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National Park Mystery Spot 39 Revealed: A Saintly Father Lived and Died There

 Father Damien on his funeral bier, attended by Mother Marianne Cope (right). Wikimedia Commons photo.

 It was specified that Mystery Spot 39 is a National Park System unit. To help you identify this park, you were given these clues:

A saintly father inherited DNA from his father.

"Never touch an armadillo" is sound medical advice.

If isolation is essential, you don't need a moat. Just choose a place reached only by boat.

On the north side of an island north of the largest island in a non-northern state.


The answer is Hawaii’s Kalaupapa National Historical Park. This relatively young park (established 1980) was created to preserve and interpret remains of the historic Kalaupapa Leper Settlement on the island of Molokai. During 1866 – 1969, nearly 8,000 Hawaiians suffering from leprosy (Hansen’s disease) were quarantined on northern Molokai’s Kalaupapa Peninsula. Because the Kalaupapa Peninsula site is so isolated, even lacking road connections to other Molokai communities, it was deemed an appropriate place to house leprosy patients in medical quarantine. Although mandatory quarantine ended in 1969, some former patients chose to continue living at Kalaupapa. Today the community has no active cases of Hansen’s disease.

Two people who devoted themselves to the care of leprosy patients at Kalaupapa for many years are venerated as saints in the Roman Catholic church. Father Damien de Veuster, a Belgian missionary priest who contracted leprosy and succumbed to its ravages, was canonized in 2009. Mother Marianne Cope, a naturalized American nun who was credited with several miracles, has been decreed a saint and is slated for canonization in October 2012.

Here is how the clues lead you to the answer

All human males have Y-chromosomes containing DNA passed from father to son. The saintly father referenced here is, of course, Father Damien.

"Never touch an armadillo" is sound medical advice because the armadillo is one of the few animal species that harbors Mycobacterium leprae, the bacterium that causes Hansen’s disease. Unfortunately, the disease can be transmitted from infected armadillos to humans and vice-versa. Of the roughly 200 cases of Hansen’s disease reported in the United States each year -- nearly all of which can be easily cured with antibiotics if detected early -- about one-third are caused by handling armadillos or consuming armadillo meat.

“If isolation is essential, you don't need a moat. Just choose a place reached only by boat” (a place like the leper settlement at Kalaupapa, for example).

The Kalaupapa Peninsula is located on the north side of Molokai, an island situated north of Hawaii (the Big Island), which is the largest island in the decidedly non-northern state of Hawaii.

Kudos to the Traveler readers who identified this mystery spot: Eric, Reoux, OutInTheStiks, celbert, RangerLady, Connier, David Crowl, djjeffrey100, Ken, Lisa, JanetinKY, JeffB, Eric Nelson, Janna, CB, ron erpelding, y_p_w, and tomp2. All are eligible for our monthly prize drawing.


This submitted yesterday by tomp2 and held for posting today:

KALA aka Kalaupapa National Historic Site.  Woohoo! I get to go there next month to help with State of the Park Reporting: it's one of the pilot parks that may have unique report components.

This submitted by y_p_w yesterday and held for posting today:

I was just looking at the clues. Island north of the state's biggest island. Isolation. Saintly father. D-N-A. It took a while for the meaning of the armadillo quote to click, and that's when I figured that I'd heard of this place before even if I didn't exactly remember the name.

I did check the NPS site to recall the full name of the place. How many people are going to remember a name like that?

Still - I heard that this place can be reached by means other than boat,** but I guess "moat" and "boat" do rhyme. I think I've even met someone from this island, although that's neither here nor there.

For a while I was thinking maybe it was a reference to San Miguel Island at Channel Islands NP, which is north of California's biggest island (Santa Rosa Island) but that didn't quite make sense.

** The Kalaupapa settlement sits at the base of what are probably the highest sea cliffs on the planet (ca. 3,315 feet high). A mule track wends its way through this formidable topographic barrier, which separates Kalaupapa from the rest of the island. The settlement can also be reached by helicopter, outrigger canoe, or a 26-mile swim from Oahu. [Quizmeister, with tongue in cheek]

I thought that D-N-A was a clue since "Damien" contains all three letters.

NPS says that the primary means of getting there is either the trail or by plane. The state maintains Kalaupapa Airport:

They also have restrictions and daily quotas on who can visit, including people going to visit residents. It supposedly requires a permit issued by the Hawaii Department of Health (can be via Damien Tours), and all visitors must be at least 16. The settlement is also its own county (Kalawao), and the history seems to be that Maui County (the government on the rest of Molaka'i) didn't want to deal with the responsibilities of a leper colony. It doesn't have any official government, so I'm guessing anything that any governmental functions there would be handled directly by the state.

I found some article on the place, and it noted that most of the residents don't like to leave, but a few won't pass up an opportunity to visit Las Vegas.

Great info!  Thanks for sharing. BTW, y_p_w, If you're gonna stick that airport in there, we need to mention that the site selection decision for the leper colony was made nearly 40 years before the airplane was invented.

It's pretty pricey to fly in. At least $200 round trip base fare from Honolulu via Pacific Wings's regularly scheduled service.

Father Damien Tours charges $298 plus tax and will only operate with at least 4 passengers, although they say they'll include ground transportation from/to Waikiki hotels. It sounds like the only place to start is from Waikiki, and they won't let anyone meet up at the airport.

“If isolation is essential, you don't need a moat. Just choose a place reached only by boat[/size]” (a place like the leper settlement at Kalaupapa, for example).

Hey Bob, I'd like to say I would've guessed it (but can't) if you had included the other way historically to reach Kalaupapa which was/is by Mule, an unintentional error I'm sure.  Must not omit the historical presence of the Donkey, especially during Holy Week :).

Yes, I screwed up on that one, Boat Donkey.  As you've noticed, ol' y_p_w called me on it, and seems determined not to let me wiggle off the hook.  I'm going to lay low for a while.

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