Short Stories, Siskiyou

I’ll bet even you old-timers don’t know about “Lahaina Noon.”

Aloha from Maui.

If you’re as old as I am, you probably know about “High Noon,” the wonderful and iconic 1952 western movie that won 4 Oscars.  It starred, among others, Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Thomas Mitchell, Lloyd Bridges, Harry Morgan, Sheb Wooley, and Lee Van Cleef.

But I’ll bet even you old-timers don’t know about “Lahaina Noon.”  I didn’t either until last Wednesday.  Two times each year, in May and July, the sun passes directly overhead in Hawaii.  On those special days, around noon Hawaii time the sun will be exactly overhead, at a 90-degree angle; and an upright object, such as a flagpole, will have no shadow.  This only happens in the tropics; the sun is never directly overhead on any other part of the planet.  Since Hawaii is the only U.S. state in the tropics, it’s the only state where this occurs.  So, sorry all you mainlanders, you’re outta luck; no Lahaina Noon for you.

No Shadow Under Ann’s Feet During Lahaina Noon.

So, why do I know this little-known fact?  Thanks to my parents, who bought property on Maui over 50 years ago, Ann and I frequently spend some time here, and we’ve been coming for many years, often in May.  But for some reason, until last Wednesday, we didn’t know about the Lahaina Noon.  Now, we do. You’re never too old to learn something new.  I’ve accompanied this article with a picture of Ann, taken exactly at 12:23 PM May 24, with the sun directly overhead.  Notice the lack of a shadow at her feet.

Why is it called “Lahaina Noon?”  It is not named after Lahaina, the historic whaling village on the West Maui shore, now a popular tourist destination for its shops, restaurants, art galleries, and the Banyon tree.  In the olden days, the phenomenon was referred to in the Hawaiian language as “kau ka la i ka lolo,” which loosely translates as “the sun rests upon the brain.”  That’s a bit of a mouthful for those of us who are not conversant in the Hawaiian language.  In 1990, the Bishop Museum, the largest museum in Hawaii and premier natural and cultural history institution in the Pacific, held a contest to give the phenomenon a name.  The winner was “Lahaina Noon.”  The word “Lahaina” may be translated into English as “cruel sun,” but also makes reference to severe draughts sometimes experienced on that part of the island of Maui.

I’ll bet that most of you who have just read this little bit of trivia have learned something new.  You have expanded your knowledge.  Congratulations.  Now you need to visit Maui and experience it for yourself.

Bob Kaster

Maui, Hawaii, May 26, 2023.

Bob’s newest novel, “Angelica – Septuagenarian Thriller # 3,” is now available on Amazon and in Yreka bookstores.  Email Bob at [email protected].  To see some of his other writings, check out his website

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