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Kalaupapa, Hawaii

Kalaupapa is a small village on the island of Moloka‘i in the state of Hawai‘i, and part of Kalawao County.

The village is located on the Kalaupapa peninsula at the base of the highest sea cliffs in the world, dropping about into the Pacific Ocean.

Volcanic origin

Kalaupapa peninsula was created when lava erupted from the ocean floor near Kauhako Crater and spread outward, forming a low, shield volcano. This was the most recent volcanic episode on the island, occurring after the formation of the cliffs by erosion. Today the dormant crater contains a small lake more than 800 feet (240 m) deep.

Leprosy settlement

The village is the site of a former leprosy settlement. Settlement was first established in Kalawao in the east, opposite to the village corner of the peninsula. It was there where Father Damien settled in 1873. Later it was moved to the location of the current village, which was originally a Hawaiian fishing village. Settlement was also attended by Mother Marianne Cope, among others. At its peak, about 1,200 men, women, and children were in exile in this island prison. The isolation law was enacted by King Kamehameha V and remained in effect until 1969, when it was finally repealed. Today, 4 former sufferers of leprosy—now known as Hansen's Disease—continue to live there. The colony is now part of Kalaupapa National Historical Park.

Shortly before the end of mandatory isolation in 1969, the State Legislature considered closing the facility in its entirety. Intervention by interested persons such as entertainer Don Ho and TV newsman Don Picken resulted in allowing the residents to remain there for life. The opponents to closure pointed out that, although there were no active cases of leprosy in existence, many of the residents were physically scarred by the disease to an extent which would make their integration into mainstream society difficult if not impossible.


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