Living in the Hawaiian Sea – Snorkeling with Grandma Julia

You can read the whole book on BLURB.

You can read the whole book on BLURB.  Just click the photo and read away!

I love snorkeling at Wailea Bay, at the Beach Club at Mauna Lani…just about anywhere I can push into the warm liquid velvet waters with sand under my toes and stretch out, weightless for a while, in the salty Pacific.  If ever I were to leave Hawaii, I don’t know how I would manage without a chance to snorkel once in a while.

I wrote a book about it, for my grandchildren who live far, far away…in hopes that someday they could join me here. I am so grateful to live in a world where I can write a book and place it in the hands of my own grandchildren, even if they are the only copies made.  The world is so full of a number of things….

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Zipping Through Paradise- North Kohala Zipline Adventure

zipline

Click photo to view an awesome 10-minute zipline video. You will see than ANYONE, of any size or shape, can joyfully zip through Paradise.

Have you been to Hawi lately?  It’s a new experience, livened in no small way by the popular new adventure hosted by Big Island Eco Adventures!  Feel the freedom as you slip through Paradise!

Big Island Eco Adventures Zipline Canopy Tours, located in North Kohala, has a series of 8 ziplines, 2 bridges (1 suspension) and breath-taking water-falls.

Meet at the historic yellow Kohala Sugar Company building in Hawi, and climb aboard the 6-wheel-drive pinzgauer which zig zags through I’ole’s organic macnut orchard, which happens to be the largest in the State of Hawaii.  Once you reach the top of the mountain, get ready to experience 8 zip lines that will take you through some of the oldest rainforest on the Island full of giant ironwood, robusta, and eucalyptus trees.  Cross a suspension bridge overlooking a jungle ravine then make your way to our Mango hut built overlooking the Kohala mountain side.  Take in the gorgeous views of Maui and the ocean while you munch on light locally made snacks provided by the tour.

The grand finale of your tour lies ahead, your courage will be tested and your excitement will peak.  Four zip line runs averaging 2000 feet long, and each crossing the 350 ft. deep Waianae Gulch. “KZ2″ may just be the most exhilarating zip line you have ever experienced.

Once you return on the six-wheel drive pinzgauer back to Luke’s Place Restaurant, where you can relax, hang out for dinner, drinks, and live entertainment.  OR, you can cruise through Hawi, browsing all the quaint little shops, pick up some treasures, or just hang in the lounge, rehashing your zipline adventure. Call 888-816-9919 for guaranteed best prices.  Mention discount code 2484

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Day Tripping on the Big Island – A Few of Our Favorite Things!

Looking for adventures on your Hawaiian vacation?  Don’t know where to start?  We recommend that you grab a copy of “Hawaii, The Big Island Revealed”, and head out, in any direction, and see what you find.  Here are a few pointers to pique your curiosity!  Whatever you do, take your time, drive with aloha, and remember, you’re on VACATION….relax and enjoy the journey.

coffee loveKONA COFFEE PLANTATIONS There are over 600 specialty coffee farms along some 20 miles of scenic country roads. At elevations ranging from 800 feet to 2000 feet on the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa this is the only place in the world where Kona coffee is grown.

The drive through Old Coffee Towns leads to funky villages that appear to have never moved into the 20th century! Take time to stop at many of these small coffee plantations, farms, galleries and villages to learn about the history of this industry and the lifestyle of island coffee farms.

There are different routes to this experience:

• Take Palani Road (Hwy 190) out of Kailua-Kona to Mamalahoa Highway(Hwy. 180) towards Holualoa. Continue south on Mamalahoa Highway (now Hwy. 11) through more quaint towns to the top of Napoopo Road; or

• Take Highway 11 from Kailua to Holualoa to Mamalahoa Highway(180). Below is just a sampling of the Coffee plantations:

Royal Kona Coffee Mills (808) 328-2511

Kona Blue Sky Coffee Company (808) 322-1700

Greenwell Farms (808) 323-2275

good-wineVOLCANIC WINE Nestled 4,000 feet above sea level, between two volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa, is the Volcano Winery and vineyard. Sip samples of Volcano Blush, Guava Chablis and Symphony!

Volcano Winery (808) 967-7772

kiluea-volcano

VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK (808) 985-6000 The hottest spot on the island is Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park (96 miles from Kona) where the latest eruption of Kilauea continues its fireworks. A main feature of the park is the 11-mile Crater Rim Drive that encircles Kilauea’s summit caldera. The excitement of viewing the creation of land mass as molten lava pours into the surf is NOT to be missed!  In our opinion, though, the best and safest way to see it is by watching the spectacular videos at the Visitor’s Center.  It is after all, a live volcano…unpredictable and more than HOT!  We want you to be safe and sane in your explorations.  And truly, the 20-minute, free videos at the visitor’s center are also NOT TO BE MISSED.  They have original footage of characters like Mark Twain, so you can’t buy them anywhere….

