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8 July 1995 Journal Entry DEAR ALL,




Sorry about the weird tabbing. If it doesn't fit in one screen on pine or you mailer, suggest saving it to a file. Enjoy...

Tuesday 13 June

Flight from London to LA to Honolulu via United Airlines July 1994 I got to see the bf (Martin) at the stop-over in LA but only for a few minutes since the airport personnel gave him the wrong terminal and he waited in the wrong place for two hours!!!! I thought he had stood me up, but he came through! It was very nice...not having seen him for what was it now...11 months???, made it like a first meeting. I was certainly a wreck though, the flight from London being 11.5 hrs NON-STOP, after a 2 hour coach ride from Cambridge. The next hop, LA to Hawai'i is 5.5 hours flight.

Arrived in Honolulu that evening, quite knackered. And, to top it off, they lost my luggage. In a sense it was good luck, for I could take the bus to my hotel costing $0.85 instead of taking a taxi (cost $20-25). The former has a restriction on luggage, and well, now, being without any, I could opt for a scenic trip at a minimal cost. I just wish I was not so jet-lagged. Also, the temperature (at evening time) was 70s-80sF, and I was in long pants, a jumper, wool socks and carrying my winter coat, for when I left England it was in the low 40sF. Did I get strange looks in the airport! :) But, let me tell you, it was well worth it, for I needed that winter coat and wool socks atop the summit of Mauna Kea (14,000ft) the coming days.

Wednesday 14 June

Stayed in Waikiki Beach. Visited University of Hawai'i at Manoa. Something that I shall never do again is to schedule a 9am meeting on the day following a flight from London to Hawai'i. :) But, I did make my appointment on time, albeit stifling a yawn or two. I met up with the infrared instrumentation group at UofH and spoke with them about the latest HAWAII arrays, 1024 square NICMOS arrays. They were in the middle of performing tests on KSPEC-2, a K band spectrometer, version 2, which utilizes a 256 square NICMOS-3 array for imaging and a 1024 square array for the spectragraph. They were testing several ways to get around the ever-present and annoying "amplifier glow" which exists in all NICMOS devices, but is especially harmful to sensitivity in the latest thousand square devices. They had been also experiencing cross talk and were looking into ways to eradicating it.

Thursday 15 June

Visited UofH. I still was finding it strange walking along the "streets of paradise," with palm trees, the bluest skies you ever did see, powerful surf, and sand. There also seemed to be a number of US service men and women there. Not that I am complaining because I just "love" a man in uniform :). On a more serious note, I got a chance to see inside the dewar of KSPEC-2 and learned some useful tidbits about cryostat design and infrared arrays. And I finally was getting round the jet-lag.

Friday 16 June

Flight to Hilo. Checked in at JAC (Joint Astronomy Centre). Helped Roger Haynes (U of Durham student) with alignment tests on SMIRFS (Spectroscopic Multi-Object InfraRed Fibre System), a fibre coupler to an existing infrared spectragraph at UKIRT (United Kingdom InfraRed Telescope)

Saturday 17 June

Drove up to Hale Pohaku ("House of Stone," HP), elevation 10,000ft, the highest they dare put us astronomers for sleeping. The road to HP was incredible! It was lined on both sides with lava fields. The devastation images I saw were quite powerful. Never underestimate the power of Mother Earth! We climatized all day, after exploring the cindercones in the area.


The lava along both sides of the road is old as you approach Mauna Kea ("White Mountain"). The lowlands are covered with grass, ferns, small trees, and mossy rocks. Twenty-seven miles out of Hilo, a clearly marked road to your right leads to the summit of 13,796-foot Mauna Kea. A sign warns you that this road is rough, unpaved, and narrow, with no water, food, fuel, restrooms, or shelters. Moreover, you can expect winds, rain, fog, hail, snow, and altitude sickness. Intrigued? Proceed: it's not as bad as it sounds. A 4WD vehicle is highly advised, and if there's snow it's impossible without one. A normal rental car isn't powerful enough, mainly because you're gaining more than 8,000 feet of elevation in 15 miles, which plays havoc with carburetors. But the real problem is coming down. For a small car with not very good gearing you're going to be riding your brakes for 15 miles. If they fail, you'll stand a very good chance of becoming a resident spirit of the mountain!

