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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                             December 30, 2005




            Officials of the City Emergency Services Department today unveiled the first of several markers that the City plans to install at dangerous spots along Oahu’s shoreline cliffs and ledges, reviving a tradition that began in the 1930s.

            The obelisk is located at the spot in Portlock known as China Walls where two people drowned this year. Additional markers are planned for the nearby Spitting Caves, Lanai Lookout and Halona Blowhole.

            Each marker will say “DANGER” in English and Japanese and “drownings have occurred here” in English. They also have ocean safety graphic warning symbols.

            “The presence of these obelisks indicates a need for extra caution,” said Dr. Libby Char, director of the Emergency Services Department.  “Here at China Walls, for example, the ocean might seem very inviting, but several people have drowned after they jumped in and were unable to get back ashore or were dashed against the rocks by swells.”

            China Walls is where one of the first markers was erected in the early 1930s by shore fishing clubs to mark spots where waves had swept people to their deaths from ledges and cliffs.  The obelisks  were first placed at locations along the Ka Iwi shoreline, from Portlock to Makapuu, which at the time had just become accessible by road.

             Char credited the new program to Deputy Fire Chief John Clark, who is working on a book about the local Japanese ulua fishing clubs that installed the markers between 1931 and 1941.

            “I remember seeing the white obelisks all over when I was a boy,” said Clark. “At one time, there were more than 50 around Oahu. Everyone knew that wherever you saw one of them, someone – a fisherman, opihi picker, throw net fisherman – had been swept off the rocks and drowned there.”

            Present for today’s unveiling was Horace Sasaki, whose father Mokichi was a member of the Honolulu Japanese Casting Club, which put up the first obelisks seven decades ago. Mokichi Sasaki was the club member who installed the wooden obelisks and Horace would accompany him.

            All but two of the original markers disappeared over the years, victims of the elements and vandals, Clark said. But the ocean along the Ka Iwi shoreline continued to pose hazards, especially for those unfamiliar with the hazards there.

             Clark, author of the book “Hawaii’s Best Beaches” and six other books, suggested reviving the tradition to an ocean safety working group created this year by the Emergency Services  Department, which includes the Ocean Safety Division and Emergency Medical Services Division.

            The China Walls obelisk was crafted by Ocean Safety Captain Kevin Allen and Prevention Specialist Jimmy Barros. The ones to follow will be produced by the City.

             Ralph Goto, Ocean Safety Division Chief, said, “However, the absence of a marker does not mean you can be completely carefree. It’s still a good idea, no matter where you are, to observe ocean conditions before going near the shore or entering the water and to never turn your back to the sea. If in doubt, don’t go out.”





            Ralph Goto, Ocean Safety Division Chief, 922-3888

            John Clark, Deputy Fire Chief, 831-7772







Friday, December 30, 2005

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