Side by side with this spectacle is the fascinating geography of many past eruptions – craters, steam vents, lava fields, cinder cones and a museum.

Lava tube - Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii (Big Island), Hawaii, 31.10.2013Thurston Lava Tube Located in Volcanoes National Park, visit the magical fern kingdom with the dense ohi’a forest that leads to a short walk through the incredible Thurston Lava Tube. The tube was created when the surface of a lava stream hardened when exposed to the air, while the lava beneath kept flowing the 28 miles out to sea. When the lava eventually drained away, it left behind a damp empty tunnel large enough to accommodate a subway train! It takes 20 minutes to follow the loop trail from the parking lot, through the fern forest, down some stairs and into the tube. The view inside is magical!

waipio-ridge1WAIPIO (SAY WY-PEE-O) VALLEY Located north of the town of Honoka’a (north of Mauna Lani) along the Hamakua Coast, the Waipio Valley is the largest and southernmost of the seven valleys on the windward side of the Kohala Mountains. A mile wide at the coast and almost 6 miles deep, this “Eden”-like valley is sheltered by cliffs reaching almost 2,000 feet. Waterfalls and flowers cascade from the walls of the cliffs and a stunning black sand beach defines the coastal area. Though once inhabited by 4,000-10,000 people, this Valley of the Kings, is now home to only a handful of taro farmers and fishermen. The view from the overlook is well worth the drive. Reaching the valley below, which is accessed by a steep road with a 25 percent grade, is difficult at best. All vehicular access is limited to four-wheel drive vehicles. Rental car companies prohibit going down this road with their vehicles!! Adventurous hikers may choose to make the hike down by foot – but it is a tough trip up. There are guided tours available by wagon, horse or ATV.   This writer will add her bias here, to say that people are always willing to pick up hitchhikers, and whatever you do, AVOID horse-drawn wagons. Also please note that Waipio is another site sacred to Hawaiians, and it’s hard not to trespass to get to the best spots.  So please, show respect and be aware that you tread on sacred ground.

Boiling PotsTHE BOILING POTS OF WAILUKU RIVER (HILO) The Wailuku River is an 18-mile long path of churning, bubbling, cascading water that flows into Hilo Bay. About 2 miles upstream from Rainbow Falls, is the aptly named “Boiling Pots”. The river churns through a succession of “pots”, seven or eight of which resemble steaming Jacuzzis. Some of the river water flows beneath a level of old lava, then suddenly bubbles up as if it were boiling! The Boiling Pots are about two miles past the Hilo Medical Center, on Waianuenue Drive.  Proceed with caution.  These pools are for the strong and highly adventurous, and may be best suited for photo ops.

Banyan Tree Corridor, HiloHILO’S LIVING “WALL OF FAME” Banyan Drive in Hilo has been referred to as the “Living Wall of Fame” because of the long corridor of huge old Banyan trees planted by celebrities in the 1930’s. The custom of planting young banyan saplings along the Waiakea Peninsula began in 1933. Each tree has been planted by either a local, state, national or international celebrity in honor of a momentous event. There are 46 trees in all!

captain-cook-monumentKONA SIDE;

CAPTAIN COOK MONUMENT  Located south of Kailua-Kona is Kealakekua Bay, a marine life conservation district and an area replete with history. It is here that you will find the Captain Cook Memorial and one of Hawai’i’s finest marine sanctuaries. It is a popular swimming, scuba, kayaking and snorkeling site. Visibility range fro 80 to 100 feet. South of Kailua-Kona on Hwy. 11 to Napoopo Road. For guided snorkel tours, see the references later in this section, or check our website for contact information to schedule.

1024px-PuuhonuaEntranceCITY OF REFUGE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK   Further South on Hwy 11 to Route 160 at mile marker 104. Pu’uhonua o Honaunau is the City of Refuge Historical Park. This area once offered a safe harbor to defeated warriors, taboo breakers and victims of war who had to swim across a shark infested bay to the compound where they were granted sanctuary. There are temples that hold the bones of Hawaiian royalty dating back to the mid-6th century.

 swimming-with-wild-dolphinsWILD DOLPHIN SWIMS This is about as far away from the commercial tours as possible! Take a comfortable boat ride along the coast and meet up with between 100-200 Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins…any day of the year. Snorkel with the wild dolphins in their natural habitat and be ready for a life-changing experience! The tours are every morning for 4 hours, (9am-1pm). See the references later in this section, or check our website for contact information to schedule a wild dolphin swim.