/* Yeah, we had one of those Bronco Jeep Trucks */

Four miles up you pass Hale Pohaku ("House of Stone"), which looks like a ski resort; many of the scientists from the observatory atop the mountain live here.

/* My first impression as well, I felt as if I were at a mountain resort! */

A sign says that you need a permit from the Department of Land and Natural Resources (in Hilo) and a 4WD vehicle to proceed. Actually, the road is graded, banked, and well maintained, with the upper four miles paved so that dust is kept to a minimum to protect the sensitive "eyes" of the telescopes. As you climb, you pass through the clouds to a barren world devoid of vegetation. The earth is a red, rolling series of volcanic cones. You get an incredible vista of Mauna Loa peeking through the clouds and what seems like the entire island lying at your feet. In the distance the lights of Maui flicker. Lake Waiau, which unbelievably translates as "Swim Water," is almost at the top at 13,020 feet, making it the third-highest lake in the U.S. If the vistas aren't enough, bring a kite along and watch it soar in the winds of the earth's upper atmosphere. Off to your right is Puu Kahinahina, a small hill whose name means "hill of the silver sword." It's one of the only places on the Big Island where you'll see this very rare plant. The mountaintop was at one time federal land, and funds were made available to eradicate feral goats, one of the worst destroyers of the silver sword and many other native Hawaiian plants.

/* On all trips to the summit, we had to have the windows closed. Mauna Kea The dust is everywhere!!! */

/* HP is at the elevation where most of the clouds are. As I climbed the cindercones above HP, I climbed above the clouds! What a rush to be above the clouds!!! */

/* Mauna Loa was to the South, looking quiet, although it is still active. The active East Zone was on the side of Mauna Loa not visible from Mauna Kea */

Mauna Kea is the only spot in the tropical Pacific that was glaciated. The entire summit of the mountain was covered in 500 feet of ice. Toward the summit, you may notice piles of rock which are the terminal moraine of these ancient glaciers. The snows atop Mauna Kea are unpredictable. Some years it is merely a dusting, while in other years, as in 1982, there was enough snow to ski from late November to late July. The ski run comes all the way down from the summit, giving you about a four-mile trail.

/* No snows the time I was out there */

Here and there around the summit are small caves, remnants of ancient quarries where Hawaiians came to dig a special kind of fired rock that is the hardest in all Hawaii. They hauled roughed-out tools down to the lowlands, where they refined them into excellent implements that became coveted trade items.

/* We passed by some of these on the road to HP */

A natural phenomenon is the strange thermal properties manifested by the cinder cones that dot the top of the mountain. Only 10 feet or so under their surface is permafrost which dates back 10,000 years to the Pleistocene Epoch. If you drill into the cones for only 10-20 feet and put a pipe in, during daylight hours air will be sucked into the pipe. At night, warm air comes out of the pipe with sufficient force to keep a hat levitating.

/* Sounds like an interesting thing to see. Climbed all over the cones, but didn't see anything as described here. */

Evening brings an incredibly clean and cool breeze that flows down the mountain. The Hawaiians called it the Keihau Wind, whose source, according to ancient legend, is the burning heart of the mountain. To the Hawaiians, this inspiring heavenly summit was the home of Poliahu, The Goddess of Snow and Ice, who vied with the fiery Pele across the way on Mauna Loa for the love of a man. He could throw himself into the never-ending embrace of a mythical ice queen, or of a red-hot mama. Tough choice, poor fellow!

/* The breezes were quite nice! One of the best things about being on Mauna Kea */

From loa
The Mountains

The tremendous volcanic peak of Mauna Kea ("White Mountain"), located in north-central Hawaii, has been extinct for over 4,000 years. Its seasonal snowcap earns Mauna Kea its name and reputation as a good skiing area in winter. Over 18,000 feet of mountain below the surface rises straight up from the ocean floor-making Mauna Kea actually 31,796 feet tall, a substantial 2,768 feet taller than Mt. Everest; some consider it the tallest mountain in the world. At 13,796 feet above sea level, it is without doubt the tallest peak in the Pacific. Near its top, at 13,020 feet, is Lake Waiau, the highest lake in the state and third highest in the country. Mauna Kea was obviously a sacred mountain to the Hawaiians, and its white dome was a welcome beacon to seafarers. On its slope is the largest adze quarry in Polynesia, from which high-quality basalt was taken to be fashioned into prized tools. The atmosphere atop the mountain, which sits mid-Pacific far from pollutants, is the most rarefied and cleanest on earth. The clarity makes Mauna Kea a natural for astronomical observatories. The complex of telescopes on its summit is internationally staffed and provides data to scientists around the world.

