Sunday, March 10, 2019

Polynesian tattoos: Out of Tonga, into the world

Tattooing is not a Polynesian invention, but it clearly developed into a fine art in the Pacific Islands.
Ötzi, the fellow who died in the ice in the Italian Alps 5,300 years ago had dozens of tattoos. And his death predates the development of Polynesian culture. Ötzi's 61 tattoos were generally geometric forms. Crosses and stripes and rows of lines. Early Egyption mummies had tattoos as well.
But tattooing certainly developed dramatically during the Polynesian period. A new paper on Polynesian tattooing reviews the way the tattooing art progressed.
(Image: Australian archaeologist Geoffrey Clark of The Australian National University holds a 2,700-year-old tattoo comb from Tonga. Credit: Jack Fox/ANU)
It is "Ancient Tattooing in Polynesia," published in the Journal of Island and CoastalArchaeology by Australian researchers Geoffrey Clark of the Australian National University at Canberra and Michelle Langley of Griffith University at Langley. 
Tattooing is the art of inserting pigment under the skin to create a permanent mark. In its finest form, the skin is used as a canvas for broad patterns. In Polynesia most of those patterns were geometric, but they often represented organic organisms—like sharks or birds.
Much Polynesian tattooing was done with bone "combs," thin planks of bone with a series of sharp points carved into one end. The bone used to make the tattooing combs was sometimes human, but more often bird or pig, and even flying foxes and fish. The sharp bone tips would be dipped in pigment, placed against the skin and tapped repeatedly with a mallet to inject the dye.
One of the interesting things about the history of Pacific tattooing is that tattoo tools don't show up in the earliest archaeological sites, the authors say. It is also clear that while tattoo tools were found through much of the Pacific and Asia, "the most elaborate bone tattoo tools restricted to Polynesia," they write.
People in other parts of the Pacific used other tools—like bits of sharp obsidian—for tattooing, but the Polynesian tattooing comb first appears in archaeological sites dating to about 2,700 years ago in Tonga.
The many similar tattoo tools in Eastern Polynesia, including Hawai`i, date much younger.
"Bone combs are relatively common in the archaeological record of East Polynesia which was colonized 1,000–700 years ago," they write.
The materials are so common that it suggests tattooing itself, while it did not exist 3000 years ago, became a regular part of growing up in Polynesia, particularly in what is now French Polynesia. Joseph Banks, who was Captain Cook's botanist in the Pacific during the 1760s, wrote:
"It [tattooing] was done between the ages of 14 and 18 and so essential it is that I have never seen one single person of years of maturity without it."
In the 1800,s Tongan men who failed to be tattooed were subject to ridicule.
Polynesian tattooing became such a social force, the authors say, that the techniques spread to other parts of Oceania. And although some tattooing was clearly done earlier in Europe—Ötzi being the best example—European whalers and explorers brought back an interest in the tattoo from Polynesia to Europe in the 1700s and 1800s.
"Interest in 'native' tattooing continued during, and after, the voyages of Cook and others to the Pacific during the Enlightenment," Clark and Langley write.
© Jan TenBruggencate 2019

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Just in: New El Nino forms--what's the impact for Hawaiian weather?

El Nino is back. What does this mean?

A new El Nino formed in January, "based on the presence of above-average sea surface temperatures across most of the equatorial Pacific Ocean and corresponding changes in the overlying atmospheric circulation," according to the Climate Prediction Center of the National Weather Service.

In Hawaiian waters, the temperatures are still a little cooler than normal, but in the equatorial Pacific, a giant pool of warm water has developed, and it's a sign of ocean-wide changes in the behavior of our atmosphere.

The El Nino has just started, and so far, the evidence is "consistent with borderline, weak El Niño conditions."

And there is no clear sign that it will strengthen further or persist beyond the spring season, forecasters say. They give it just a 50 percent chance of continuing later into the year.

So that’s a good sign, it would seem, for the two major issues that El Nino conditions set up for the Hawaiian Islands: increased hurricane activity in strong El Nino years, and winter drought.

For now, stay tuned.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2019

Monday, February 11, 2019

Oxford English Dictionary all hemajang

"Chee, you seen Kaipo? He had karang da reef on his face. Ho, all hemajang. Was uji."