DEEP SEA/SPORT FISHING When you book your Charter, be sure to specify what type of fishing you want to do. Kona holds more records for Blue Marlin than any other place in the world and is the marlin capital of the world, but it has even more to offer with Sailfish, Ahi (yellowfin tuna), Mahi mahi (dorado), Spearfish, and Ono (wahoo). Most charters are found at Honokohau Marina, south of the Airport and we recommend you go to the Marina and check out your options. See the references later in this section, or check our website for contact information to schedule a fishing expedition.

Manta Ray diveSNORKEL, SCUBA CRUISES Only the tip of Mauna Kea, the world’s largest active volcano is visible above sea level. The rest of its great bulk, it measures 32,000 feet from the ocean floor and 13,796 feet above sea level, lies fathoms below the ocean in a scuba divers’ fantasy of lava flows, submerged caves, canyons, cliffs and colorful coral reefs teeming with wildly colored sea life. The ocean is typically calm, the weather sunny, and visibility generally in the 100 foot range. Add to that, scores of great diving spots along the Kona/Kohala coast and a variety of Big Island Dive Companies to choose from. See the references later in this section, or check our website for contact information to schedule a dive, snorkel, or cruise.

ZIPLINE  (see zipline article for more info)

Zipline Canopy Tours……………………………………… 889-5111

HIKING Hawaii Forest and Trail………………………331-8505

Hawaiian Walkways………………………………………. 775-0372

Hawaii Division of Forestry/Wildlife…………………… 974-4221

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park ………………………… 985-6000

BIKING

Big Island Motorcycle Co. …………………… 886-2011

Cycle Kona…………………………………………………… 327-0087

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The Many Faces of The Big Island – Eleven Climates in 190 Miles!

Pristine beachThe Big Island of Hawaii  is full of rich superlatives, from the tallest mountain in the world (Mauna Kea, at 33,000 feet from its toes on the ocean floor  to tip) to the world’s most active volcano, and much more.  Notable is the fact that of the planet’s thirteen climate zones, The Big Island of Hawaii sports eleven!  In order to experience all eleven climate zones anywhere else in the world, you’d have to travel from Alaska to Costa Rica, over 4,800 miles.  On the Big Island, you can do the whole trip in 190 miles and one spectacular day!

Lava takes many fascinating forms...can you see a rooster in this one?

Lava takes many fascinating forms…can you see a rooster in this one? Look for this proud fellow on the drive into Mauna Lani Resort.

You’ve heard of storm chasers?  Here you can do a “climate-chaser” tour.  Beginning on the South Kohala Coast, at Waikoloa or Mauna Lani, you’ll drive clockwise around the island.  While the resorts are stunning oases in themselves, you may have noticed that the surrounding area is desert-like, stark, dry, arid, averaging 84 degrees and only 8 inches of rain per year.

Hills of WaimeaDuring your next two-hours, you’ll pass through the velvet green hills of Waimea, Paniolo country, land of cowboys and ranching, which averages 60 inches of rain with temperatures ranging from 50 to 85 degrees — and on through deep, stunning gorges into tropical rainforests dotted with waterfalls just outside of Hilo.  You can stop at Akaka Falls, and Laupehoehoe, as well as the Botanical Gardens, a lush rain forest preserve with tropical vegetation to live for!  DO stop by to visit the parrots, and be careful what you say, they will laugh at you!  The orchids there are also well worth the time spent to enjoy.

Akaka Falls

Akaka Falls

Hilo is a modest town, the most densley populated on the island, and is usually soggy with an average 115 inches of rain per year.  If you DO happen to hit Hilo on a sunny day, you’ll find it to be one of the most beautiful places on the island.

Hilo is home to the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, ʻImiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaiʻi, as well as the Merrie Monarch Festival, a week-long celebration of ancient and modern  hula which takes place annually after Easter. Hilo is also home to the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation, one of the world’s leading producers of macadamia nuts.

Molten lava at Volcanos National Part

Molten lava at Volcanos National Park

Your next destination would be Volcanoes National Park, at 4,000 feet elevation, with temperatures ranging from 48 to 73 degrees, and rainfall from a mere 10 inches to more than 100 inches, all within the bounds of the park!  Not to mention the liquid molten lava pouring into the steamy sea.  If you’re on a full-day adventure, don’t miss the videos at the Visitor’s Center.  Twenty minutes, and free, they are not to be missed!

coffee loveLeaving the Volcano, you will enter a warmer, tropical climate, one of the most unique climate zones in all of Hawaii – Kona Coffee Country!  Not to mention vanilla and chocolate. The Island of Hawaii is the only place in the United states to grow all three of these delectables.   What more could you want?  All the best food groups grown on one island!   In Hilo, be sure to drop by Sharkey’s  for delectable tastes of all three, grown by Sharkey himself!

