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VOL. V NOVEMBER 1953 No. 2

"Upon the Verge of Earth's Greatest Marvel"

The massive hulk of Mauna Loa loomed like a giant in the dawn of July 9, 1921. As the first rays of the morning sun kissed it, the giant seemed to blush, turning into a flaming pink. A few white and fluffy trade wind clouds floated by in the bright summer sky. Amidst the splendor of an absolutely perfect day, 250 persons gathered on the brink of Halemaumau to dedicate Hawaii National Park.

A hush fell over the crowd as a lineal descendant of one of Pele's priests, the Reverend Kaaiakamanu ("The food of the birds") began the weird monotone of the mele (chant) of ancient days. The chant to Pele had been composed hundreds of years before by a bard from Kauai. The ancient ritual was made alive by the waving arms and gestures of the Reverend Kaaiakamanu, and it was striking and impressive. In his native Hawaiian, he then intoned a prayer of thankfulness to God. This prayer had been composed by one of the members of the group which accompanied the High Chiefess Kapiolani to Kilauea on that historic day in 1824 when she defied Pele by eating the sacred ohelo berries without first offering some to the goddess and declaring, "Jehovah is my God. He kindled these fires. I fear not Pele."

The Reverend Stephen Desha of Hilo then offered a prayer of dedication, asking God's blessing upon the newly-established national park. A wreath of roses and ferns, symbolizing the unity of the polyglot peoples of Hawaii, was tossed into the fire pit by Desha, and Mrs. Jaggar deposited some of the sacred berries, as the Hawaiians had done for centuries.

Halemaumau and Kilauea volcano
Halemaumau, the legendary home of Pele, Polynesian goddess of volcanoes, and the fire pit of Kilauea volcano, appeared as shown in the upper photo on June 26, 1952. The lower photo shows the pit as it appeared several weeks later. At the beginning of the 1952 eruption, the floor of Halemaumau stood 770 feet below the crater rim. At the end of the eruptive phase, 136 days later—and after some 64 million cubic yards of lava had been deposited—the floor of the pit measured 460 feet below the rim, The gaping hole measures 3,100 feet in diameter (National Park Service).

The master of ceremonies, Dr. Milton Rice, President of the Hilo Board of Trade, then called on Thurston, who gave the principal dedicatory address. Thurston reviewed the legendary and written history of the area and the long and hard struggle to get the park established. On behalf of Governor Wallace R. Farrington, who commissioned him to do it, Thurston then transferred the jurisdiction of the park to the Federal Government, and the property was accepted by A. O. Burkland, who represented the Interior Department, with these words: "I now have, in the name of the Government of the United States of America, the great pleasure of accepting the magnificent Hawaii National Park from the Territory of Hawaii." Burkland then read a cable he had received from Albert B. Fall. the Secretary of the Interior: "I am greatly pleased that through the dedication ceremonies at Kilauea another member will be formally admitted to the national park family, and I sincerely hope we may have the cooperation of all of the people of the islands in making its chief scenic treasures contained in the national park readily available to the visitors who will come in increasing numbers."

H. V. Kaltenborn, the renowned news commentator of the present day and at the time a young member on the staff of the Brooklyn Eagle, led a group of twenty-eight visitors to Hawaii to participate in the dedication ceremonies. In his dedication address, Kaltenborn talked eloquently about the wonders of the area, saying, "Here at Kilauea, we stand upon the verge of earth's greatest marvel. Here is visible to our eyes the actual creation of God's world, and the ground whereon we stand is holy ground indeed." Then he made an appeal in the interest of the care and development of the park and congratulated the people of the United States on the addition of the Land of Pele to the National Park System.

Following the ceremony, the group swarmed into the Volcano House for lunch where the speechmaking continued. The dedication luncheon ended with a glowing word of praise for Thurston by Dr. Rice, who said: "As is usually the case in matters leading up to events such as this momentous occasion, the achievement can be traced to the genius and unselfish support of one man—Lorrin A. Thurston—to whom all praise and credit is due."

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