Historic Earthquakes

Near Lanai, Hawaii
1871 Feb 20 08:42 UTC (Local 02/19)
Magnitude 6.8
Intensity VIII

This major earthquake caused severe damage on the islands of Lanai, Molokai, and Maui, and minor damage on Hawaii and Oahu. It was felt throughout the islands.

On Lanai, in the Palawai Valley, a large part of the Pali Kaholo bluff fell into the sea, and enormous fragments broke from the towering ocean walls between Manele Bay and Kamaiki Point. Masses of the red basalt were torn from the turrets to Puupehe, located on the southeast coast of Lanai. Huge boulders were hurled from the mountainsides, and ravines were filled with debris of rocks and trees. "Several great clefts opened" on different parts of the island.

On Molokai, in the Pukoo area, the earth opened for a distance of several meters; stone houses in the area cracked in every direction. A 1.5-meter-deep hole opened in the ground at Pukoo. At Kaluaaha, a small addition on the northwest corner of the old stone Mission house was thrown down and a part of the east gable end crashed down through the veranda roof below. Stone walls fell in every direction. In one place on the shore, a hole about 0.6 m in diameter and 5.5 m deep was formed by the sinking earth.

On Maui, at Lahaina, all adobe and stone houses were cracked and some were uninhabitable. The old Mission church was damaged, and its walls were cracked. All fence walls reportedly fell to the north. A stone building and the courthouse were damaged. The main road to Lahaina cracked open for several meters. Close to the pier, the earth cracked open for a length of 14.6 meters. Damage was much less severe on other parts of Maui - stone walls were thrown down at Kaeleku, Kapueokahi, and Wailuku; cliffs collapsed at Keanae, Koali, Muole, Pukuila, and Wailua.

Abridged from Seismicity of the United States, 1568-1989 (Revised), by Carl W. Stover and Jerry L. Coffman, U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1527, United States Government Printing Office, Washington: 1993.