Mauna Kea Observatory

Mauna Kea Observatory

And now for the other-worldly part – who would believe that you would need snow parkas, hats and gloves in Hawaii?!  You certainly will, especially in the winter months on the peak of Mauna Kea, where we just spotted this year’s first dusting of snow.  At a little more than 13,000 feet above sea level, Mauna Kea Summit offers a magnificent view of the surroundings areas from the mountain to the ocean.

Silver SwordLook for the looking frosty silver leaves of the rare Silver Sword plant in the setting sun.  There are quite a few at the heiau behind the Visitor’s Center.  You WILL want to stop at the VC on your way to the top to make a pit stop, give yourself a few minutes to aclimate to the high altitude, and maybe visit the heiau.

Lake_Waiau_outlet2If you can get there early enough, you could even hike to Lake Waiau, the permafrost lake atop Mauna Kea.   If you do take this hike, please educate yourself as to the sacred nature of this site, and approach with the reverence  you would afford any other holy place.    The entire Mauna a Wa Kea is held in utmost reverence by the Hawaiian people, and they can only hope that visitors proceed with respect.

Click this photo for more spectacular images taken by Richard Wainscoat

Click this photo for more spectacular images taken by Richard Wainscoat

Sunsets and sunrise are both spectacular from the mountain peak, and one can stand there for just about as long as it takes the sun to go down before hopping in the car and wheeling down to the visitor’s center for hot chocolate and star gazing.  Ask the attendants, and they will show you how to take a picture of what they find in the telescopes.  It’s the perfect ending to a perfect day, and where else could you say you had visited eleven climates in one day?

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Suggested Day Tour of the Fabulous Kohala Coast

polulu-valleyThe Big Island isn’t called ‘big’  for nothing, and it takes some planning to cover all the highlights on a vacation stay.  Be sure to take along your copy of Hawaii, The Big Island Revealed*, and set out for a day trip to the beautiful Kohala Coast.  (*A note about this book; please be aware of property lines and private access which are sometimes disregarded in this guide.  Showing respect for the sacred sites, homes and property of the Hawaiian people is of utmost importance for the best experience for all…just sayin’.)

Watch this blog in the next few whiles for subsequent posts to explore further suggestions for day trips.  You begin your tour of the fabulous Kohala coast by driving north on Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway (Hwy 19) along the base of Mt. Hualalai.  After heading 33 miles north of Kailua-Kona, you’ll come to a split in the road – turn left on to Route 270 towards Kawaihae Harbor.

Your first stop, Pu’ukohola National Historic Site, includes three heiaus, ancient platforms used for worship and sacrifices.  With hopes of conquering all of the island, King Kamehameha I heeded the advice of a prophet, built a heiau atop Pu’ukohola (Hill of the Whale), sacrificed his closest rival there, and then waited for the materialization of is dreams of island domination.  Two decades later, the prophecy came true.  Visitors to the site can also view two other heiaus built around 1550, Pu’ukohola Heiau and Mailekini Heiau, located a short walk from the visitor center.

Also of note at this site is Spencer Beach, one of the northernmost sandy beaches on Hawaii Island.  From here, the coast becomes increasingly rocky as one heads up to Upolu Point and the northernmost tip of the Big Island.  This is a “locals” beach, and is quite busy on the weekends, with safe entry into the ocean, picnic areas, and public restrooms.

Continuing north on Highway 270, lava rocks litter the coastal plains.  In the winter and spring months, you might be lucky to spot a whale as you gaze out at the sweeping coastline.

At Lapakahi State Historical Park, located eight miles north, a one-mile trail meanders through the site of the one-time flourishing fishing village, Koai’e.  The ruins of the 15th century fishing village are worth a look.  Though swimming is discouraged due to the sacred nature of the site, snorkeling is oddly accepted, and thankfully so.  However, do be warned that besides sharp coral, sea urchins, octopus and eel are plentiful in these waters, and unless the waters are glass-like calm, snorkeling is NOT advised.

Back on the highway, head past (or stop, as you choose) Mahukona Beach Park and Kapa’a Beach Park, keeping your eyes peeled for a sign to the now defunct Upolu Airport.  A turn down this paved road leads to a 11/2 mile dirt lane, the only route to eerie Mo’okini Heiau, the ancient site of numerous human sacrifices.  A short walk from the heiau is King Kamehameha I’s birthplace.

