Hawaii is a gorgeous state. Each of its islands is more beautiful than the next. If you are lying on the beach of Kekaha in Kauai, you can enjoy the beautiful Pacific and the gentle sounds of the wave. If you decide to hang out on the beach, you might get a chance to see something that most people don’t even know exists.
On a clear night, when the sun sets, you can see a mountainous island along the horizon. Hawaiian locals have come to accept this island as simply a part of the landscape. Many people don’t know how large the island really is. This island is perfectly preserved because most people were not aware of it’s existence.
The island is located about 17-miles off the coast of Kauai. It is called Niihau. Of all the Hawaiian islands, it is the smallest. It is also known as “the forbidden island.” Outsiders have been forbidden to set foot on one Hawaiian island for nearly 100 years. Because people had been forbidden to visit the island, many travelers and celebrities want to be among the few to see the island. What people don’t know is that the story behind Niihau is just as mysterious as the island itself.
Elizabeth McHutcheson was the daughter of merchants in Scotland. She was born in 1800. She grew up working the land. She was also known as Eliza and when she got older, she married Francis Sinclair in Glasgow in 1824. He was a ship’s captain. After Eliza gave birth to her sixth child, the whole family set sail for a new life in New Zealand.
A New Life
In 1841, the family of 8 arrived in Maori. They moved several times after arriving before they finally settled in Pigeon Bay. It was there that they established a very successful farm. The Sinclairs had everything they wanted until 1846.
Francis Loved the Sea
Francis spent most of his life on the water. Since he loved to sail so much, he would sail to get the family’s supplies himself. They had been living in New Zealand for about five years when Francis and his oldest son boarded their self-made ship, the Jessie Millar. When a freak storm hit, the family’s supplies and everyone on board went down in the ship. Poor Eliza was now a widow. Since all of the cargo was gone, things got very bleak for the family.
Doing Everything She Could
Eliza had lost her husband and son, but she still had five children to support. She didn’t know the land well, so she had to do something. She had to do whatever she could to care for her family. She continued to work the land at home in Pigeon Bay, and the farm was thriving. After marrying off all of her children, she bought a ship. She called the shit, Bessie and she was determined not to lose this ship the way they lost the Jessie Millar.
A Growing Family
Eliza’s children were having families of their own. Soon, the family was so large that they needed more land. Eliza decided that they would sell the family farm and set sail to the Pacific North West in 1863. They were heading for British Colombia where they hoped to buy farmland. When they arrived on Vancouver Island, things were not at all what they had hoped for.
When they arrived on the island, Eliza discovered that the land was underdeveloped and could not be farmed. When someone told her about a place called California, they decided to leave Vancouver Island. They found a safer route to The Sandwich Islands, which are known today as the Hawaiian Islands. Eliza didn’t know much about the area, but she took her family there. It was Eliza and 13 members of her family who set sail. Eliza had a ship, and she approached King Kamehameha V who was the ruler of the islands. She offered to buy Niihau. She bought the island in 1864 for $10,000 in gold. The only thing that she had to agree to was to help the Hawaiians if they ever needed it.
When the Sinclair family settled into their new life on the island, they honored the king’s request. Elizabeth was known as the Chiefess, and the family helped everyone on the island get a house, free of charge. All the family asked was that everyone attends church every Sunday. In 1893, the Hawaiian Monarchy came to an end. The Hawaiian Islands were about to become part of the United States, except for Niihau. The island would be closed off to visitors to protect the residents from diseases such as measles and polio that were sickening thousands at this time. Today, it is private. Hawaiian is the primary language, and there is no running water or electricity. They use rainwater and solar panels to survive. Groceries arrive weekly, and alcohol, tobacco, and guns are strictly forbidden. There is a military base on the edge of the island, but other than the soldiers, only locals are allowed on the island. Outsiders have been forbidden to set foot on one Hawaiian Island for nearly 100 years.
Do you ever wish that you had your own private island? It could be your own secluded part of the world. A woman named Elizabeth Sinclair wanted her own island, so she and her family sailed to the Hawaiian islands in the 1800s after her husband and oldest son had died. She gave the king $10,000 in gold coins to pay for the island, and the king gave her permission to buy the island as long as she treated the locals on the island fairly.
She did more than that. She gave everyone their own home at no charge and refused to allow visitors to the island to keep the locals from getting the measles and polio, which were grave concerns back then.
Today, you still cannot visit the island even though Eliza has since passed away. There is no plumbing and no electricity. The people of the island love their quiet lives and wouldn’t change a thing. If you want to see the island, you can’t. To learn more about this private, off-limits island, watch the video.