/* Mauna Kea: one MASSIVE mountain, eh? */

/* I didn't see the lake mentioned above */

/* Mauna Kea certainly is the BEST place to do infrared astronomy!! */

The Kohala Mountains to the northwest are the oldest. This section looks more like the other Hawaiian islands, with deep gorges and valleys along the coast and a forested interior. As you head east toward Waimea from Kawaihae on Route 19, for every mile that you travel you pick up about 10 inches of rainfall per year. This becomes obvious as you begin to pass little streams and rivulets running from the mountains.

Mount Hualalai at 8,271 feet is the backdrop to Kailua-Kona. It's home to many of the Big Island's endangered birds and supports many of the region's newest housing developments. Just a few years ago, Mt. Hualalai was thought to be extinct, since the last time it erupted was in 1801. Recently, volcanologists using infrared technology have discovered the mountain to be red-hot again. The U.S. Geological Survey has listed this sleeper as the fourth most dangerous volcano in the U.S., because when it does erupt, it's expected to produce a tremendous amount of lava that will pour rapidly down its steep sides. The scientists, whose opinion is seconded by local Hawaiians, say that the mountain will blow within the next 10 years. The housing developers don't say anything.

/* Well, anyone planning some tropical paradise home away from home, don't build here! :) */

Even though Mauna Loa ("Long Mountain") measures a respectable 13,677 feet, its height isn't its claim to fame. This active volcano, 60 miles long by 30 wide, is comprised of 10,000 cubic miles of iron-hard lava, making it the densest and most massive mountain on earth. In 1950, a tremendous lava flow belched from Mauna Loa's summit, reaching an astonishing rate of 6,750,000 cubic yards per hour. Seven lava rivers flowed for 23 days, emitting over 600 million cubic yards of lava that covered 35 square miles. There were no injuries, but the villages of Kaapuna and Honokua were partially destroyed along with the Magoo Ranch.

/* Mauna Loa is a "shield volcano," as is most of the Big Island's peaks, shaped like a warrior's shield, gently sloping to one side */ /* The lava flow of 1950 went close to Hilo and caused most of the lava fields we drove through on the road to Hale Pohaku */

Kilauea, whose pragmatic name means "The Spewing," is the world's most active volcano. In the last hundred years, it has erupted on the average once every 11 months. The Hawaiians believed that the goddess Pele inhabited every volcano in the Hawaiian chain, and that her home is now Halemaumau Crater in Kilauea Caldera. Kilauea is the most scientifically watched volcano in the world, with a permanent observatory built right into the crater rim. When it erupts, the flows are so predictable that observers run toward the mountain, not away from it! The flows, however, can burst from fissures far from the center of the crater in areas that don't seem "active." This occurs mainly in the Puna District. In 1959, Kilauea Iki Crater came to life after 91 years, and although the flow wasn't as massive as others, it did send blazing fountains of lava 1,900 feet into the air. Kilauea has been very active within the last few years, with eruptions occurring at least once a month and expected to continue. Most activity has been from a yet unnamed vent below Pu'uo. You might be lucky enough to see this phenomenon while visiting.

/* Saw all the ways that scientists use to predict eruptions such as rise of the crater floors, tilts in land profiles, and steam vents */

Sunday 18 June

Met up with Ray Sharples (Prof at U of Durham) at HP Drove up to the summit of Mauna Kea ("White Mountain") to check out facilities that night. The weather was extremely clear, and I got to see once again that magestic Milky Way, with the naked eye. And to top it off, since Hawai'i is around the 20deg latitude, I got my very first glimpse of a constellation from the Southern Hemisphere, the Southern Cross. Amazing! Jupiter was in the Scorpion and I could see the whole constellation right down the the last curl of its tail! Moments like that remind me how fortunate I am to be able to be doing astronomy!