I was reminded of the wonderful Hawaiian pidgin word hemajang when the Oxford English Dictionary announced it was putting the word hammajang on its extensive list of "real" words.

There is, of course, no standard spelling for most pidgin words. And I was concerned the English dictionary OED would create a standard where none existed. I was concerned, because if you were to find a standard, it might not be hammajang.

I wrote OED this email:

I note that you have added a word, hammajang, to the dictionary.

I am a lifelong journalist in the Hawaiian Islands and want to suggest another spelling, which is often used, is pronounced in the same way, is more attuned to the word’s Hawaiian language roots, and doesn’t violate Hawaiian pidgin spelling rules in the way that hammajang does.

The more appropriate spellings, from my perspective, are hemajang, or perhaps hamajang or even hemajeng or hamajeng.  But not hammajang.

I have no thoughts on the origin of “jang, but hema may be from the Hawaiian word hema meaning left or south (used in the sense that English uses sinister, as left but also wrong, odd or unfortunate). Or perhaps hemo, which can mean loose or undone.

The Hawaiian language reduplications, hemahema and hemohemo, emphasize these definitions.

Hemajang is Hawaiian pidgin, meaning it is a spoken and not a written language. There is no consistency in spelling. But one rule is this: As in the Hawaiian written language it doesn’t use double consonants.

This word is sometimes spelled hemajang, my own preferred spelling, which is also the preferred spelling of the classic Hawaiian creole book, “Pidgin To Da Max,” which dates to 1981. I’m not sure whether hemajeng was in the first edition, but it was in later editions of a book that now claims more than 200,000 printings.

And sometimes hemajeng (,

And sometimes hamajang (

If you’re going to stick with hammajang, please at least concede that there are other spellings. But I suggest that hammajang is a nonstandard spelling and that hemajang is the one that gets the most currency.

Pidgin is very personal to folks, and I know that the pidgin I learned on west Molokai is different than the pidgin of Kalaheo and of Makawao and Kunia and Papakolea. There really isn't one pidgin. It changes (at least words, although not so much grammar) with the ethnicities of the community.
I will concede that there are occasionally double consonants in pidgin (but not Hawaiian). Like buggah. And slippa. At least in these cases, the double consonants are a function of English words repronounced as pidgin, bugger and slipper.

I will further concede that some folks in the Islands have used the spelling hammajang. The website does, but then, with all due respect, they also spell hanabata as hanabaddah and uji as ujee. Maybe that's an O`ahu thing.

There are places where a voyage is something on which she went go, where other places she had go.

Certainly, there are a lot of communities that don't use some pidgin words that are common elsewhere. Take tantaran or borot. Some places you hear them, others not so much. (Incidentally, if you can have a conversation about the difference between someone who's tantaran and someone who's borot, you’re up in pidgin master's degree territory.)

And back to the subject at hand, when a European publication decides to decide how to spell a Hawaiian pidgin word. 
That's hemajang.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2019

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Kīlauea's 2018 eruption--what happened, and how soon can it come again?

The 2018 Kīlauea eruption is less of a news story months after it stopped, but what the heck happened there, and can it happen again soon?

"The 2018 eruption of Kīlauea Volcano in Hawai‘i included both a summit caldera collapse and a flank fissure eruption, a complex event observed only a handful of times in modern history," wrote a team of more than 50 premier volcano experts in the January 25 issue of the journal Science.

And the short answer to the second question above is no, it probably can not happen again for many more years. More on that later.

Because Kīlauea is so well instrumented and staffed by geologists, the study of its eruption last year is providing details of how such eruptions work, and it will also provide important information on how to mitigate risk in future eruptions here and around the world, they said.

In March and April 2018, the summit and slopes of Kīlauea were inflating, indicating increasing underground pressure from magma buildup. There were changes at the summit and at the Pu`u `Ō`ō vent on the East Rift Zone.

On April 30, the Pu`u `Ō`ō crater collapsed, and scientists were tracking quakes as they began moving 20 kilometers downrift toward the residential area of Leilani Estates.

On May 3, the ground opened up there, and lava began erupting among house sites.

The island shook on May 4 with the biggest quake in 43 years—magnitude 6.9.

