Punchbowl Crater is a product of the Honolulu Volcano Series. It is a tuff cone that was formed 75,000 – 100,000 years ago from the ejection of hot lava through cracks in the old coral reefs which, at the time, extended to the foot of the Koolau Mountain Range. Like Diamond Head, it is considered monogenic, meaning it was a one-blast wonder and will probably never awaken again. It is called the “The Punchbowl” because of its round shape with the tuff ring resembling the scalloped rim of a punchbowl. The crater walls are composed of volcanic mud or tufa. The rim-to-rim diameter is 2,200 (671 m) feet north-south and 1,800 (549 m) feet east-west. On the slopes are great quantities of cinder-like volcanic ash, locally called “black sand”. The interior of the crater is lined with this ash. The drilling of an artesian well (sometime before 1916) near the flanks revealed 10 feet (3 m) of black sand, 13 feet (4 m) of coral and finally 50 feet (15m) of tufa.
Although there are various translations of the Punchbowl’s Hawaiian name, “Puowaina,” the most common is “Hill of Sacrifice.” The first known use of the crater was as an altar where Hawaiians offered human sacrifices to pagan gods and the killed violators of the many taboos. Later, during the reign of Kamehameha the Great (July 1782 – May 8, 1819), a battery of two cannons was mounted at the rim of the crater to salute distinguished arrivals and signify important occasions. Early in the 1880s, leasehold land on the slopes of the Punchbowl opened for settlement and in the 1930s, the crater was used as a rifle range for the Hawaii National Guard. Toward the end of World War II, tunnels were dug through the rim of the crater for the placement of shore batteries to guard Honolulu Harbor and the south edge of Pearl Harbor. One of the most breathtaking views of the Island of Oahu can be found while standing at the highest point on the crater’s rim.
The Punchbowl today houses the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. In the early 1940’s Congress authorized a small appropriation to establish a national cemetery in Honolulu with two provisions: that the location be acceptable to the War Department, and that the site would be donated rather than purchased. In 1943, the governor of Hawaii offered the Punchbowl for this purpose. The $50,000 appropriation proved insufficient, however, and the project was deferred until World War II ended. By 1947, Congress and veteran organizations placed a great deal of pressure on the military to find a permanent burial site in Hawaii for the remains of thousands of World War II servicemen on the island of Guam awaiting permanent burial. Subsequently, the Army again began planning the 112 acre Punchbowl cemetery. In February 1948, Congress approved funding and construction began. The first interment took place January 4, 1949. Temporary star and cross (denoting faith) upright markers were later replaced by flat granite markers inscribed with the appropriate faiths. Nearly 13,000 World War II dead from the Pacific are buried here. They came from such battle sites as Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, China, Burma, Saipan, Guam and Iwo Jima and from the prisoner of war camps in Japan. To my knowledge, it is the only cemetery of its kind, inside the crater of a volcano.
In 1923 Congress established the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC). Its members consist of 11 presidential appointees and 1 officer of the Army to serve as the Secretary. The appointments are indefinite and offer no compensation. Today the ABMC administers, operates and maintains on foreign soil 25 permanent American burial grounds, and 26 separate memorials, monuments and markers, including three memorials in the United States. In 1964, the ABMC erected the Honolulu Memorial at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific “to honor the sacrifices and achievements of American Armed Forces in the Pacific during World War II and in the Korean War”. The memorial was expanded in 1980 to include the Vietnam War. The names of 28,788 military personnel who are missing in action or were lost or buried at sea in the Pacific during these conflicts are listed on marble slabs in ten “Courts of the Missing” which flank the Memorial’s grand stone staircase.
The dedication stone at the base of staircase is engraved with the following words:
IN THESE GARDENS ARE RECORDED
THE NAMES OF AMERICANS
WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES
IN THE SERVICE OF THEIR COUNTRY
AND WHOSE EARTHLY RESTING PLACE
IS KNOWN ONLY TO GOD
At the top of the staircase in the Court of Honor is a statue of Lady Columbia, also known as Lady Liberty, or Justice. Here she is reported to represent all grieving mothers. She stands on the bow of a ship holding a laurel branch. The inscription below the statue, taken from Abraham Lincoln’s letter to Mrs. Bixby, reads:
THE SOLEMN PRIDE
THAT MUST BE YOURS
TO HAVE LAID
SO COSTLY A SACRIFICE
UPON THE ALTAR
On a personal note, I have been there. A cousin by marriage lost her first husband (father of 2 children) on the submarine USS Golet, a victim of depth charges off the coast of Japan. It was relatively easy to find his name on one of these walls. They are alphabetical by branch of service and war served in. It was, for me, extremely humbling to see these thousands of names and realize that each one of them left a family whose loved one would never come home and whose remains would never be found.
Even though I knew I was on a volcano, I didn’t appreciate what I was seeing like I would today. I was only 20 years old and thought the island was full of “old” tourists. Now I am one of them and hopefully much wiser.
The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific occupies most of Punchbowl Crater. It is now at capacity except for cremated remains or interment in the same grave as a family member. This is quite common in American national cemeteries for husband and wife and/or child to be buried in the same grave, one atop the other, with a maximum of 3.
This cemetery is very accessible and I would highly recommend seeing it if you are visiting Oahu. The view is stunning, the grounds beautiful. It is a fitting final resting place to remind us of the human cost of war.
Disclaimer: Not an expert, etc., etc.
Credits not already listed:
Scientific Monthly, Vol. 2 (1916) edited by James McKeen Cattell
And again, thanks to Matt, the Friday riddles: The answers can be volcanoes and volcanic or geologic features. 2 points are awarded for each answer, 1 point after a clue is given. Enjoy!
1) The image. Answer: Kula plate (The Kula plate subducted under North America, North of the Farallon, before the Pacific plate arrived. Kula means “all gone” in Tlingit (a native Alaskan tribe) language. Dinojura44, 2 points.
2) Mine was launched right after Mir. Answer: Udachnaya pipe. This pipe has a diamond mine, and the volcanic pipe for another major diamond mine, “Mir” was discovered days before this one. Inannamoon667, 2 points.
3) It probably wasn’t named by the Russians, and it probably doesn’t house the refugees of a sunken continent. Clue: I’ll sit back and have a carbonated beverage with Tina. Answer: Mt. Shasta .Some evidence suggests that Russian explorers named the mountain “Tchastal,” but more likely it was the native name for the mountain. A 19th century wacko story, that is still alive today, says that the mountain is home to “Lemurians” who came from a sunken continent in the Pacific. Bobbi, 1 point.
4) The celestial creator of the bear and the kiwi. Clue: It once visited a windy cog railway. Answer: The Great Meteor hotspot. Bear seamount and Kiwi seamount, off New England, were created by this. Inannamoon667, 1 point.
5) You’ll never guess this volcano mountain. Answer: Volcano Mountain in the Yukon territory, Sissel, 2 points.