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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, September 11, 2006

BOB KRAUSS | 1924-2006
55 years of Isle news, in Bob's words

 •  Krauss told Hawai'i's stories for 55 years

Advertiser Staff

Bob Krauss set up office on Waikiki Beach as a young Advertiser reporter. He would say in 2002: "No writer is clever enough to come up with the stories you call in about. If you ever stopped, I'd be out of a job."


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The following are excerpts of stories and columns by Bob Krauss:


The picture, unlike most Hollywood productions, was strictly unglamorous but highly realistic. Shot from the bobbing raft by members of the expedition, the scenes maintained a solid pace of action.

Oct. 16, 1951. Krauss' first story for The Advertiser, which ran on Page 6 without a byline, was about the opening of the film "Kon Tiki."


A few hours from now, folks, I will step aboard the good raft Kon Kini and begin our expedition down the Ala Wai canal. ...

As is to be expected on these expeditions, we have had a lot of trouble making arrangements. Kini Popo, my partner, is still out looking for provisions, potato salad and beer. I expect to subsist on sashimi, which I consider a much more practical diet at sea.

As you probably know, the scientific purpose of this expedition is to prove our contention that the members of the Waikiki Yacht Club might well have migrated from Kapahulu. There are several indications of this in old records. For example, a bottle is known to have floated from the upper end of the canal (where the expedition will start) to the very mouth of the yacht harbor before sinking.

Why, we said to ourselves, couldn't a human do the same thing? ...

Never having floated down the Ala Wai on a raft, you probably have no idea of the problems involved in planning such an expedition.

Take, for example, the matter of communications. Smoke signals are out of date. Shouting is the most practical but you aren't supposed to shout on a scientific expedition. We could take along a radio transmitter but that wouldn't leave room for the potato salad. ...

Aug. 13, 1954, before the start of one of Krauss' most infamous stunts, a raft voyage down the Ala Wai, which was covered extensively by local TV, radio and, of course, The Advertiser.


Aunt Jennie Wilson, Hawai'i's grand old woman, didn't attend the statehood celebrations downtown yesterday. She sat alone on her shady lanai with memories that go back 87 years.

The court beauty who was once King Kalakaua's favorite hula dancer wore a faded black duster over her mu'umu'u. A cat was on the floor beside her.

Her house is at the end of a rutted, winding road that leads through the brick factory founded by her late husband, longtime mayor of Honolulu, Johnny Wilson. She lives alone.

"I heard on the radio that if the whistle blows it means statehood," she told me. "I heard the whistle blow. ... "

"Has the spirit of Hawai'i changed?" I asked.

"Yes, it has changed. Poor old Waikiki! Sometimes I go down to the beaches in front of the new stores and just look. When I was a little girl there were no houses at all. ... "

"Do you wish it were still that way?"

"No can help. So why kick. I'm not kicking. I'm just telling you about it."

"Do you have any advice for the state of Hawai'i?

She lifted her wrinkled hands in benediction with a motion as graceful as a soaring gull and answered, "It will be all right."

March 13, 1959


The tired, wet crew of Hokule'a stepped ashore here yesterday morning at the same spot where a voyaging canoe named Te Re landed in A.D. 1343 and established the village that greeted this historic arrival.

It is the first time in at least 200 years that a voyaging canoe has returned to Raratonga from legendary Hawaiki.

Yet the crew members were subdued, not jubilant, as the canoe glided the last three miles toward the shore of a picture-postcard island of jagged mountains, shaggy coconut palms and feisty people. ...

"Nobody knows what to say," explained navigator Nainoa Thompson. "We are humbled by the ocean. ... "

The skies were so overcast that they had to navigate by the few stars that were visible in breaks in the clouds. Master navigator Mau Piailug, Nainoa's Micronesian teacher, said they could not see the sun, moon or stars for two days. He said they steered the canoe by wave patterns.

Sept. 15, 1985. Krauss accompanied the voyaging canoe Hokule'a for part of its voyage from Tahiti to Rarotonga. Throughout most of his career, Krauss has been fascinated by the people, cultures and history of the South Pacific and has written about them extensively.


This is called shooting blind.

You see, in Seattle there's this square-rigged ship which once sailed under the Matson flag from Honolulu to San Francisco to Hilo and back to Honolulu. ... Now the ship is about to be sold for scrap. I don't think it's right. ...

You see, this is what I mean by shooting blind. I don't know how to save the ship. Or exactly what to do with her if she did come back to Hawai'i. All I know is that our last link with a really interesting period is about to be destroyed forever. And I know that if she is saved she'd be the perfect place for all those old photos of Honolulu, of historic cannon, of old cutlasses and pistols, of tools of the sea. ...

Remember, it's easy to think of the reasons why this whole scheme won't work. But people who think that way never get anything done, do they?

May 29, 1963. Krauss went on not only to raise enough money to save the Falls of Clyde and bring it to Honolulu, but to restore it and turn it into just the kind of floating museum of waterfront history and lore that he imagined in his "shooting blind" column.