Weary from a morning spent entrenched in the past, you will find the old sugar-plantation villages of Hawi and Kapa’au especially cheery.  These neighboring towns once featured hotels, saloons, theaters, and even a railroad.  Neither town has retained that wildness, but both villages are blossoming again with the restoration of several historic buildings, as well as the growing popularity of the zip line and Kohala ditch tours.  Locals and visitors alike enjoy browsing the shops and eateries of Hawi, especially the enticing gem and mineral stores and the Bamboo Restaurant and Gallery, topping it off with a treat from the Tropical Dreams ice cream shop!

king-kamehameha-KohalaOn the way out of town, pay a visit to the legendary statue of King Kamehameha in front of the old Kohala Courthouse.

If you want to go the distance of this tour, continue east on Highway 270 to the Pololu Valley Overlook.  A rugged, steep hiking trail leads into this green valley and down to Pololu Beach, which edges an imposing coastline ribboned by waterfalls.

Several tour companies run mule, kayak, and hiking tours of the valley, the site of the successful irrigation project which brought water to the area’s sugar plantations.

After heading back to Hawi, turn on to Highway 250, for a scenic drive of sweeping vistas overlooking the Kohala valley, reaching off to the ocean.  When you reach the end of the mountain road, bear left, and head east again into Waimea, a town boasting a paniolo cowboy heritage.  In Waimea, you will find little nooks and crannies of shops, like the Parker Square shopping center with a tiny little bookstore, general store, and Waimea Coffee Company, as well as other shops and A Gallery of Great Things.  Also check out Parker Ranch Visitor Center and Museum in the Foodland shopping center, down the way from Starbuck’s.

Before heading back to the resort area, be sure to cozy into a nice meal at one of several restaurants in Waimea.  See a list under the Dining section of our website.

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Navigating the Universe from Mauna Kea – Sense and Sensitivity

Keola Magazine bannerAnother info-packed article from Ke Ola Magazine.  Marya Mann shares her insights and information on our beloved Mauna Kea, and takes us along on a guided tour to the Keck Observatory atop Mauna Kea.  Reprinted here with permission of Ke Ola Magazine.

ke-ola-magazine-mauna-kea-aOn the astronomical clock, our sun isn’t very old. Estimated by scientists to be 4.5 billion years young, the mighty sun helped spawn the early Earth. Out of light, action and inter-planetary collisions – or collaborations — the natural world we live in now, our age of flowering plants and pollinating insects, arrived an astronomical minute or so later, 100 million years ago.

A mere one million years ago, Mauna Kea emerged as a fiery volcano from the ocean floor to become today’s snowy peak, the tallest summit in Hawai’i. Larger than Mount Everest when measured from seabed to its peak, Mauna Kea’s last eruption was 3500 years ago.

Today, alpine snows, billowy clouds, and pale mists interweave with the land to remind us of the power of nature to create symmetry, excitement and new vistas. Rising in surreal contours, touching the heavens, Mauna Kea can be seen from all sides of the island. As a well-cut diamond has many facets, Mauna Kea reflects different perspectives and colors of light in each facet, revealing many shades in a range of human endeavor. According to native Hawaiians, everything comes from the white-capped shrine, the piko, the center.

According to native Hawaiians, everything comes from the white-capped shrine, the piko, the center.

Revered as an abode of peace in ancient Hawaiian chants and a temple for cultural practitioners [See “Pilgrimage to the Sky, “ p. 21] legend has it that ancient Polynesian navigators looked upon Mauna Kea as a beacon guiding their voyages of discovery.

Today, Mauna Kea beckons us again. An ecological miracle to conservationists who see in the symbiotic partnerships of 3,000 remaining palila birds living among māmane trees on the mountain’s southern and western slopes, the mountain guides us toward unusual adaptations and alliances.

To a growing number of scientists, tourists, educators and union workers, Mauna Kea is the best spot on Earth to view the rivers of stars, the heavens of exo-planets that saturate the firmament. Everyone who pauses, listens and sees has to appreciate that we are hearing and viewing an interstellar dance, a song of vibration, rhythm and beauty, a singular point in perspective in the evolving cosmos.

Mauna Kea, because of her 320 cloudless nights each year, low water vapor in the atmosphere, and an altitude of 13,796 ft. above sea level, is renowned around the world as the premier spot to view the heavens. An array of world-class astronomical
observatories form a 21st century Stonehenge, the Mauna Kea
Observatory Complex, several hundred feet below the summit cone, Pu’u Wēkiu.

