Women On Adventure is a blog by K.L. Webber exploring our rich shared history of women's adventure writing. This curated collection of quotations showcases the opinions and experiences of influential female travellers in their own words.

"You will not wonder at my desperation when I tell you that half-way down, a person called to me, “Mauna Loa is in action!”"

My departure from Ulupalakua illustrates some of the uncertainties of island travelling. On Monday night my things were packed, and my trunk sent off to the landing; but at five on Tuesday, Mr. Whipple came to my door to say that the Kilauea was not in the Lahaina roads, and was probably laid up for repairs. I was much disappointed, for the mild climate had disagreed with me, and I was longing for the roystering winds and unconventional life of windward Hawaii, and there was not another steamer for three weeks. 

However, some time afterwards, I was unpacking, and in the midst of a floor littered with fems, photographs, books, and clothes, when Mrs. W. rushed in to say that the steamer was just reaching the landing below, and that there was scarcely the barest hope of catching her. Hopeless as the case seemed, we crushed most of my things promiscuously into a carpet bag, Mr. W. rode off with it, a horse was imperfectly saddled for me, and I mounted him, with my bag, straps, spurs, and a package of ferns in one hand, and my plaid over the saddle, while Mrs. W. stuffed the rest of my possessions into a clothes-bag, and the Chinaman ran away frantically to catch a horse on which to ride down with them. 

I galloped off after Mr. W., though people called to me that I could not catch the boat, and that my horse would fall on the steep, broken descent. My saddle slipped over his shoulders, but he still sped down the hill with the rapid “racking” movement of a Narraganset pacer. First a new veil blew away, next my plaid was missing, then I passed my trunk on the ox-cart which should have been at the landing; but still, though the heat was fierce, and the glare from the black lava blinding, I dashed heedlessly down, and in twenty minutes had ridden three miles down a descent of 2000 feet, to find the Kilauea puffing and smoking with her anchor up; but I was in time, for her friendly clerk, knowing that I was coming, detained the scow. You will not wonder at my desperation when I tell you that half-way down, a person called to me, “Mauna Loa is in action!”

While I was slipping off the saddle and bridle, Mr. W. arrived with the carpet-bag, yet more over-heated and shaking with exertion than I was, then the Chinaman with a bag of oddments, next a native who had picked up my plaid and ferns on the road, and another with my trunk, which he had rescued from the ox-cart; so I only lost my veil and two brushes, which are irreplaceable here. 


Isabella L. Bird

Ulupalakua, Hawai’i, 1872


Source: Isabella L. Bird The Hawaiian Archipelago: six months among the palm groves, coral reefs, and volcanoes of the Sandwich Islands, London: John Murray, Albermarle St, 1876

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