Nueku (Lance Cpl. Robert Nueku of Nanakuli) had been relieved of his post. He lay against a low ridge of turf, resting. We were all reluctant to move on. This place seemed so safe. Here there was no mud, only wet grass.

The men ... were beginning to feel confident. They had been under fire, and they were doing all right.

Slowly they gathered their packs and wrestled into them. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Nueku start to get up.

There was a sharp "crack!" and he said, "Oh!" in an astonished, hoarse voice. I felt sick.

Nueku fell to his knees, his hands holding his head. Then he rolled over on his side. Two men ran to him.

"Corpsman! Corpsman!" they yelled in frustration.

He came, the Doc, splashing across a rice paddy. I heard Nueku mumble, "I'm all right." But the corpsman made him lie down on the grass. He wound a wide bandage around Nueku's head. A little blood seeped through.

"Can he walk?" asked the platoon sergeant.

"Yes," said Nueku calmly. ...

A man, weighted with an enormous pack, was carrying Nueku's helmet. "Here, I'll take it, I have a free hand," I said.

He gave it to me. There was a hole in the side. The bullet had come out just above the scrawled, "Bobito."

Feb. 2, 1966. Nueku's skull was creased by the sniper shot and he recovered from the wound. He was killed in action a few months later.


The really difficult thing for me about dealing with world-class terrorism is feeling guilty for wanting to feel good.

It began about the 10th time a television newscast ran the picture of an airliner diving into a World Trade Center tower in a ball of flame. That picture made me want to turn off the set. Yet the picture wouldn't go away, because this was the new reality. I felt ashamed for being unable to grasp it.

When I tried to write about it, I couldn't. That would be further compounding the violation of thousands of victims.

The column I'd written before it occurred was about flowers, as out of place as a joke at a funeral. Everything had changed. I felt guilty that what I felt was resentment when thousands of people had died.

In a strange way, consequences of the tragedy have begun to make it bearable. I went to Pier 10 to help plan the second annual Honolulu Harbor Festival. For the first time, a young guard politely asked to see a photo ID. ...

Then came the big question. Should we cancel the festival because of these uncertainties? Would it be in bad taste? Nobody wanted to cancel so we're going ahead. Terror shouldn't take over our lives. ...

Sept. 16, 2001


Years ago, Chinese elders in Honolulu had a wise custom of paying their debts at the end of the year so they would start the new one with a clean slate. This strikes me as an excellent idea.

Therefore I want to acknowledge the debt I owe you for reading this column. When I look in the mirror in the morning, I often wonder when you're going to catch onto me, a big fraud.

You see, I don't write this column. You do. No writer is clever enough to come up with the stories you call in about. If you ever stopped, I'd be out of a job. And I'm having too much fun to quit. Nothing is more interesting to me than the stories of real people.

Dec. 29, 2002


A new printing press has arrived in Our Honolulu. It can print 140,000 copies of The Advertiser in one hour. It's as long as a football field, stands four stories high and weighs 1,200 tons. The cost: about $26 million.

A space shuttle is probably a little more complicated to put together. And the battleship Missouri may have a few more parts. But when you consider what The Advertiser started with in 1856, our new press deserves a mention. The only things the same are the paper and ink.

Nov. 16, 2003


Every 10 or 15 years somebody revives the argument about who started the shaka sign. Letters to the editor from shaka historians are once again popping up. It's time again to tell the true story of Hawai'i's most popular gesture: a fist with thumb and little finger extended.

There are so many versions of who started the shaka sign that, in my opinion, it started spontaneously in several different places for similar reasons. One thing for sure, Lippy Espinda didn't originate the shaka sign, he popularized it.

The best authenticated story about who started the shaka sign comes from La'ie where, in 1985, 550 people signed a petition giving credit to Hamana Kalili, a big man on La'ie beach and in the Mormon church during the 1920s and 1930s. Kalili was a folk hero fisherman, tug of war champion and hukilau organizer of the community.

Aug. 31, 2005


KAWAIHAE, Hawai'i — Papa Mau Piailug, master navigator, walks on crutches now and not very far without resting. If his body is wearing out, his mind is strong and he looks at life with pragmatic patience. After all, pragmatic patience has gotten him through many storms and disasters.

Twice his canoe was overwhelmed by the ocean, in 1950 and again in 1969. Towering waves smashed down on the fragile vessel held together with sennit, coconut fiber. Fragile or not, a Micronesian voyaging canoe, about 36 feet long, bends but won't break. It's carved of wood, so it swamps but it doesn't sink.

Mau said he and his crew sat in the water and waited for the storm to be over so they could hoist the sail and continue the voyage.

"What did you do while you sat?" I asked him.

"We made rope," he said.

Rope for rigging a Micronesian canoe is made of sennit. It's the fiber that protects the shell of the coconut inside the husk. To make rope, you have to shinny up a tree and get some coconuts. I asked Mau where he got coconuts on a canoe in the middle of a storm.

He said he normally carried up to 100 coconuts on the canoe, in addition to drinking nuts, and that making rope is a daily activity to keep the canoe in repair. And so another lesson in voyaging began. It's always an adventure.

April 2, 2006