Pearl Harbor


Before 1778: The Native Hawaiians called the Pearl Harbor area Wai Momi (“pearl water”) or Pu’u Loa (“long hill”). The wetland area received its water from both the stream and the ocean, and birds, fish, and sea animals lived there.

Because of the oysters with small pearls in the area, the area will eventually be named Pearl Harbor. From at least the mid-1400s, Native Hawaiians raised fishes in the fishponds along the coast.image_681x432_from_245,4538_to_1680,5449

1792-1794: The first known foreigner to enter the channel of the Pearl Harbor area, Captain George Vancouver started to explore the area, but stopped when he realized that the entrance was not deep enough for large ships to pass through.

1794: Crew members of American ships aided the King Kalanaikupule, the king of Oahu, in a land battle near the Pearl Harbor area to defeat a Kauai chief, who tried to conquer Oahu.image_681x432_from_143,2275_to_1342,3036

1825: Lieutenant C.R. Malden, with other English scientists, surveyed and charted the entrance channel and three lochs of Pearl Harbor. The British Hydrographic Office published their findings in 1841.

1840: Commodore Charles Wilkes from the U.S. Navy surveyed the area of Pearl Harbor and reported “if the water upon the bar should be deepened, which I doubt not can be effected, it would afford the best and most capacious harbor in the Pacific.”

1873: Major General J.M. Schofield and Lt. Col. B.S. Alexander secretly surveyed the area of Pearl Harbor, wrote a secret report for the Secretary of War, and said, “If this coral barrier were removed, Pearl Harbor would seem to have all the necessary properties to enable it to be converted into a good harbor of refuge.”

1875: The United States and Hawaii signed the reciprocity treaty, which gave United States land in the area of Pu’u Loa, which will eventually be known as the Pearl Harbor naval base. Under the treaty, sugar and other products from Hawaii can be sold in the United States without a tariff.

1887: The reciprocity treaty was reaffirmed, allowing the United States to create a naval coaling station in Pearl Harbor to serve American ships.image_681x432_from_1346,2223_to_3072,3319

1900: The coral reef across the channel was dredged to a depth of 35 feet.

1901: With the passage of the Appropriation Act, Pearl Harbor acquired land in the present area of the shipyard, Kuahua Island, and a strip of land on the south-east coast of Ford Island.

1908: U.S. Congress passed the Act of May 13, 1908, appropriating $6,200,000 for the further dredging of the canal to allow large ships to access Pearl Harbor and construction of shops, supply houses, and the first drydock.

December 6, 1911: After the dredging of the channel, the first large ship, USS California, entered Pearl Harbor.


February 17, 1913: Underground water pressure caused Dry Dock 1 to collapse, destroying a structure that took two years to construct.

1919: The dry dock was reconstructed by this time.

December 7, 1941: The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, destroying its fleet and killing 2,350 people.

December 8, 1941: Asking the U.S. Congress to declare war against Japan, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt called the previous day “A Date Which Will Live in Infamy” in one of the most famous American political speeches. The U.S. Congress unanimously declared war against Japan, entering the United States into World War II.

1941-1943: Dry Docks 2, 3, and 4 were built.

1950: Due to the Korean War, more ships needed repair, leading to the increase in shipyard personnel.

1962: Built to honor the people who died during the Pearl Harbor attack, the USS Arizona Memorial was dedicated.

Suggested Search Terms

1. Enter “pearl harbor” in the field “with the phrase

2. Enter “ford island” in the field “with the phrase

3. Enter “mokuumeume” in the field “with any of the words”

4. Select “Hawaii” in the “Select state(s)” field and enter “pearl river” in the field “with the phrase

Articles From Chronicling America

“Honolulu and Pearl Harbor Vital Centers of America’s Power in Pacific Ocean”
Evening bulletin, July 16, 1908, Fleet Edition, Image 9

“Dreadnoughts will lie in war canoes’ wake in Pearl Harbor”
San Francisco call, August 14, 1912, Image 15

“Pearl Harbor and the Fleet”
The sun (New York), August 16, 1908, Image 28

“Pearl Harbor: Representatives Bowl Over the Appropriation”
Independent, May 26, 1897, Image 1

“Urge Necessity of Opening Pearl Harbor to Commerce”
Hawaiian gazette, August 27, 1907, Image 3

“Flagship California Drops Anchor in Pearl Harbor”
Hawaiian gazette, December 15, 1911, Image 1

“Fleet’s Visit Shows Need of Pearl Harbor”
Washington herald (Washington, D.C.), August 16, 1908, Image 27

“General Bell Insists on Defense of Pearl Harbor”
Hawaiian gazette, March 3, 1908, Image 2

Daily bulletin, January 31, 1889, Image 3

“Sea Chemicals to Blame for Drydock Hitch: Engineers at Pearl Harbor Are Still Struggling with the Stuff that Rots Concrete”
Hawaiian gazette, March 22, 1912, Page 8


One Comment on “Pearl Harbor”

  1. […] in history–December 7, 1941: Japanese soldiers attacked Pearl Harbor, pulling the United States into World War II. Hawaii went into martial law, and tourism in Hawaii […]

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