Mokumanamana (Necker Island)

Necker Island

About 155 miles northwest of Nihoa lies Mokumanamana, a small basalt island that is 1/6 square km or 39-1/2 acres in size.


Although the island is the second smallest of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, it has the second largest surrounding marine habitat. Large offshore areas include Shark Bay on the north side, West Cove and Northwest Cape as well as miles of shallow reef to the southeast.

Mokumanamana is known for its numerous religious sites and artifacts. Fifty-two sites have been found that appear to have been used mainly for worship. Since the island seems to be too small and dry for living, with poor soil for farming, archaeologists believe that the religious sites were probably used by Hawaiians, who visited from nearby Nihoa and other islands, but didn’t stay.

In 1786, Compte de La Pérouse, a French explorer, visited Mokumanamana and named it “Necker Island” after Jacques Necker, the finance minister under Louis XVI. Captain John Paty claimed the island in 1857 for the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi under King Kamehameha IV. His claim was contested until the island was annexed by Hawaiʻi’s Provisional Government in 1894.

Important archaeological and biological studies were made on the island when the Tanager Expedition visited in 1923-24. Most recently in 1997, members of the native Hawaiian organization Hui Mälama I Nä Kupuna O Hawaiʻi Nei visited Mokumanamana to rebury the ancestral human bones originally found there that had been kept at Bishop Museum.

Terrestrial (land) animal life on Mokumanamana includes the blue gray noddy, land snails and fifteen endemic (found only on that island) insects such as wolf spiders and bird ticks.

Marine life includes gray reef sharks and manta rays. Hawaiian monk seals are seen on the island’s rocky shores. At Shark Bay, there is a great abundance and diversity of sea cucumbers, sea urchins, and lobsters. Little coral life exists in the shallow areas due to run off from the heavily eroded and scoured rock surfaces of the island. Below the shallow reef are extensive deeper “shelves” that extend many miles from the island, especially to the southeast. These broad offshore areas are used for commercial fishing.

Presently, visiting Mokumanamana is permitted only for scientific, educational and cultural purposes.