Makapu’u Point Lookout

O'ahu, Hawaii | C.1909

Photo Credit: Susan Retterbush

These viewfinders found on the coast of O’ahu, Hawaii offer unparalleled views of the Pacific Ocean, yet their location on Makapu’u – the easternmost point of the island – also provides a look into the island’s past.

Meaning “The Gathering Place” in the native Hawaiian language, the island of O’ahu has certainly lived up to its name. Since 300 A.D, the island has been home to ancient Hawaiian civilizations, monarchies, European colonizers and, since it was granted U.S. statehood in 1959, American citizens.

Makapu’u Point is also home to the Makapu’u Point Light – a lighthouse with the largest Fresnel lens in the world. In 1909, shipping commerce had significantly increased around the island and officials called for the construction of a lighthouse. Around this time, the island was undergoing a tumultuous change of power following the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom.

Once legislation passed, building materials were acquired, among them was the Light’s Fresnel lens measuring 12 feet tall and eight feet wide. This unique lens contains over 1,000 prisms, and was found in an exhibit at the 1893 Chicago’s World Fair. Since its activation, it remains the only United States lighthouse with this unique type of lens – also known as a hyper-radiant Fresnel lens.

Today, Makapu’u Point is a popular destination for hikers, whale watchers and hang gliders. Now part of the U.S. Coast Guard’s domain, travelers can access the lighthouse via the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail.

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