Haiku Ladder History

Oahu’s Haiku Stairs (or Haiku Ladder or Stairway to Heaven, depending on your preference) reach above Kanohe on the island’s northeastern side. These steep stairs are officially off-limits to the public, however they are often climbed by people looking for an amazing view of both the leeward and windward sides of the island. Although the stairs themselves are an attraction, they have a very interesting history. (We hiked to the top via the leeward side.)

During World War II, the Navy decided they needed a long range communication system to facilitate pan-Pacific operations. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported that “Authorities decided that a sending system must be built of such a magnitude that it would reach to the waters of Australia and India and even to Allied submarines near Tokyo bay.” (October 25, 1946.)

To avoid building a tower tall enough to carry the antennae needed the cables were instead draped over Haiku Valley. Before the construction of the current ladder, in 1942, Bill Adams and Louis Otto (both men had worked on Hoover Dam) scaled the valley walls by driving steel spikes into the wall. The spikes were slowly replaced by wooden ladders and steps and the metal steps were finished in 1953.

The communication station was powered by a 200,000 watt Alexander alternator. It powered the station from its commission in 1943 until it was transferred from the Navy to the Coast Guard in 1973. Under the Coast Guard, the station became part of the Omega Aid to Navigation system. The Omega system was operational until 1997 when it was replaced by the VLF network. The Hawaiian component of the network is now located in Lualualei (on Oahu’s leeward side) and its antennae are comprised of two 1503′ guyed masts.

Today, the Haiku Ladder, although technically off limits to the public, can be used to attain the 2,800 foot mountaintop of Puu Keahiakahoe. You can also see the CCL (continuous communication link) building that was installed by the Coast Guard when the Omega equipment was installed.

Stairway to Heaven, Oahu Island News, January 2004.
David Jessup’s Haiku Valley history.


2 Replies to “Haiku Ladder History”

  1. Nice presentation Beth. However your picture titled “Alexander Alternator” is actually a photo of the emergency generator that could power the entire station. If you would like a photo of the real Alexanderson Alternator, feel free to download one from my photo site. If you would prefer I can email you an uncompressed copy taken by Ron Hillstrom who served there as the station was being closed down. Ron allows his photos to be used for any non-commercial purpose.

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