Driving from Kona, your ears pop as you pass the Girl Scout Camp, the Pōhakuloa Army Training Area, traversing the dry scrub landscape of Saddle Road, dotted with golden green towers of mullein and sprays of red ti leaf shooting up like sudden fire. Linking east and west, Hilo and Kona, Saddle Road connects the two sides of the island like a corpus collosum, weaving two sides of our island brain.

At the 27.9 mile marker, opposite Pu’u Huluhulu, a Hawaiian shrine holds offerings proffered for the safe passage of all who ascend to the summit. You turn north onto the Mauna Kea Road.

Pu’u – cinder cones – protrude like fern-forested bubbles in the landscape as you drive higher, rising above the dry forests of naio trees and the rainforests of koa and ‘ōhia lehua, entering into the subalpine silversword zone. You are climbing the tallest mountain on Earth. Ancient Hawaiians living on these slopes hunted forests for food and quarried the dense basalt flakes for tool-making. When Europeans arrived in the late 18th century, settlers introduced cattle, sheep and game animals, many of which damaged the ecology.

Ascending the summit of Mauna Kea takes one closer to the spiritual and the supernatural realms, and because of the extreme altitude of Mauna Kea, it takes one closer to an appreciation for oxygen. Everyone must acclimatize to the atmosphere. Astronomers, guests, tourists, technicians, commercial tour guides and families of four, if you’re driving up for the day, it’s  strongly encouraged to spend at least a half hour at the Visitor Information Station (VIS) before ascending to the summit.

On today’s tour, I’m joining backpackers, vacationers from Iowa, and two Kainaliu massage therapists who join student volunteers, staff and a ranger or two who will lead our summit escort.   Like acolytes, we follow the educators and astronomers that have a passion for sharing their passion for the stars.  Among them are John, an astronomy professor from Wesleyan University, and Kim, a graduate of UH-Hilo’s Astronomy Program.

Someone informs us that Mauna Kea has entered old age, its last major eruption being 4,000 – 6,000 years ago.

“Okay, everybody. We’re going to follow the leader here,” says John. “There should be no one under 16, no one pregnant, no one who has scuba dived in the last 24 hours.” John has spent the past 11 summers coming to the Big Island as a volunteer tour leader. “We will stay in radio contact at all times. It’s steep up there. You may be very afraid. The roads are narrow.”

We line up the nine four-wheel-drive vehicles and caravan up, voyagers in first gear on the road to new frontiers in science and discovery. We pass through the Mauna Kea Ice Age Natural Area reserve. At its peak 500,000 years ago, Mauna Kea was thought to stand 17,000 feet above sea level. It is the only Hawaiian volcano with distinct evidence of at least three glaciers in the last 180,000 years, which, despite our tropical climate, sculpted the mountain, carving scree slopes and depositing moraines on their
downhill slides.

Behind the Visitor’s Center is a Swiss chalet-looking facility, with room for 72 people to live, eat and work at the summit, where astronomers live for weeks and months at a time. Trucks with snow blades, electrical grids and other support buildings make it appear like a quaint European village plopped down in the equatorial tropics.

The dust cloud ahead where four-wheel drive cars and trucks bounce over 4.6 miles of jagged unpaved roadway, appears to be growing.

A circular ring of glacial till, veined with red and rust-colored minerals like iron basalt, supports a spiral of telescopes on Mauna Kea that include high-tech marvels like the 15-meter James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT). It captures radio images allowing scientists to look through cosmic clouds and watch stars being born.

There’s the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO), and the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT), which maps low-mass stars known as T dwarfs, explores galaxy clusters, and finds “hot Jupiters” orbiting other stars in the dry, dark nights. From their 14,000-foot perch, they produce 100s of gigabytes of data channeled through computers and into university labs, astronomy departments and research facilities all over the world via the Internet.

NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) supports space missions and monitors objects in our solar system, tracks volcanic activity on Io — a large moon of Jupiter — maps water and methane in the atmosphere of Mars, and measures asteroid and comet composition.

While John expounds on the mirrored hexagonal segments raised on platforms around the main mirror, I’m looking for clues to answer questions about how our universe evolved, and Keck I is the place to look.

The Keck I has confirmed the discovery of more extra-solar planets than any other ground-based telescope on Earth,” according to Leslie Lang and David Byrne in the Mauna Kea Handbook.

Here on top of Mauna Kea, we step out of our trucks and are ushered inside the visitors’ observation cage. A chilly, temperature-controlled dome houses each of the 10-meter telescopes. At 300 tons each, they require 101-ft. tall domes to protect them. Each telescope is comprised of 36 hexagonal mirrors that analyze incoming photons, which are processed and sent to the main headquarters in Waimea and distributed world-wide
almost instantaneously.