Monday 19 June

Worked all day at summit assembling SMIRFS to CGS4

Tuesday 20 June

Went up for a few hours in the afternoon to complete alignment tests First night of observing. With 4 arcsec seeing, we were able to get some data, but more importantly, it was a successful first light for SMIRFS. Had some problems with the SPU (slit projection unit) and threw it out of alignment, a problem to be tackled the first thing the next day.

SMIRFS get first light!

We got 14 spectra on one array, the first ever multi-object spectroscopy for UKIRT! Now trying to do some fibre to fibre comparisons with the OH sky lines. I sort have been holding the torch and the screws and allen wrenches for Roger as he tweaks the mirrors to align them and talks with Ray over the intercom (Roger and I in the dome, Ray in the control room). But, it's so fun in the dome at night. With all the stars out! And when the telescope moves it is awesome! I never before saw a dome like this open at night! Still pretty bad seeing, about 4 arcsec, whereas the guide fibres are 3 arcsec in diametre and the silica fibres are 2.2 arcsec in diameter, so you only get jumbled information.

We were feeling ambitious round 2am (June 21) and tried two fields which I prepared and they are working beautifully. Well, they would if the clouds would go away. We are just magnitude limited, but the fibres seem to be all on their respective stars. The throughput of the guide fibres is quite disappointing. By 4am we realised we had made more progress than we had hoped, since this initial night was to be for engineering purposes.

And, of course we have to have the shortest nights of the year, round the Summer Solstice!

We had spent most of the eve trying to focus the fibres on UKIRT`s f/36 secondary. And it was quite a difficult task indeed! If you are off even by 10%, you lose too much information to consider the fibre credible. All other multi-object fibre systems in the world operate on f-ratios of 2 or 3, easier to manage, and you can be off by a whole lot, and still have credible information carried by the fibres. UKIRT has a f/9 secondary as well, but it would have thrown off all the other instruments attached. But it looks like, with these preliminary results, that multi-object spectroscopy at f/36 can be done!

Wednesday 21 June

Realigned the SPU in the afternoon. This night was scheduled to repeat the engineering tests done last night, but with ZrF K band fibres -- never been done before!!! They cost 100 pounds per metre, can you imagine! Quite fragile indeed.

Second obsering night. Terrible weather. Too many clouds, but tried out the set of zirconium fluoride (K band) fibres to check their engineering performance.

Thursday 22 June

Third and final night for SMIRFS. Got the plug-plate changing time down to 5 minutes (as compared to 30 minutes at the start of the run). Decent weather 2-3 arcsec seeing. Worked well into the dawn.

Friday 23 June

Returned to the summit for the last time to disassemble SMIRFS to bring back to the JAC. Boy, were we tired!

Met up with Martin at Hilo airport to start our "Most Bodacious Adventure on da Big Island of Hawai'i!" First thing, I went to sleep! :)

Saturday 24 June

Hilo, a "sleepy" little town. It looks like a frontier town with many of the store fronts from the late 19th century and early part of this century. Our first stop on our drive around the Big Island were the Hawai'i Tropical Botanical Gardens, a nature preserve created to protect the natural beauty and harmony of a tropical Hawaiian rain forest. Beautiful walks through ferns, palms, ginger plants, hibiscus, orchids, bromeliads, heliconias and various flora from Polynesia and the far East. I really liked the hanging lobster claws, took lots of pictures of them. Lots of coconut, banana, and mango trees as well And they even had a "money tree," no kidding!! One of the coves was said to house sea turtles, but we didn't see any. The view of the ocean and the cliffs on the Hawai'ian coastline was spectacular.

We drove south again and saw the Akaka and Kahuna Falls north of Hilo. Akaka Falls plunges over 420 feet in a sheer drop over a volcanic cliff. The Kahuna Falls was also impressive.

Drove to Laupahoehoe Point (nice view). Laupahoehoe means "leaf of lava." Very scenic view of the ocean and coast.

Sunday 25 June

Leave Hilo and drove to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park En route: rt 130 to 132 to 137 we saw Lava Tree State Park, where we walked among the remains of a volcanic devastation, lava trees, trees covered with lava. The actual trees themselves, have long decomposed, leaving hollow innards to these lava encasements. Quite pretty and also very eerie. The setting was also in a very vernal forest, having conquered the long past devastation. These lava stumps were the only reminders of the power of the volcanoes.

We traveled onto Isaac Hale Beach, one of Hawai'i's black sand beaches, made of pulverized lava. Another beautiful spot.

