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Kalaupapa’s Annual Barge

Photo by PF Bentley

By Catherine Cluett Pactol

Barge Day in the remote Kalaupapa settlement has always been filled with excitement — it only comes once a year, after all! Often referred to as “Christmas in July” for residents, there is just a narrow window of calm, summer weather that allows the barge to safety dock at the settlement’s small harbor to unload a year’s worth of essential and large items. This year’s shipment was a little delayed — and complicated by strict COVID-19 protocols to keep at-risk residents safe.

“Once a year a barge brings in all of our bulky items, like appliances, vehicles, fuel, materials to repair buildings, and items considered hazardous to fly in on an airplane, like certain batteries,” the Kalaupapa National Historical Park Facebook page reported. “We send out junked cars, and materials like waste from replaced roofs, that all need proper handling outside of Kalaupapa. We are also sending out 70 super sacks of marine debris we have collected!”

As patient residents still living in the settlement dwindle, they have said barge day isn’t quite what it used to be — a day filled with anticipation to see everyone’s long-awaited orders. But even under pandemic restrictions, it’s still a team effort.

“COVID has us implementing extreme safety measures to limit interaction with contractors and barge staff,” said Park staff. “Usually a grand community affair, this year strict spectator restrictions are in place, but it doesn’t curb the excitement of today!”

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