The War Memorial Natatorium has stood physically on the shores of Waikiki since 1927.

Now it also stands there virtually, captured — in three dimensions — by a stream of zeroes and ones.

3D Digital Model

California-based nonprofit CyArk, working with our friends at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has just created a digital model of the Natatorium. They bounced laser light off the walls, bleachers and decks to get millions of highly accurate measurements. With high-tech computer modeling tools, those measurements are being converted into a 3D onscreen model that can be rotated, studied and manipulated. [How do they do it? Details here.]

Thebes and Ankgor Wat?

CyArk will add the digital model to an online collection of global cultural treasures that already includes the Mayan city of Chichén Itzá in Mexico, ancient Thebes in Egypt, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Tower of London and America’s own Mount Rushmore.

What Will We Do With It?

The National Trust and Friends of the Natatorium will use the model to help tell the story of the Natatorium. And we’ll use it to show how this great, historic ocean pool can be preserved, rehabilitated and reopened to honor Hawaii’s World War I veterans, as it was built to do. And for all of us ocean swimmers and our ohana to enjoy again.

See a Sample

Here’s a sample image from the project. To the right, you can see color that represents the intensity of the reflected laser light during the scanning process. To the left, a more processed scan with true-to-life color.

Natatorium scan

The Natatorium like you’ve never seen it before!


You can learn more about the project in a news release from CyArk and the National Trust.

A special “Mahalo!” to teachers from Honolulu’s Mid-Pacific Institute who assisted with the project!

And our deepest thanks, of course, to great friends and allies at CyArk and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Violet Louis-5-HiRes

Time to check your ohana’s photo albums, scrap books, storage boxes and slide carousels.

We need photos of you, your family and your friends at the War Memorial Natatorium in Waikiki. If you have home movies, even better.


The Friends of the Natatorium are working with the film and television pros at TalkStory Productions to produce a documentary.

We want to tell the Natatorium’s story. From the global conflict it was built to commemorate to the Olympic champions who swam at the Tank and international swimming records set there.

But more than a sports history piece, it’s a love story: The love of the people of Hawaii for ohana, for enjoying our ocean together, and for happy memories and sacred places. We want to share those personal stories about your family’s ties to the Natatorium.

And what better time to tell those stories? 2015 marks the 125th birthday of Duke Kahanamoku, the Olympic hero, surfer and cultural icon who ceremonially opened the Natatorium on his 37th birthday in 1927. And this is also the 90th anniversary year of the vote in the territorial legislature to go ahead with construction of our War Memorial on the shore of Waikiki.

Violet Louis-3-HiRes

Natatorium lifeguard/swim teacher, big band singer, and Pearl Harbor witness Violet Louis at “the Tank.”

Mahalo, Jeri!

Our search for archival photos and footage for this production is off to a great start, thanks to Oahu native Jeri Williams and the Natatorium photos passed down to her from her late mother, Violet Louis Williams.

Jeri, who now lives in California and works at UCLA, has kept and treasured those photos. Now you can enjoy them too. You see a couple on this page, but see them all in this Flickr photo album.

Be absolutely sure to read the captions; the stories are tremendous, particularly the one about Dec. 7, 1941. And click on the photos – especially the one of the iconic diving tower and slides – to enlarge them so you can appreciate the detail.

So What’s in Your Photo Albums?

Do you have photos of family outings at the Natatorium? International or local swim meets? Swimming lessons? Your dad’s poolside hijinks with his best pal growing up? Your grandmother and grandfather’s first date? Natatorium lifeguards in action?

Do you have color slides or 16 millimeter home movies?

We’re interested in all of it and more. Please be in touch with us at Mahalo!

More Mahalos!

Thanks also for their support of this project to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Philip and Gerry Wong Ching Family Fund, an anonymous donor, and the good folks at TalkStory Productions.

And a big, big thanks to the Star-Advertiser’s Bob Sigall for helping us to get the word out on this project in the Feb. 20 edition of his Rearview Mirror column.

If you happen to be flying Alaska Airlines this month, dig into that seat pocket in front of you, pull out the February issue of Alaska Beyond magazine and flip to page 21.

Yes: A very nice story on the Natatorium and our efforts — your efforts — to repair and reopen it.

If you’re not flying, never fear: You can see the piece online.

For a PDF of just the Natatorium story, go to this link posted by our friends at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

If you’d like to see the story in the context of the entire magazine, check out Alaska Beyond’s digital edition. (Again: Navigate to page 21.)

No Matter How You Say It…

In the Hawaiian language, our message to Alaska Airlines is “Mahalo.” And we’ve just looked it up: In Yupic, they say, “Quyana!”

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