Ha’aheo o Hawai’i
Ha'aheo o Hawai'i
Kaua’i Museum’s Exhibit of Artifacts Excavated by the Smithsonian Institution in 1995-2000 from the 1824 Shipwreck at Hanalei Bay, Kaua’i.
Shipwreck - Hanalei Bay 1824
Liholiho, Kamehameha II, was quite proud of his luxury yacht Cleopatraʻs Barge, which by 1822 went by the name Haʻaheo o Hawaiʻi (Pride of Hawaiʻi). An agent for Bryant & Sturgis of Boston, the sellers of the brig to the king, recalled, “If you want to know how Religion stands at the islands I can tell you – All sects are tolerated, but the King worships the Barge.”
Racing his sleek brig became a sport enjoyed by Liholiho. Yankee ship traders knew he could not resist a fast-sailing boat. In June 1823 such traders challenged the reputation of Haʻaheo o Hawaiʻi by staging a yacht race off leeward Oʻahu. The newly-arrived sleek ship Waverly (up for sale for several thousand piculs of sandalwood) sailing in the northeast trade winds bested the Haʻaheo. Some say the race was rigged to boost the sale of the Waverly. Despite this setback, Haʻaheo o Hawaiʻi continued to be the royal yacht of the Kamehameha’s Kingdom. A crew from Liholihoʻs entourage sailed inter-island aboard the brig, sometimes transporting passengers from mission stations between islands. In May 1824 Liholiho arrived in England on a royal visit to Great Britain, by July that year a case of measles took his life.
About a month earlier Haʻaheo o Hawaiʻi cane to rest wrecked on a windy night, swept into a reef just lying just outside the mouth of the Waioli Stream on the west side of Kauaʻi`s Hanalei Bay.
George Crowninshield commissions shipwright Retire Becket to build Cleopatraʻs Barge, first deep-water luxury yacht in history of United States.
Cleopatra’s Barge is completed and launched, attracting thousands of spectators when she is in various New England ports.
George sails to Mediterranean, makes grand tour. Reportedly seeks to bring exiled Napoleon Bonaparte to New England.
Summer, Cleopatraʻs Barge dismantled, interior furnishings removed, sold at auction and set up as a merchant vessel, re rigged as a brig. First voyage to Brazil.
April of 1819, ship sold again, used as packet ship sailing between Boston and Charleston, South Carolina.
- June - purchased by Bryant & Sturgis, departs Boston for Sandwich Islands, John Suter captain, with a convoy of five ships to be sold in Hawaiʻi
- November - Arrives in Hawaiʻi Island, visited by Liholiho, sails for Maui.
- November 16 - Liholiho purchases brig and cargo payable in piculs of sandalwood (eight thousand piculs, over one million pounds) of value in China of about $80,000 or $10 per picul. Liholiho makes her his royal yacht. A financial panic in America in 1819 curtailed the availability of silver coins for trading in China, making sandalwood a prized commodity in that trade.
- Sale to Liholiho finalized. Sandalwood to be delivered into 1822.
- July - Haʻaheo o Hawaiʻi heads for Kauaʻi after Liholiho sails to Waimea in an open sailboat with intent to take possession of Kauaʻi.
- Late July - Five wives of Liholiho arrive aboard Barge, in Waimea.
- September - Kaumualiʻi is taken away by Liholiho aboard Haʻaheo o Hawaiʻi, into exile in Oʻahu, ending the rule of Kauaʻi by Kauaʻi aliʻi.
Haʻaheo o Hawaiʻi is sailed by aikane (close friends) of Liholiho. The king and his queen sail to London, where they die after contracting measles.
- April - Brig is anchored on east side of Hanalei Bay. Loses anchorage in gale and drifts across bay to mouth of Waioli Stream. Ship slides into fringing reef. Days later several hundred native Hawaiians attempts to free ship using hau rope cable. Main mast breaks, salvage of ship is ended, but cannons and other items are taken off Haʻaheo o Hawaiʻi.
- July - Kalanimoku, Prime Minister and leader of Kamehameha kingdom forces makes suspicious stop in Hanalei Bay before continuing across Na Pali to Waimea.
- In 1994 Paul Johnston, the maritime curator at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington D.C. was issued the only underwater archaeology permits ever issue by the state of Hawai'i.
- Johnston is the former maritime curator at the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. Interior furnishings of Cleopatra's Barge are a showpiece exhibit at the Peabody-Essex, and an inspiration for Johnston in his search for the wreck of Ha'aheo o Hawai'i-Cleopatra's Barge. The search and excavation of artifacts began at Hanalei Bay , Kaua'i in the Summer of 1995. Captain Rick Rogers crossed the Kaua'i Channel from Hale'iwa Harbor in O'ahu aboard his research vessel Pilialoha. The Pilialoha served as the base fir the search and excavation.
The search begins merous electronic sweeps of Hanalei Bay. Using propeller wash from the Pilialoha expert underwater archaeology of the dive site, first gathering artifacts from the wreck in 1995. Divers underwater-capable drawing boards to sketch the artifacts in situ prior to recovery. The artifacts - some covered with a marine mineral concretion - were secured and shipped to the Smithsonian.
By the Summer of 2000, the final year of the excavation phase of the project, hundreds of artifacts and underwater photographs provided the basis for a careful analysis of the Ha'aheo o Hawai'i-Cleopatra's Barge wreck site.
In 2015 a selectcollection of the preserved artifacts were put on permanents display at the Kaua'i Museum. That year the Texas A&M University Press published Paul Johnston's illustrated book Shipwrecked in Paradise - Cleopatra's Barge in Hawai'i.
The Kaua’i Museum is proud to join the Smithsonian Institution in displaying in our main hall artifacts from the 1824 shipwreck at Hanalei Bay of the brig Ha’aheo o Hawai’i, the royal yacht of Liholiho, Kamehameha II, ruler of the Kingdom of Hawai’i.
Visitors from the mainland United States might know the illustrious yacht as Cleopatra’s Barge out of Salem, Massachusetts, the first deep-water luxury yacht ever built in America.
Dr. Paul Johnston, a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, led the underwater archeology team that excavated the Ha’aheo o Hawai’i artifacts during the summer of 1995-2000.
In 2015 the first cases of the Smithsonian-preserved treasures arrived at the Kaua’i Museum. Museum staff, board members, invited guests all felt a euphoric feeling the day we opened the crates of artifacts. No one knew what was in there. We quickly realized that it is so important that we get to tell the story of Ha’aheo o Hawai’i-Cleopatra’s Barge to you, our guests from Kaua’i and Beyond.
The Ha’aheo o Hawai’i exhibit is a significant addition to our museum. Each artifact is a treasure, each piece tells a great story.
The Kingdom of Hawai’i-linked artifacts you view is special, among the few found anywhere from the short reign of Kamehameha II (1819-1823). For us at the Kaua’i Museum, it is fun telling how these native Hawaiian artifacts illustrate the relationship between Kaumuali’i, our island’s last king, and the line of Kamehameha kings from Hawai’i Island.
Chucky Boy Chock
Kaua'i Museum Director
The information given is provided by the Kauaʻi Museumʻs Quick Guide book on Haʻaheo o Hawai’i. It was edited, designed, and photographed by Chris Cook – Paʻa Studios and is currently on sale in the Gift Shop for $5.99.