Over the next several months, the community was ravaged by absolutely immense quantities of lava—many times the amount that had been erupting daily from Pu`u `Ō`ō.

Fast-flowing rivers of molten rock ripped through homes, across roads, through gardens. Dense clouds of gas choked refugees and emergency workers, and acid burned the leaves of agricultural crops. Coastal parks and landmarks were destroyed. There were volcanic ash explosions at the summit. And much more.

Geologists determined that much of the lava came from magma stored in a chamber a mile or so deep, below the eastern side of Halema`uma`u Crater. It is one of two magma storage chambers under Kilauea, the other being deeper and off to the west.

We will number the four main things geologists figure were at play in how big and fast this went.

Both because (1) the pre-eruption pressure was so high, and because (2) the elevation of the Leilani Estates area vents was so low, geologists said, the volume of lava erupted was enormous—far more in a shorter time than ever before documented on this volcano.

The draining under the summit caused the ground above it to collapse, causing severe damage to roads and buildings at the summit. The famed Jaggar Museum was closed, and may never reopen due to structural concerns. The collapse of the summit (3) may also have created more underground pressure and shipped more magma to Leilani Estates.

That big May 4 earthquake (4) may also have opened up some space for the eruption to proceed at high volume.

Previous eruptions had gone on for years. Could this eruption, at these enormous levels of lava production, continue for very long? Even during the eruption, the experts were saying this could not continue forever, and sure enough, after just a few months, it ended.

"The strong hydraulic connection between the summit and (lower east rift zone), once established, remained until the summit magmatic system drained to a point at which the (lower east rift zone) eruption could no longer be sustained."

And could an eruption like this one come back anytime soon?

Probably not, the authors of the Science paper said.

"It may take several years before enough magma can accumulate beneath the summit to erupt," the Science paper said. As additional evidence, the authors noted that after a summit collapse in 1924, aside from some small eruptions at Halema`uma`u, there were no Kīlauea eruptions for 18 years.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory worked closely with county and state emergency management officials, and were able to provide robust and, importantly, early notification to the community about the eruption.

And this eruption provided so much data that it's likely future eruptions will be forecast even more accurately, the authors said.

The research collected during the 2018 eruption "yielded new insights into poorly known processes such as caldera collapse, small-scale explosive basaltic volcanism, vigorous lava effusion and degassing, and magma transport and flank stability at shield volcanoes," the science paper said.

"Continued exploitation of these rich datasets will undoubtedly yield additional discoveries that will refine understanding of Kīlauea Volcano and volcanic processes and hazards in general.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2019

Friday, January 4, 2019

Last Hawaiian yellow-tipped tree snail dies.

 Achatinella apexfulva. Credit: DLNR
The tree snails of O`ahu were both common and famous.
So common that kids would walk into the hills above Honolulu and collect them to make leis. So famous that songs and legends referred to them.
Today, habitat change, predatory snails, rats, chameleons and other threats have made all of the many species rare. And now, another one, Achatinella apexfulva, has become extinct.
The last of his species, this guy was in captivity, and he made it into this year. He died New Year's Day 2019, at age 14.
This Achatinella was part of a gorgeous clan. The tree snail shells are just amazing, with whorls of gold and green, chocolate and café-au-lait, black and ivory. George himself was among the less stunning specimens, his palate limited to pales and browns.
Like his kin, he was famous. Hundreds of school kids have come to see him. He was named Lonesome George, after a lone tortoise from the Galapagos Island of Pinta. Tortoise George was also the last of his species, and he died in 2012. Read more about that George here
George was part of a small group of the last Achatinella apexfulva that were taken into captivity by the Snail Extinction Prevention Program. Researchers were able to get some to reproduce, but not enough to sustain the species. Their scientific name referred to the yellow tip on their shells.
George, a hermaphrodite like all of his species, could play both the male and female roles in reproduction, but apparently required a mate in order to reproduce. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources announced his demise.
More on the Snail program, along with some stunning imagery of the beautiful shells, is here
The tree snails and others in the Hawaiian native forest will be featured in an hour-long film, "Forests for Life," which looks at all the benefits of native forests and the threats they face. The film will be shown on KFVE-TV (K5), at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 18th with a repeat on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019 at 8:00 p.m.
© Jan TenBruggencate 2018