Skip to product information
1 of 1

DALE, Lt. John B. (1814-1848). Original Watercolour Drawing of the View from the Burial Caves of Kiu near Koko Head, O'ahu, Hawaiin Islands. [November 1845].

DALE, Lt. John B. (1814-1848). Original Watercolour Drawing of the View from the Burial Caves of Kiu near Koko Head, O'ahu, Hawaiin Islands. [November 1845].

Regular price $ 28,000.00 USD
Regular price Sale price $ 28,000.00 USD
Sale Sold out

Single sheet, matted and framed (8 x 10 inches). Fine original sepia watercolour drawing of the view looking southwest from the Burial Caves of Kiu near Koko Head, O'ahu, in the Hawaiian Islands, a broad vista taking in the plain below the cliffs, across what is now Kui Channel towards Honolulu, fugues in native and European dress contemplate the view and a fully rigged ship sails along the horizon.


Originally one of three official artists for the celebrated "Wilkes Expedition" from 1838, John B. Dale returned to the United States in July of 1840 and joined Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler's U.S. Coastal Survey, which at that time was focused on Delaware Bay to chart the approaches to Philadelphia. In march of 1844 John B. Dale is a 5th Lieutenant aboard the USS Constitution, under the command of Captain John Percival, or "Mad Jack" Percival, as he was known. Between May of 1844 and September 1846 the USS Constitution undertook a circumnavigation of the globe, arriving in Honolulu in November of 1845. During the Constitution's brief stay amongst the islands, Dale created his evocative images of Hawaii in the earliest days of American involvement there. By the middle of January 1846 the Constitution was in Mexico, called to duty, as the United States was preparing for war after the Texas annexation. She arrived in Mazatlán on the 13th of January, 1846 and stayed for three months without seeing any action, finally setting sail for home on the 22nd April, and arriving in Boston on 27 September.

When, five years earlier, Charles Wilkes had first arrived in O'ahu in September of 1840, he was not overly impressed, however, since he was forced to overwinter in the Hawaii Islands, he soon changed his mind: "The beauty of the valley, when passing into it, is at times striking, from the effect of the light and shade produced by the clouds, which are occasionally seen lowering on the mountain peaks, and are, as it were, held in check by them. The clouds now and then escape and pass above the peaks, and again burst by with renewed and accumulated strength, sweeping through the valley, and carrying fertilizing showers over it, with every variety of rainbow, while the whole western sky is one glorious sunlight. The sunbeams now and then gain possession of the valley, thus causing a constant and rapid succession of showers and sunshine (Volume III, Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition During the Years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, and 1842, page 392).

Wilkes describes the scene in this watercolour at some length: "On the east end of the island are numerous caves, which Messrs. Drayton and' Dana visited: they are situated in a bluff of three hundred feet elevation, and the mouths of them are at about twothirds the height. Most of these caves are accessible by ascending along the sides of the bluft' obliquely. The natives formerly used them for the burial of their dead, and at times they are still so appropriated. One was walled up, and a strong pole was lying against the rock, which the natives said had been used to bring the body to the place. In the centre of the wall which closed the mouth of the tomb, was a piece of white tapa, the deposit of which in tombs is one of their ancient customs that is still adhered to on this side of the island.

"These caves are the effect of volcanic action; and were called by the natives Kaualahu. Their guide having provided them with torches of the tutui-nut, they ascended to one of them, two hundred feet above the 'sea, where, having lighted the torches, they entered to the distance of about one hundred feet. Here they found deposited a number of bones, among which were only two skulls. On another side was a heap of stones, covering more bones and some entire skeletons: to remove these stones would have occupied more time than they had to spare, or than their feeble lights would allow (Volume IV, page 84). Catalogued by Kate Hunter

View full details