Plantation development along the 50 mile Hamakua Coast was hindered by sea cliffs that stand 100 to 400 feet. To cope with this, the plantations developed “landings” where materials could be transported from supply ships to the shore and plantation products could conversely make their way aboard ships. The first facilities featured seaside derrick landing booms. Though innovative, these proved untenable because they required relatively calm weather so that ships or lighters could get within range of the derricks.
What was needed was a system that would allow loading and unloading under most weather conditions. The answer was “wire landings”, wherein steel ropeways were constructed, linking vessels anchored offshore directly to the winch house near the derrick or at the cliff rim. Wire landings were installed at Kukuihaele, Honokaa, Paauhau, Okala, Papaaloa, Hakalau, Honomu, Pepeekeo and Onomea. In 1878, Honokaa Sugar Company installed a then-up-to-date ship-to-shore cable device. Honokaa Plantation eventually also had a cable hoist both from the Landing to the Mill, and another to Honokaa Town used by both the plantation and town merchants. Starting in 1909, engineers improved Hamakua’s wire landings by installing permanent buoys and buoy-to-shore cable systems which both provided safe anchorage and already installed cable systems to shore.
At Honokaa, the original landing was on the Waipio side of Nienie Gulch and featured the railroad bridge to the right. A fire in 1927 destroyed the original landing support buildings; later bulk sugar shipments departed through Kuikuihaele. After 1927, Honokaa was a molasses terminal on the Hilo side of the gulch. Note the round molasses storage tanks, the pipes going downslope into the water and the booms upon which the pipe floated to reach the ship offshore.