Gently, an herbarium sheet of the Perrottetia sandwich
or the olomea
plant is opened before me. I’m looking at more than just a plant. I am looking at a plant that was gathered in 1779 by David Nelson
. Nelson traveled on the Discovery
, the ship that accompanied the Resolution
, commanded by none other than Captain James Cook
, to the islands of Hawai’i. This would be Captain Cooks third and last voyage as he was killed on the island of Hawaii.
On board the Resolution, as Cook’s sailing Master, was the infamous William Bligh, whom Nelson would later accompany, on the ill-fated Bounty, to care for 600 Breadfruit plants.
Whipping out my camera, I ask tentatively If I can photograph the sheet. I want to photograph this little slice of history if only to vicariously touch this person and his experience at that point in time.
Perrottetia sandwicensis called olomea
I am at the Herbarium Pacificum
at Bishop Museum
. Clyde Imada, a Research Specialist in the Botany Division of the Natural Sciences Department, is my guide.
Clyde Imada amongst his mounted plants
Clyde appears to be quiet and unassuming but his sense of humor peaks when he tells his wife Pumehana (who works in the Vertebrate Zoology Division) that I am here to interview him for the National Geographic. His enthusiasm shows as he introduces me to dried mounted plants, explaining about the types of makaloa
, a sedge that grows on the islands. He shows me the sedge called kohekohe
, deep red at the base, used to create designs on the famous Ni’ihau
mats. I see plants preserved in jars, photos of plants as they looked before drying and a wonderful wooden box, called Box Lamott, that was made specifically to hold mounted ferns.
Niihau mat woven
Close up of Niihau Mat
I just loved my visit into the Herbarium Pacificum. I wondered as I started to leave, would this count as 6 degrees of separation? Lets see. Captain Cook to David Nelson, to Bishop Museum to Clyde Imada to me! Not bad 4 degrees from Captain Cook to me.
I know they are not alive anymore but I truly felt amazed that I was looking at something that the man who knew Captain Cook not to mention Captain William Bligh ,and could have possibly discussed his discovery with them, had left this to be handed down to our museum where I stood looking. What can I say, just another day in Paradise.