Oahu, the "Gathering Place", is the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands
and most populous island in the State of Hawaii. Including small close-in
offshore islands such as Ford Island and the islands in Kaneohe Bay and off
the eastern coast, it has a total land area of 596.66 mile˛ (1,545.34 km˛).
In greatest dimension, this volcanic island is 71 km (44 mi) long and 48 km
(30 mi) across. The length of the shoreline is 366 km (227 mi).
The island is the result of two separate shield volcanoes: Waianae and Koolau, with a broad "valley" or saddle (the central Oahu Plain) between them. The highest point is Mt. Kaala in the Waianae Range, rising to 1,225 m (4,019 ft) above sea level (Macdonald, Abbott, & Peterson, 1983). The 2000 census showed a population of 876,151, which was essentially the entire population of Honolulu County except for 5 individuals who lived in the far-flung Northwestern Hawaiian Islands portion of the county in the United States Census Bureau's Census Tract 114.98 of Honolulu County, Hawaii.
The island is home to about 900,000 people (approximately 75% of the resident
population of the state) and partly because of this, Oahu has for a long time
been nicknamed "The Gathering Place". However, the term Oahu has no confirmed
meaning in Hawaiian, other than that of the place itself (Pukui, et al., 1976).
Ancient Hawaiian tradition attributes the name's origin in the legend of
Hawai'iloa, the Polynesian navigator credited with discovery of the Hawaiian
Islands. The story relates that he named the island after a son.
Hanauma Bay Beach on windward side of Oahu, Hawaii. The city of Honolulu—largest city, state capital, and main deepwater marine port for the State of Hawaii—is located here. As a jurisdictional unit, the entire island of Oahu is in the City & County of Honolulu, although as a place name, Honolulu occupies only a portion of the southeast end of the island (essentially, the Honolulu District). The island extends from Kaena on the west end to Makapuu on the east. Well-known features found on Oahu include Waikīkī, Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay, Kāneohe Bay, and the North Shore.
Kamehameha III moved his capital from Lāhainā, Maui to Oahu in 1845. Iolani
Palace, built later by other members of the royal family, is still standing, and
is the only royal palace on American soil.
Oahu was apparently the first of the Hawaiian Islands sighted by the crew of HMS Resolution on 18 January 1778 during Capt. James Cook's third Pacific expedition. Escorted by HMS Discovery, the expedition was surprised to find high islands this far north in the central Pacific. Oahu was not actually visited by Europeans until 28 February 1779 when Captain Clerke aboard HMS Resolution stepped ashore at Waimea Bay. Clerke had taken command of the ship after Capt. Cook was killed at Kealakekua Bay (Island of Hawaii) on February 14, and was leaving the islands for the North Pacific.
The opening battle of the Second World War in the Pacific for the United States was the Imperial Japanese Navy attack on Pearl Harbor, Oahu on the morning of December 7, 1941. The surprise attack was aimed at the Pacific Fleet of the United States Navy and its defending Army Air Corps and Marine air forces. The attack damaged or destroyed twelve American warships, destroyed 188 aircraft, and killed 2,403 American servicemen and 68 civilians.
Today, Oahu has become a tourism and shopping haven as over 5 million visitors (mainly from the American mainland and Japan) flock there every year to enjoy the quintessential island holiday experience that the Hawaiian Islands and her multicultural people now personify.
A series of earthquakes struck Oahu and the surrounding islands on October 15, 2006, interrupting electrical supplies and knocking television broadcasting stations off the air. Even so, most people continued with their normal routine in metropolitan areas. Preliminary reports said that the first earthquake measured 6.3 on the Richter scale and originated 155 miles southeast of Honolulu.