Hawaiian Islands

Channels of the Hawaiian Islands

In an archipelago like the Hawaiian Islands the water between islands is typically called a channel or passage. Described here are the channels between the islands of Hawaii, arranged from southeast to northwest.

Alenuihāhā Channel

The Alenuihāhā separates the island of Hawaii and the island of Maui. The maximum depth of this channel is 6100 feet (1900 m).

Alalākeiki Channel

The Alalakeiki Channel separates the islands of Kahoʻolawe and Maui. Alalakeiki means "crying baby."

Kealaikahiki Channel

Ke ala i kahiki channel is the channel between Lānai and Kahoolawe. It literally means "the road to Tahiti"; if one takes a bearing off of Kealaikahiki point while in the channel and heads directly straight, one arrives in Tahiti. In practice, however, Polynesian navigators probably did not quite ply a straight route to Tahiti.

Auau Channel

The Auau Channel is one of the most protected areas of ocean in the Hawaiian Islands, lying between Lānai and Maui. The channel is also protected by Molokai to the north, and Kahoolawe to the south. The depth of the channel reaches 108 feet (33 m). The middle of the channel off Maui was known as Lāhainā Roads in the days of whaling ships. Lahaina Roads had also been an alternate anchorage to the main U.S. Pacific Fleet base at Pearl Harbor. In the planning for the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese had hoped that the Pacific Fleet still utilized Lahaina as an anchorage as ships sunk in the deep water there would have been unrecoverable. However, Lahaina was not utilized, and the bulk of the fleet remained moored in Pearl Harbor. Because the water there is relatively shallow, all ships sunk, except for and , were raised, repaired, and returned to active duty. Auau channel is a whale-watching center in the Hawaiian Islands. Humpback whales migrate approximately 3,500 miles (5600 km) from Alaskan waters each autumn and spend the northern hemisphere winter months in the protected waters of the channel.

'Au'au translates to "to take a bath" referring to its calm bath-like conditions.

Pailolo Channel

The Pailolo Channel separates the islands of Molokai and Maui. Although the channel is only about 8.4 miles at its shortest point, it is one of the windiest and roughest in the Hawaiian Islands.

Pailolo translates to "crazy fisherman" referring to the typical sea surface conditions and who would attempt to navigate therein.

Kalohi Channel

The Kalohi Channel is the stretch of water separating Lānai and Molokai. Depth of water in this channel is about 260 feet (79 m). This is one of the less treacherous channels between islands in the archipelago, although strong winds and choppy sea conditions are frequent. Kalolohia beach on the Lānai coast is also known as "Shipwreck Beach" because of a wreck on the reef there.

Kaiwi Channel

The Kaiwi Channel (also known as the Molokai Channel) separates the islands of Oahu and Molokai. Maximum depth is 2300 feet (701 m). There are annual paddleboarding and outrigger canoe paddling contests which traverse this channel.

Kaulakahi Channel

Kaulakahi Channel == The Kaulakahi Channel separates the islands of Niihau and Kauaʻi.

Ka'ie'iewaho Channel

Kaiolelewaho Channel == The Kaiolelewaho Channel separates the islands of Kauai and Oahu.


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