Lalo, Kānemiloha‘i, Mokupāpapa (French Frigate Shoals)

The word lalo means “down, downward, low, lower, under, below, depth, west or leeward.” Lalo is closely associated with the direction of pō (darkness) or ancestral lands “where dwelt the souls of gods.” The name Lalo depicts low-lying islands partially submerged below the surface, which aptly describes the atoll. Recorded in chants, the name Mokupāpapa refers to an island, or islands, northwest of Ni‘ihau. The nearest shoal-like place is French Frigate Shoals, an atoll of reefs, low sand islets, and the 120-foot-high La Pérouse Pinnacle. Moku (islet) combined with pāpapa (low, flat, expansive reef) means “islets with low-lying reefs.” It is said that on this low, flat sand island, Pele (the volcano goddess) left one of her brothers, Kānemiloha‘i, as a guardian during her first journey to Hawai‘i from Tahiti.



Mokupāpapa is an atoll of reefs, low sand islets, and the 120-foot high La Perouse Pinnacle. Moku ʻisletʻ combined with pāpapa ʻlow, flat, expansive reefʻ means ʻislets with low-lying reefsʻ. Mokupāpapa is an open atoll consisting of a large, crescent-shaped reef surrounding numerous small, sandy islets. While the land area is only 67 acres, the total coral reef area of the shoals is over 232,000 acres.

Coral in the shallow Mokupāpapa atoll

A shark swims above coral reefs in the Mokupāpapa area

Recorded in chants, the name Mokupāpapa refers to an island, or islands, of the nameʻs decription located northwest of Niʻihau. The nearest shoal-like place is French Frigate Shoals.


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