Keck astronomers are right now scrambling to ask questions that can’t be answered at any other terrestrial telescope in the world. What might a once-in-a-lifetime stellar explosion unfolding in a neighboring galaxy mean for Earth? Do other planets in the universe show chemical signatures of life?

The Keck Twins have 10-meter viewing surfaces, which is simplistic since sometimes they use interferometry to bring the two telescopes to work together, and the angular resolution has the power of a much larger telescope. To compare size-wise, the Hubble Space Telescope is a 2.4 meter (7.9 ft) mirror, similar in size to the UH88, now the second smallest telescope on Mauna Kea.

The proposed Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) will be 30 meters, almost 100 feet in diameter.

The Mauna Kea Handbook states: “Notice the Hawaiian kuahu lele (altar) on the nearby geographical summit to the east. In recent years some Hawaiians constructed it as an expression of their reverence for the summit and the mountain. You can show your respect for Hawaiian culture by not hiking to this sacred place.”

Night viewing at the Onizuka Visitor’s Center, at 6 or 7 p.m., when volunteers pull out the barrel telescopes and aim six or so telescopes at the sky, highlights an already stellar day. On the observation patio, a 16” Schmidt-Cassegrain attracts 40 or so people eager to view the ocean of stars sparkling overhead.

Interpretive guides, astronomy students and University of Hawai‘i volunteers help us find celestial bodies. Here are rivers of heaven, pouring their lighted essence through time toward us, bringing us light from the past, light which has travelled to us from 14 billion light years away. The light is somewhere around 14 billion years old.

In 1968, the Hawai‘i State Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) granted a 65-year lease to the University of Hawai’i on an 11,288-acre area of the mountain summit, which became known as the Mauna Kea Science Reserve. The agreed rental fee to be paid to the state of Hawai‘i? ~ $1 per year.

Two 0.6-meter telescopes were planted near the summit by the U .S. Air Force and NASA, and the UH 2.2-meter telescope followed, producing sharp new portraits of our solar system. Three more telescopes were erected in 1970, and the race was on to build more astronomical supersight atop Mauna Kea.

Officially, there were supposed to be 13 telescopes on the mountain. Today the Mauna Kea Science Reserve has 13 observation facilities, each with one or multiple telescopes, funded by as many as 11 countries. It is the largest such complex in the world. Nine telescopes work in the visible and infrared spectrum, three in the submillimeter spectrum, and one in the radio spectrum.

Confusion over the number of telescopes goes back to when “telescopes had an impact area of one acre and would only be five stories tall,” says Pat Wright, long-time observer of Mauna Kea and owner of Mauna Kea Summit Adventures. “Back in the day, the locals, the bureau (BLNR) said ‘we can limit it to 13 kinds of telescopes like that: one acre each. We can live with that. Thirteen one-acre telescopes.’ Because it was the only kind of telescope anyone knew of at the time,” says Mr. Wright.

Now, the TMT Observatory Corporation has chosen Mauna Kea as the preferred site for its $1.3 billion Thirty Meter Telescope, a quantum leap in telescope design, which would leave a five-acre footprint in the fragile alpine summit zone.

With a primary mirror of nearly 100 feet in diameter, with nine times the light-gathering capacity of today’s best telescopes, the TMT has been approved by the Office of Mauna Kea Management (OMKM) and the BLNR for construction within the Mauna Kea Science Reserve at the 13,150’ elevation on the northern slope of Mauna Kea, an area leased by UH until 2033.

The TMT and associated support structures will make a 5-to-8-acre footprint on the mountain. That’s one telescope eight times the size of the first telescopes allowed. Despite the involvement of multi-billion dollar astronomical corporations, and despite laws requiring fair-market rents for the use of Hawai‘i mountaintops, all these facilities continue to be charged only $1 per year.

In return, the OMKM, University of Hawai‘i, and Joint Astronomy Center offer free escorted tours, a humble but ambitious visitor information center, and nighttime viewing for the amateur astronomer, assisted by volunteers, Hawaiian cultural specialists, and guests from the island and all around the world.

This is a key period in the evolution of our universe. Dramatic increases in the discovery of stellar nurseries and new and old galaxies in the last decade — since 2002 when an Advanced Camera was installed in Hubble — have fueled the race to learn more about the stars.

Proponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) believe its powerful adaptive optics will play a decisive role in helping us understand more about how young galaxies are formed and how stars influence the universe.

