Oahu Important Information

Oahu , called the "Gathering Place", is the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands and most populous island in the State of Hawaii. Total land area is 608 mile˛ (1,600 km˛). In greatest dimension, this volcanic island is 71 km (44 mi) long and 48 km (30 mi) across. The length of the shoreline is 366 km (227 mi). The island is the result of two separate shield volcanoes: Waianae and Koolau, with a broad "valley" or saddle (the central Oahu Plain) between them. The highest point is Mt. Kaala in the Waianae Range, rising to 1,225 m (4019 ft) above sea level (Macdonald, Abbott, & Peterson, 1983).

The island is home to about 900,000 people (approximately 75% of the resident population of the state) and partly because of this, Oahu has for a long time been nicknamed "The Gathering Place". However, the term Oahu has no confirmed meaning in Hawaiian, other than that of the place itself (Pukui, et al., 1976). Ancient Hawaiian tradition attributes the name's origin in the legend of Hawaiiloa, the Polynesian navigator credited with discovery of the Hawaiian Islands. The story relates that he named the island after a son.

The city of Honolulu—largest city, state capital, and main deepwater marine port for the State of Hawaii—is located here. As a jurisdictional unit, the entire island of Oahu is in the City & County of Honolulu, although as a place name, Honolulu occupies only a portion of the southeast end of the island (essentially, the Honolulu District). The island extends from Kaena on the west end to Makapuu on the east. Well-known features found on Oahu include Waikīkī, Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Kāneohe Bay, and the North Shore.

Kamehameha III moved his capital from Lāhainā, Maui to Oahu in 1845. Iolani Palace, built later by others of the royal family, still remains as evidence of the only monarchy now on American soil.

Oahu was apparently the first of the Hawaiian Islands sighted by the crew of HMS Resolution on 18 January 1778 during Capt. James Cook's third Pacific expedition. Escorted by HMS Discovery, the expedition was surprised to find high islands this far north in the central Pacific. Oahu was not actually visited by Europeans until 28 February 1779 when Captain Clerke aboard HMS Resolution stepped ashore at Waimea Bay. Clerke had taken command of the ship after Capt. Cook was killed at Kealakekua Bay (Island of Hawaii) on February 14, and was leaving the islands for the North Pacific.

The opening battle of the Second World War in the Pacific for the United States was the Imperial Japanese Navy attack on Pearl Harbor, Oahu on the morning of December 7, 1941. The surprise attack was aimed at the Pacific Fleet of the United States Navy and its defending Army Air Corps and Marine air forces. The attack damaged or destroyed twelve American warships, destroyed 188 aircraft, and killed 2,403 American servicemen and 68 civilians.

Today, Oahu has become a tourism and shopping haven as over 5 million visitors (mainly from the American Mainland and Japan) flock there every year to enjoy the quintessential island holiday experience that the Hawaiian Islands and her multicultural people now personify

Oahu has been featured in hundreds of movies and TV shows, including Magnum P.I., Hawaii Five-O, some scenes of the Jurassic Park movies, and Jake and the Fatman to name but a few. Lost is filmed on Oahu, and a recent television series called North Shore was filmed there.


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Nickname The Gathering Isle
Population 868,751 (2004)
Area 608 mile˛ (1,600 km˛)
Rank 3rd Largest Hawaiian Island.
Highest Point Mt. Kaala: 4,019 ft (1,225 m)
Island flower Ilima