From the cliffs at the MacKenzie State Recreation Area, we saw a pair of sea turtles swimming in and out of the shoreline area. We also took in the magestic south-east coast of the Big Island, black and rugged, etched out so beautifully by the powerful ocean.

We then went on a romantic drive through more tropical rain forests on a one-lane road. Incredible. Also passed several sugar cane fileds. We reached the end of road (rt 137) near Kaimu, closed due to lava from from the flow of 1986-87. We walked on the lava field, which in some places looked just like street pavement uprooted in a powerful earthquake whereas other places were quite smooth or wrinkled like a scrunched up rug, to the sea. And walked along the black beach there!

After enjoying a banana split, for it was indeed hot out there on the lava, we took rt 130 and headed towards Volcanoes National Park, our next destination.


Lava flows in two distinct types, for which the Hawaiian names have become universal geological terms: a'a and pa'hoehoe. They're easily distinguished in appearance, but chemically they're the same. A'a is extremely rough and spiny and will quickly tear up your shoes if you do much hiking over it. Also, if you have the misfortune to fall down, you'll immediately know why they call it a'a. Pa'hoehoe, a billowy ropey lava that looks like burned pancake batter, can mold itself into fantastic shapes. Examples of both lavas are frequently encountered on various hikes throughout the Big Island. Other lava oddities that you may spot are peridots, green gem-like stones called "Pele's Diamonds," clear feldspar like white cotton candy called "Pele's hair," and gray lichens covering the older flows known as "Hawaiian snow."

/* Saw lots of a'a. And well, Martin and I were very careful not to fall down and vocalise it :) */

/* The pa'hoehoe lava was quite neat, looking like a bunched up rug, or like they say here, like pancake batter */

/* We didn't run across Pele's hair or Pele's Tears (called here "Pele's Diamonds"), did try looking for them though */

The Park has wonderful hikes! We took advantage of it right away: Day 1 Halema'uma'u Trail in Kilauea Caldera (1.8mi), Byron Ledge Trail (1.5mi), Crater Rim Trail (1.0mi) Walked through the caldera among the steam vents. We felt like we were on another world! Night in Volcano House Hotel (at 3980ft), view overlooking Halema'umu'u Crater (Pele's home) in the Kilauea Caldera.


Volcano House

Have you ever dreamed of sleeping with a goddess? Well, you can cuddle up with Pele by staying at Volcano House If your plans don't include an overnight stop, go in for a look. Sometimes this is impossible, because not only do tour buses from the Big Island disgorge here, but tour groups are flown in from Honolulu as well. A stop at the bar provides refreshments and a tremendous view of the crater. Volcano House still has the feel of a country inn, although in reality it's a Sheraton Inn. This particular building dates from the 1940s, but the site has remained the same since a grass hut was perched on the rim of the crater by a sugar planter in 1846. He charged $1 a night. A steady stream of notable visitors has come ever since: almost all of Hawaii's kings and queens dating from the middle of last century, as well as royalty from Europe. Mark Twain was a guest, followed by Franklin Roosevelt. Most recently, a contingent of astronauts lodged here and used the crater floor to prepare for walking on the moon. In 1866 a large grass hut replaced the first, and in 1877 a wooden Victorian-style hotel was built. It is now the Volcano Art Center, and has been moved just across the road. The longest owner/operator of Volcano House was Mr. George Lycurgus, who took over management of the hotel in the 1890s. His son, Nick, followed him and managed the hotel until the 1960s.

/* I particularly liked the autographed photos of the Apollo astronauts hanging on the wall. Also, did you know that the fire in the fireplace at the Volcano House has been burning non-stop for 121 years, placing it in Ripley's Believe It or Not? And it still was burning when we left. The first night we spent at the Volcano House, Martin and I shared a romantic dinner overlooking the caldera, though at night you couldn't see much. :) They had wonderful food, on par with that of the QE2! */

Monday 26 June

Day 2 in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

Started off the day with a visit to the Thurston Lava Tube (Nahuku) and went 300 meters into the dark (beyond the barrier) to reach the end of tube. Lava tubes form when the surface lava cools and hardens, leaving the lava flow to continue to run underneath. When this lava river runs out, it leaves behind a tunnel.

