Deadly Hawaiian Water Spout Could Be Covered

By Christine Thomas

HONOLULU, Hawaii, October 21, 2002 (ENS) - It is possible for tragedy to in turn bring about positive change, but Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources has not yet determined if installing a metal grate over the Halona Blowhole on Oahu's rugged southeast shore is the best response to the death of an 18 year old tourist there this summer.

A natural lava rock spout that sprays seawater to heights of 20 feet and above, the Halona Blowhole is a popular sightseeing spot 30 minutes from Waikiki by car.

The site is bordered to the north by the powerful surf at Sandy Beach, and to the south by a secluded cove known as From Here To Eternity Beach, the setting of the love scene from the 1953 film of the same name.

Signs warning of hazardous conditions are clearly posted at the Blowhole overlook, and a locked gate prevents people from going onto the rocks that jut out into the ocean.

But on June 30, Daniel Dick, a tourist from California on holiday with his mother and brother, wandered up from Sandy Beach where there are no signs warning of the conditions at the Blowhole.

At the Blowhole, he proceeded to straddle the opening and lean his face into it, after telling witnesses interviewed by the "Honolulu Advertiser" that he wanted to feel the water hit his chest.


Halona Blowhole on the southeast shore of Oahu (Photo courtesy About Hawaii)
When the waves came he was tossed up at least three feet into the air, then sucked down head first into the spout. His body was recovered by divers two days later not far from the Blowhole.

Dick was to start community college this fall, and though it was their first visit to Hawaii, the family went away together every year. The boy's mother, Nancy Dick, almost immediately wrote a letter to Governor Ben Cayetano, insisting that a grate be installed over the Blowhole in her son's memory and to prevent other deaths.

This is the fourth time that someone as been swept into the Blowhole since 1927, according to "Honolulu Advertiser" news files. One person died in 1969 and another died in 1987.

Governor Cayetano passed the request to the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to decide what can be done. For humans to make a change to a natural feature has large implications, especially in a state that has a cultural respect for the land that affects legislation and development on each of the islands in the chain.

Nature can be indiscriminately cruel, and many fear if Nancy Dick's wish is granted, it would set a bad precedent. As the DLNR is aware, installing a grate over the Blowhole is not a simple action.

"If you can see it, so what?" the grieving mother told the "Advertiser."

But such a response reveals an ignorance of Hawaii's land and culture that many believe cost her son his life.

Oahu residents have expressed sadness at Dick's death, but have reacted strongly against Nancy Dick's petition for a grate. The Blowhole is not the problem, many feel, but the lack of respect and knowledge on the part of the visitor.

"It's not an amusement park," said Dr. Chun, a resident of Hawaii Kai, a residential area not far from the Blowhole. Had Dick acted responsibly, respecting the awesome force of the ocean, that would have saved his life.

There is little barrier between people and nature in Hawaii, and its residents have a history of fighting to keep it that way, whether during the campaign to save Sandy Beach from a housing development in the 1980s, or the current campaign to save Makua Beach on Oahu's west shore.

The DLNR has given no time frame in which a decision on a grate over the Halona Blowhole must be reached, so it is likely to be some time before a course of action is chosen.

Should Dick's petition be honored, it is certain that Hawaii's citizens will not let such a decision go unchallenged.