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Kalaupapa National Historical Park Welcomes Annual Barge

August 15, 2014

Saturday August 2nd, was one of the most highly anticipated days of 2014 for Kalaupapa National Historical Park and the small and isolated settlement of Kalaupapa, Hawaii.  One summer day each year a barge from Honolulu delivers all of the settlement’s supplies for the upcoming year. 

Two tugboats guide the barge into place for tie up.

Two tugboats guide the barge into place for tie up.

Carefully arranged on the barge deck are new vehicles, fuel trucks, and shipping containers loaded with pallets of food stuffs, large appliances, furniture, building supplies and more.  It is on this day that the sleepy settlement of only ninety people bustles with people and machines, unloading the supplies as quickly and safely as possible. 

National Park Service and Hawaii Department of Health workers prepare to begin unloading the barge.

National Park Service and Hawaii Department of Health workers prepare to begin unloading the barge.

Workers securely tie the barge to the landing.

Workers securely tie the barge to the landing.

Kalaupapa’s natural isolation has always made receiving supplies extremely difficult.  The 12 square mile peninsula on which the park is located juts out of the north shore of the island of Molokai, with rough ocean waters on three sides and 2,000 foot sheer cliffs on the fourth. Historically, workers or residents who purchased large or heavy items that cannot be brought in by mule or small plane must wait until the annual barge day to receive them.  A resident-patient of Kalaupapa once described Barge Day as being like Christmas, “the number one day.  The big day that everybody waits for…” 

Community residents and visitors watch as the Kalaupapa barge makes its way into the wharf.

Community residents and visitors watch as the Kalaupapa barge makes its way into the wharf.

This year, Barge Day began around 7:00 AM on Saturday August 2.  The barge appeared on the horizon heading towards Kalaupapa with the aid of a tug boat.  Community members gathered to watch, while State Department of Health and NPS employees in hard hats and orange vests stood ready to assist with unloading.  By 8:00 AM the barge had tied up to the pier and unloading began.  First to roll of the barge were three fuel tankers to replenish the settlement’s supply of gasoline and diesel fuel.  Also unloaded were twelve new vehicles, two new forklifts, a backhoe, and dump truck.  Then a flurry of forklifts and heavy lifting equipment began unloading dozens of shipping crates and pallets containing supplies ranging from food to lime mortar and sand for gravestone restoration work.  Dozens of workers from the State, Federal, and Young Brothers’ Barge team worked through the morning unloading numerous shipping containers and pallets.    

The barge, contracted through Young Brothers, is the only barge in Hawai'i narrow enough to safely dock at Kalaupapa.

The barge, contracted through Young Brothers, is the only barge in Hawai’i narrow enough to safely dock at Kalaupapa.

After the barge was unloaded of all its cargo supplies, it was loaded with shipping crates containing a year’s worth of the settlement’s aluminum and plastic recyclables scrap metal, defunct vehicles, old appliances, and hazardous materials.  Prior to the barge’s arrival, state and federal employees staged these materials nearby for easy removal.  By the early afternoon, the barge embarked on its journey back to Honolulu, while Kalaupapa residents and workers excitedly unpacked all of the supplies for the coming year.

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