Paper pub. date
May 2016
ISBN 9780870718489 (paperback)
ISBN 9780870718496 (ebook)
6 x 9, 144 pages. 22 b&w photographs. 1 map. Glossary. Resources.

Holy Mōlī

Albatross and Other Ancestors

Hob Osterlund

Hob Osterlund moved to Hawaii after being visited in a dream by an ancestor, Martha Beckwith, author of the monumental classic, Hawaiian Mythology. It was there, on the island of Kauai, where she happened upon a few courting albatross and felt an inexplicable attraction to the birds—an attraction too powerful to be explained by their beguiling airbrushed eye shadows, enormous wingspans, and rollicking dances.

In Hawaiian mythology, ancestors may occupy the physical forms of animals known as ‘aumākua. Laysan albatross—known as mōlī—are among them. Smitten with these charismatic creatures, Osterlund set out to learn everything she could about mōlī. She eventually came to embrace them as her ‘aumākua—not as dusty old myths on a museum bookshelf, but as breathing, breeding, boisterous realities.

Albatross sport many superlative qualities. They live long—sometimes longer than sixty years—and spend the majority of their time airborne, gliding across vast oceanic expanses. They are model mates and devoted parents, and are among the only animals known to take long-term same-sex partners. In nesting season, they rack up inconceivable mileage just to find supper for chicks waiting on the islands of the Hawaiian archipelago.

It is from the island of Kauai that Holy Mōlī takes flight. Osterlund relates a true tale of courage, celebration and grief—of patience, affection and resilience. This is the story of how albatross guided the author on her own long journey, retracing distances and decades, back to the origin of a binding bargain she struck when she was ten years old, shortly after her mother’s death.

Holy Mōlī is a natural history of the albatross, a moving memoir of grief, and a soaring tribute to ancestors. Within its pages are lyrics of wonder—for freedom, for beauty, and for the far-flung feathered creatures known to us as albatross.

Listen to an interview with Hob Osterlund here!

About the author

HOB OSTERLUND is an award-winning writer and photographer whose work has appeared in National Geographic Explorer, The New York Times, Nature, and more. In her previous career, she served as an advanced practice nurse in a large medical center; now she devotes her time to her lifelong passion for wildlife. As Founder of the Kauai Albatross Network, she serves as Habitat Liaison for private property owners who host Laysan albatross, an iconic species that’s begun to repopulate its ancient home in the Hawaiian Islands. She lives on Kauai with her partner.

Read more about this author

“Who knew I could fall in love with a bird called the albatross? Hob Osterlund did, thatʻs who. And in Holy Moli sheʻll make you fall in love with them—and her—too, in this moving and fascinating book about birds, loss, and finding a true home in the world.”

Cheryl Strayed, Author of #1 New York Times Bestseller Wild: Lost and Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

"Hob brings us an insider's perspective, showing such amzing scenes as the gathering of two million nesting birds on Midway Atoll, and an intimate look at newly hatched chicks."

Audubon Portland

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