Geology of Waya, Fiji

The peak of Vatu na Reba, “Rock of the Hawk”, Waya Island, Fiji, 1997. The basalt that makes up this peak formed underwater 6-8 million years ago, and it was subsequently pushed up and tilted to an incline of 25 degrees as the Fiji archipelago spun like a top across the Pacific basin. You can see the dramatic edges of this uplifted island, which emerged above the waves approximately 5 million years ago, along the western side of Waya.

Tui Waya

A rare photo of me! Wayalevu Village, Waya Island, Fiji, 1998. This was the tomb of one of the Tui Waya, the high chief of Waya. Throughout Fiji certain families are chiefly families, which means they have duties to lead and are considered to have sacred and ancient connections to the land, the people, and the gods. The title ‘Tui’ means chief, and that is written on this tomb, that of Jolami Naulutegu. However, in the Wayan dialect the word for chief is “Momo’, and ‘tui’ (which means ‘chief’ in eastern Fijian dialects) means ‘dog’. Waya is an amazing place.

Wayan meke

1997. Meke at Yalobi Village, Waya Island, Fiji. A meke is a traditional song and dance performance, although the singing is predominantly a chorus of chants that are sung by men. The women in this photo are dancing with pandanus-mat fans, and wearing sweet-scented flower bracelets and garlands. One of the things I love most about being an archaeologist in the Pacific Islands is the richness and warmth of the culture. The connection of the people to the land, the sea, and to each other is a priceless treasure. Malama ‘aina.

Archaeology on Waya Island, Fiji

Naptime for archaeology students, Waya Island, 2001. This photo is from a University of Hawaii archaeological field school, which I co-directed with Ethan Cochrane. These students are resting on the backdirt pile after a morning of excavation at the site of Olo, a Lapita site on the shores of Yalobi Bay on Waya. Olo is about 100 meters inland, which is where the shoreline used to be when Lapita people first settled on Waya. Sea levels rise and fall all over the world, and in the ancient western Pacific sea levels were 1.5 meters higher than they are now. Archaeologists have to look inland to find Lapita sites, which are often buried under several meters of later deposits. At Olo, we had to excavate 2 meters down to find the beach sand that the Lapita peoples called home.

Birds on Mauna Kea

View of Mauna Kea from Pohakuloa, 2006. Mauna Kea is as beautiful as it is sacred, and in winter is often covered in snow. It erupted many times in prehistory, and is just one of the volcanoes on Hawaii Island. Lava flows of different ages spread out across the island, making unique habitats for plants, animals, and insects. In antiquity the lava fields on Hawaii Island were colonized by seabirds, who laid eggs inside of the numerous pits, crags, and bubbles in the lava fields. Hawaiians collected chicks and eggs during the nesting season, but it took the introduction of mongooses and rats to ultimately extirpate the colonies sometime in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 2006 I took a group of students into a lava tube cave to examine (not to collect) a bird ‘cooking stone’ that had been left inside the cave; the stone would have been heated in a fire and then placed inside a plucked and cleaned seabird, allowing the meat to cook on the inside.

Offerings for Pele

Offerings left at the rim of Kilauea crater, Hawaii Island, 2006. Throughout the Pacific Islands, people feel a strong connection to the land, the ocean, the ancestors, and to the gods. In East Polynesia, people build stone platforms and wooden racks (lele) to stack their offerings, which include food items such as vegetables and fruit, and also flowers, coral, and in the past slaughtered pigs and sometimes slaughtered humans. In the old stories, the tongues of the gods would come down from above and lick up the offerings. These modern offerings of papaya and orange on plates were left for Pele, the goddess of creation that resides at Kilauea. Malama ‘aina.