“Finding David Douglas” film now on YouTube

I’m happy to share a link to “Finding David Douglas,” now on YouTube. I wrote the script for this documentary film, which was initially released in 2012.

David Douglas

David Douglas

My friend from childhood (we met at Girl Scout camp and then were high school classmates), Lois Leonard, invited me to be the writer for her film. She said she always liked my writing and that we shared so many interests, including history, the outdoors and all things Hawaiian.

Lois Leonard (facing camera) and film crew

The last part of the 55-minute film takes place in the Hawaiian Islands, on the islands of ‘Oahu and Hawai’i. David Douglas, a 19th-century botanist-explorer from Scotland, spent time on both islands before his untimely death on Mauna Kea on July 12, 1834. He was just 35.

Douglas was, in fact, the first non-native to climb both Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, the snow-capped volcanoes on Hawai’i Island. He did so for the purpose of collecting native plants, most of which were then unknown to European naturalists.

As he was walking across the lower elevations of Mauna Kea on his way to the town of Hilo, he had a fateful encounter with a wild cattle trapper named Ned Gurney. Many accounts blame Douglas’s death on one of Gurney’s trapped bulls; most of our film crew came to believe that Douglas was murdered by Gurney and his body thrown into the trap, already¬†occupied by an innocent bull.

Bronze plaque from 1934 memorial

Some beautiful scenes were filmed in a grove of Douglas fir trees (imported from the Pacific Northwest) that were planted next to the pyramid-shaped stone memorial that marks the site of Douglas’s death. David Douglas is buried at the Kawaiaha’o Church Cemetery in Honolulu.

Douglas firs and koa trees

I hope you’ll take the time to view the “Finding David Douglas” video so you can appreciate Douglas’s accomplishments as a plant collector. For one thing, the seeds from Douglas fir and spruce trees that he sent home to London resulted in the re-growth of depleted forests in the UK and Europe.

My advice for anyone who wishes to visit the David Douglas Memorial on Mauna Kea: Make the trip in a 4-wheel-drive vehicle. The road is pretty rough. Keep in mind that the hardy Douglas was making the entire trek on foot.

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