As we spend the coming months trying to figure out a “new normal,” we should take some time to learn more about the places we come from.

For the month of August, we are highlighting small islands found off the shores of Oʻahu.

This week, we head to an island known to once have a fishing shrine.  

In the ahupuaʻa of Kailua, which lies in the moku of Koʻolaupoko here on Oʻahu, stands an island given a nickname that reflects its sight.  

We are talking about Flat Island.

At nearly 4 acres in size, 10 feet in elevation and a quarter mile from shore, the name “Flat Island” is self-explanatory.  

However, its traditional name is Popoiʻa, which translates to “Fish Rot”

Popo meaning “Rot” and Iʻa meaning “fish.”

Once upon a time, a fishing shrine known in Hawaiian as Ko’a stood in the center of the island.

This was an alter made of rocks and old fishermen would leave fish as an offering.

The fish would eventually rot, leading to its name.

Accounts share that the koʻa was used up until the 1920s.

And then on April 1st of 1946, a tsunami destroyed the shrine.

Today, Popoiʻa is a state wildlife sanctuary so access is restricted to below the high-water mark.  

The island is home to native seabirds and their chicks, such as the ʻUaʻu Kani, the Wedge-Tailed Shearwater, and ʻOu, the Bulwer’s Petrel.  


Did you know?  Now you do!