Before 1930, Bishop Estate-owned Coconut Island,
or Moku O Lo ‘e, was a 12-acre island used as a base for local
shepherds and fishermen. Little did anyone know that the island
would gain national notoriety by being featured in the opening
credits of the popular ‘60s TV show Gilligan’s Island, and few
could foresee the many changes that would make the island a
rather special place today.
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Over the decades, the Kaneohe Bay-located island
was transformed many times. It was as a location for a tuna-packing
factory, it became a rich man’s private paradise with a bowling
alley and a small zoo, and today it is the Hawai‘i Institute
of Marine Biology’s research center (HIMB) owned by University
The HPU marine science club and students of Marine
Science1010 (Safety Fieldwork Techniques) go on regular field
trips to the island every year to explore its unique surroundings,
marine animals, and research lab. The students tour the island
and learn its history, snorkel in the protected lagoon, peek
at different types of sharks (scallop hammerhead, white-tip
reef shark, black-tip reef shark, and black-tip shark) living
in the closed bay, and tour some of the research facilities.
“It’s a good opportunity [for the students] to
get out and see what people are doing within the marine science
field,” said Chris Evans, an HPU marine science instructor.
Occasionally, HPU students have had the opportunity to conduct
research with UH faculty and graduate students, Evans said,
and added that two marine science students conducted shark and
dolphin research at the lab several years ago.
Holmes had a vision of creating a private paradise,
so while working on increasing the size of the island he also
enhanced it by building a saltwater swimming pool and fishponds
(which later became useful for HIMB) and adding numerous exotic
plants and trees. He also built a bowling alley, brought a shooting
gallery from an amusement park in San Francisco, and built bars
at several spots on the island. He also made a bar with a movie
theater out of a 4-masted schooner, Seth Parker, which he couldn’t
sail anymore since it leaked. This boat was later featured in
the movie Wake of the Red Witch starring John Wayne.
Holmes wasn’t satisfied with his paradise until
it also housed a small zoo, including such animals as donkeys,
monkeys, a giraffe, and a baby elephant, which were later donated
to the Honolulu Zoo when Holmes died in 1944. After his death,
the Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station (now Kaneohe Marine Corps
Base Hawai‘i) used the island as a rest and recuperation post
for its officers until five wealthy oil men purchased the island
in 1947. Eventually one of the men, Edwin Pauley, became the
sole owner and utilized the island as a summer residence for
his family, entertaining many famous people, including Harry
Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, Red Skelton, Richard Nixon, and Ronald
In 1951, Pauley invited scientists from UH-Manoa
to establish a marine lab on a part of the island. He leased
the land “rent-free” to help establish the Hawai‘i Marine Lab,
which moved into the barracks previously built by the Marine
Corps. In 1961, a fire destroyed the marine lab, but with help
of a $300,000 donation from Pauley, a new lab was built, which
became the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology in 1965. After
Pauley’s death in 1981, the estate was put up for sale. After
17 months with no buyer, a proposal was made for the state to
buy the island. However, the negotiations took several years
and before the state made up its mind, Katsuhiro Kawaguchi,
a Japanese real estate developer, made an offer of $ 8.5 million
for the private part of the island and bought it in 1987.
In1992, Kawaguchi was deported due to criminal
activities and forced to sell the property. The Pauley family
bought the island back for $2 million and donated it to UH.
In addition, the Pauley Foundation and Trustees granted $7.6
million to the university for constructing a new marine lab
to be named the Pauley-Pagen Laboratory. The new laboratory
opened in 1998 with 17,000 square-foot-building, housing laboratories,
classrooms, and a library.
The new laboratory specializes in two tropical
marine biology areas—biodiversity and biotechnology. With the
expanded marine research facilities, the future looks bright
for HIMB and Coconut Island.