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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, August 24, 2003

Diamond Head title proves there's more to be told

By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Books Editor

DIAMOND HEAD HAWAI'I'S ICON, by Allan Seiden; Mutual Publishing, hardback, $24.95

You would think that by now, more than 200 years after the written word came to Hawai'i, there would be nothing more to say about Diamond Head, no image that would surprise or beguile, given that the odd-shaped, weathered geological remnant is the Islands' most famous landmark.

It's a logical assumption, but Allan Seiden's well-designed coffee-table books proves it wrong. The book has been nominated for a Ka Palapala Po'okela Award for Excellence in General Illustrative or Photographic Books from the Hawai'i Publishers' Association, and is in the running now, for which it deserves the honor of being considered.

Did you know Mount Le'ahi — its proper name — was sold to King Kalakaua by the estate of King Lunalilo for $3,310, admittedly a lot of money in 1884 but still an unimaginably paltry sum?

Or that there is a winter wetland contained within the crater (pumped dry most of the time)?

Or that there were actually two rock-festival series held in Diamond Head Crater — the New Year's Eve Sunshine Festival from 1969 to 1973, and the Fourth of July Crater Festival from 1972 to 1977? It will never happen again: The Diamond Head master plan expressly forbids such events.

But Seiden's book has more to offer than answers to a Diamond Head Trivial Pursuit game. Unlike many coffee-table books, it is a well-researched and detailed history, calling on sources from as far back as possible.

A writer and photo archivist who can see Diamond Had from his Maunalani Heights home, Seiden credits the idea for a comprehensive and visually appealing Diamond Head history to the late Hawai'i waterman and historian Tommy Holmes, who died before it could be carried out.

He has created a series of set pieces, each of which could stand on its own:

• A geological history of the crater, an essay on its biology.

• Its history from before Western contact through the monarchy.

• Two chapters on Diamond Head's neighbors (one on the immediate vicinity and another on the neighborhoods that grew up within sight of the "Kaimana Hila").

• An article on military use of Diamond Head and another on the Diamond Head Lighthouse.

• A delightful visual chapter on the use of Diamond Head to market Hawai'i and a never-ending series of products.

• Three itineraries for excursions into and around the crater.

• And finally, a history in paintings and photos of how Diamond Head has looked to us over the years, from 1700s sketches to dramatic contemporary photos. Especially interesting is a page of photos showing Diamond Head from 15 perspectives, proving conclusively that, as many in Hawai'i have said, "she moves."