But its location on Mauna Kea, the five-acre footprint on the northern plateau, irreversible damage to the peaceful mountain, have many up in arms. Before snooping around the universe with big telescopes that can kill everything on the ground, they say, we ought to scientifically weigh the relative significance of scientific research, economic, cultural and religious freedoms as well as the wisdom of biological diversity.

TMT Project Manager Gary Sanders claims their Conservation District Use Application and Environmental Impact Assessment answer every legal, economic, environmental, spiritual, visual, financial and cultural question about impacts to Hawai’i Island and that they have funding to move forward.

A contested case hearing with judge Paul Aoki is expected to yield a decision regarding the TMT in February, 2012. After weighing the concerns from both TMT, the University of Hawai‘i and those objecting to the TMT project, he will issue a recommendation on the telescope. The land board has the option of accepting or rejecting Aoki’s recommendation and may reverse its approval of the TMT permit.

The telescope’s original cost was estimated in 2009 to be $970 million, according to Peter Sur of Stephens Media. Now, with a price tag of $1.3 billion, more than $130 million has already been spent on design and “shifting of mindsets (to) create positive enthusiasm” in affected communities.

Listen to Mauna Kea, say the kupuna, where we all must stand together if we are to whole-heartedly and enthusiastically reach for the stars.

Resources:

Visitor Information Station:

808.961.2180
www.ifa.hawaii.edu/info/vis

Mauna Kea Weather: Recorded road conditions:  808.935.6268      http://mkwc.ifa.hawaii.edu

Office of Mauna Kea Management (OMKM): www.malamamaunakea.org

Institute for Astronomy: www.ifa.hawaii.edu                     

Reach Pat Wright at Mauna Kea Summit Adventures www.maunakea.com

Posted in Big Island Activities, Farmer's Markets, Nature Photography, Sacred Sites | Leave a comment

Guided Photographer’s Hike on the Big Island

sunset-spray-8-x123Experience a once-in-a-lifetime photography opportunity that will boost your photographic endeavors and efforts, increase your photo awareness, and give you the chance to shoot some of the most beautiful landscapes in Hawaii.

Imagine, being individually guided from one magnificent image potential to another, all the while receiving in-depth photo instruction and learning “pro tricks of the trade.” Along with this, you will go to places for image-making that only a resident here on the island would know-regarding where and best time of day to shoot, and you will learn about Hawaiian history, magic, and mystery, if you are interested.

If you are unable to join one of our many inspiring photo workshops, we offer a photo guide service, custom tailored to meet your needs-be it one, two, or three days, as you like.

As a resident of the big island, I strongly suggest that people new to the islands and photo enthusiasts start here, it is so large that all the other Hawaiian islands fit into its land mass, and therefore, has such a tremendous and diverse range of photographic possibilities.

Photo instruction is based on Robert’s 25 years of photo experience and the “Photographing Nature in Hawaii: Capturing the Beauty and Spirit of the Islands” book by Island Heritage Publishing. You will benefit from direct knowledge and a hands-on in the field experience.

If you are at all interested in pursuing this opportunity, let us know when you would like to be out exploring, discovering, and capturing the beauty of Hawaii, and we can discuss the details and costs.

Light of Aloha One-Day Photo Adventure Special
Light of Aloha Photo Tours offers a one-day photo adventure special for those visiting the island for a short time. Destinations include

  • Waipio Valley Overlook,
  • Hamakua Coast Waterfalls, or
  • Kiholo Bay.

Cost: $345.00 for 6 hours

All other islands:

Cost: $545.00 for 6 hours for first day due to flight and car rental costs.

$345.00 or “discounted” days for 2 or more days.

For all Islands:

Family, and Multiple Day Discounts, Multiple Registration Discounts.

Kama’aina Rates Available-Please Inquire

Robert Frutos is a professional nature photographer with publications in many magazines, calendars, books, and greeting cards. Publications include the Sierra Club, the Yoga Journal and a monthly featured article entitled: “How to Photograph Nature” for Sierra Heritage Magazine. Robert has had numerous gallery showings and is represented by the Michael Thompson Gallery in San Francisco, CA.  Most of the photography on this site are used with Robert’s permission.

Robert has developed and markets the inspirational Light of Aloha Greeting Cards and travel extensively in the U.S. conducting workshops in nature photography, the arts and creativity. Their beautifully creative photography book entitled “Photographing Nature in Hawaii: Capturing the Beauty and Spirit of the Islands” is now available for purchase. Please contact for more information.

How to Register
Tour and Guide services are kept small in number to ensure maximum benefits for each participant. So make sure to make your reservations early and secure a place. To register or for more information, click HERE

Posted in Big Island Activities, Nature Photography | Tagged , | Leave a comment