to his being featured in a film on the Alaka’i Swamp, and to assisting with the production of the Emmy award-winning National Geographic Special documentary film, “Hawaii: Strangers in Paradise.”
David Boynton’s books included Ancient Place Names and their Stories, Flowers: Images from Hawai’i's Gardens, Kaua’i Days, and Capturing Hawai’i: Kaua’i, as well as a contributor to others’ works about Hawaii’s natural wonders.
Our sympathies and thoughts go out to David’s wife Sue and their family and friends.