The island immortalized in the series “Gilligan’s Island” is swimming distance from the shore of Oahu in Hawaii. But the real island has a much more interesting story than one concocted by television scriptwriters.
The island is one-fifth of a mile from the shore in Kaneohe Bay. Although most locals call it “Coconut Island,“ it is named Moku o Loe and it now houses the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB). This view of the island is from the water. The majestic Koolau Mountains in the background are on Oahu; the island sits just in front of them. If you look at the island from the shore, you see only the vast expanse of water in the bay and Pacific Ocean beyond.
The island still looks much the same as in the opening credits of the television show, which ran from 1964-67 on CBS and forever in syndication. However, it was originally much smaller, only 12 acres, with coconut trees and served as a base for shepherds and fishermen. According to the HIMB website, Christian Holmes (heir to the Fleischmann yeast fortune) purchased the island to use for his tuna-packing factory. He expanded it to 28 acres, getting much of the material from the nearby sandbar. He created fish ponds, imported exotic plants and built a large saltwater swimming pool.
Holmes once bought a ship in Samoa but it leaked so much on the sail to Hawaii that he parked it at the island, turning it into a bar and movie theater. There were also outdoor bars, a bowling alley and an amusement park shooting galley. The island even housed a small zoo for a time. Those animals later became the basis for the Honolulu zoo.
After Holmes died, the island came into the hands of oilman Edwin Pauley. He spent summers on the island with his family and many famous guests, including entertainers and several United States presidents. At Pauleys death, the island was owned briefly by a Japanese real estate developer before it was purchased for the marine laboratory with the help of the Pauley family foundation.
Once the refuge of the wealthy and nemesis of television castaways, Moku o Loe now houses tropical marine researchers and students.
Posted by: Bruce Fisher