King Kamehameha The Great
Hilo, Big Island, Hawaii
The most spectacular of Hawaii's King Kamehameha I statues stands in Hilo. Born in the 1750s, Kamehameha the Great is revered as the creator of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
As a teen, he is said to have lifted the impossibly heavy Naha Stone. He was a fierce warrior, and during his rule from 1795-1819 he consolidated control of the Hawaiian islands. His first contact with non-Hawaiians was in 1779, with the unfortunate Captain James Cook.
Kamehameha The Great died in 1819, and his body was hidden; the grave location is still unknown. It's definitely not under this statue....
This statue was built in 1963 in Italy, and was intended to stand outside a resort on the island of Kaua'i, but the locals rejected it (Kaua'i was never conquered by Kamehameha). It sat in storage until 1997, when it was erected on the Kamehameha-friendly Big Island of Hawaii.
The statue is 18 feet tall to the spear tip, cast in red bronze. The King's cloak and helmet are gold leaf, and his facial features look more Marlboro Man than Polynesian. The King faces east towards Hilo Bay, historic scene of frantic war canoe maneuvers, if we trust the illustration on an informative sign.
Kamehameha The Great stands on well-manicured land that was twice decimated by 20th century killer tsunamis. Now it's a nice park. Tourist buses stop for pictures. A fruit offering can usually be found at Kamehameha's sandal-clad feet.
June 11th is Kamehameha Day.