Asian American Pacific Island Heritage Month – Samuel Apolo Amalu, Hawaiian Lightkeeper

During the first half of the 20th century, Samuel Apolo Amalu established himself as the dean of Hawaii’s lighthouse keepers. Amalu began his career in 1906 when he joined the U.S. Light-House Board (replaced four years later by the U.S. Lighthouse Service). The agency had jurisdiction over lighthouses in his native Hawaii, which was a U.S. territory from 1898 to the time it became a state in 1959.

Amalu initially served as the keeper at Kawaihae Light on the Big Island of Hawaii and then Barber’s Point Light on the island of Oahu. In 1915, he was designated keeper of Kilauea Light on the island of Kauai. This structure, which began operations only two years earlier, is Hawaii’s northernmost lighthouse. Amalu served at this lighthouse for a decade, the longest tenure of any keeper there.

Amalu became renowned throughout Hawaii for his steadfast dedication and discipline in helping to protect the vessels and lives of seafarers sailing through that region of the Pacific Ocean. He also earned widespread acclaim for maintaining the lighthouse and its grounds with enviable versatility and attention to detail. “He works with pick and shovel in the garden,” reported a Honolulu Star-Bulletin newspaper article about him. “He is a machinist to keep the timing mechanism of the light going. And he is a carpenter, painter, and engineer.”

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