After making the deal, Elizabeth promised the Hawaiian ruler that she would take care of the people of Niihau and preserve their traditional culture and ancient language.
The Scottish woman, along with 13 members of her family, moved to the Hawaiian island in 1864 and lived there for 28 years. In 1892, Elizabeth died, and Niihau was inherited by her grandson Aubrey Robinson. In 1915, he closed the island to visitors, even relatives of local residents could not get to Niihau without special permission. The official reason for the closure of the island is a measles epidemic.
“An epidemic that took the lives of several islanders, namely children, at least because of this fact, a quarantine was introduced that lasted more than 50 years,” explained historian Tim Trey.
New man on the island
Despite the quarantine, in 1941 the tranquility of the inhabitants of Niihau was disturbed when a Japanese pilot landed on the island. His appearance not only sparked a civil war on Niihau, but also influenced US policy.
Japanese intelligence considered Niihau an uninhabited island and chose it as a landing site for planes damaged in the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was planned to evacuate the pilots to submarines.
The Japanese attacked the US naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. One of the American shells hit the plane of pilot Shigenori Nishikaichi. Due to a hole in the tank, the fighter began to lose fuel. The pilot understood that he would not fly to the nearest aircraft carrier and, following the instructions, decided to land on the island. The appearance of the plane on Niihau shocked the locals.
“The fact is that when the war began, no one on the island suspected that something had changed in the world, and when the fighter landed, the locals did not understand what it would be for,” said publicist Yuri Levanovich.