We then began 15+ mile hike to the currently active East Rift Zone, along the Napau Trail through Pu'u Huluhulu and Mauna Ulu Lava Shield. We snacked at Makaopuhi Crater (beautiful!) and traveled east some more. We walked through Napau Crater (about 3 miles in diameter) towards active Pu'u 'O'o but we had to cut our trek short because it would start getting dark in a few hours, and we had a 3 hour return hike time ahead of us. From the vantage point of the floor of the Napau Crater, Pu'u 'O'o looked like it belonged in some science fiction movie with dinosaurs about. It really looked as if we were looking back into time.

That night we drove to the end of Chain of Craters Road to Lae 'Apuki and saw red glow from lava going into sea. We also saw red glow from Pu'u 'O'o, the volcano we had stumbled upon earlier in the day. Mongo neat!

Madame Pele

The goddess Pele is an irascible old dame. Perhaps it's because she had such a bad childhood. All she wanted was a home of her own where she could house her family and entertain her lover, a handsome chief from Kauai. But her sea goddess sister, Namakaokaha'i, flooded her out wherever she went after Pele seduced her husband, and the pig god, Kama Pu'a, ravished Pele for good measure. So Pele finally built her love nest at Halemaumau Crater at the south end of Kilauea Caldera. Being a goddess obviously isn't as heavenly as one would think, and whenever the pressures of life get too much for Pele, she blows her stack. These tempestuous outbursts made Pele one of the most revered gods in the Hawaiian pantheon because her presence and might were so easily felt.

/*Our view from the Volcano House was Halemaumau Crater...beautiful!!! */

For a thousand years Pele was appeased by offerings of pigs, dogs, sacred ohelo berries (her favorite) and now and again an outcast man or two (never women) who would hopefully turn her energy from destruction to more comfortable pursuits. Also, if Pele was your family's personal goddess, your remains were sometimes allowed to be thrown into the fire pit as a sign of great respect. In the early 1820s, the chieftess Kapiolani, an ardent convert to Christianity, officially challenged Pele in an attempt to topple her like the other gods of old. Kapiolani climbed down into Pele's crater and ate the sacred ohelo berries, flagrantly violating the ageless kapu. She then took large stones and defiantly hurled them into the fire pit below while bellowing, "Jehovah is my God. It is He, not Pele, that kindled these flames." /* Regarding offerings: Great news for women! :) */ Yet today, most residents, regardless of background, have an inexplicable reverence for Pele. The goddess has modernized her tastes, switching from ohelo to juniper berries that she prefers in liquid form as bottles of gin! The Volcano Post Office receives an average of three packages a week containing lava rocks taken by tourists as souvenirs (sometimes 30 per day). Some hold that Pele looks upon these rocks as her children and taking them from her is kidnapping. The accompanying letters implore the officials to return the rocks because ever since the offender brought them home, luck has been bad. The officials take the requests very seriously, returning the rocks with the customary peace offering: a bottle of gin. Many follow-up "thank you" letters have been written to express relief that the bad luck has been lifted. There is no reference in Hawaiian folklore to this phenomenon, although Hawaiians did hold certain rocks sacred. Park rangers will tell you that the idea of "the bad-luck rocks" was initiated a few decades back by a tour bus driver who became sick and tired of tourists getting his bus dirty by piling aboard their souvenirs. Voil another ancient Hawaiian myth! Know, however, that the rocks in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are protected by federal law, much meaner and more vindictive than Pele ever imagined being.

/* Honest truth! An astronomer at HP told me she took a rock back from the Park and she had a series of bad luck happenings! */

Pele is believed to take human form. She customarily appears before an eruption as a ravishing beauty or a withered old hag, often accompanied by a little white dog. She expects to be treated cordially, and it's said that she will stand by the roadside at night hitching a ride. After a brief encounter, she departs and seems to mysteriously evaporate into the ether. Kindness on your part is the key; if you come across a strange woman at night, treat her well-it might not help, but it definitely won't hurt.

Tuesday 27 June

Day 3 in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

We journeyed out to visit the Ka'u Desert to see footsteps from 1790. I still cannot get over the variety of climes in Hawai'i. This desert was still another!

Kau Desert Trail

Kau Desert Trail starts about eight miles south of the visitor center along Route 11, between mile markers 37 and 38. It's a short hike from the trailhead to the Kau Desert Footprints. People going to or from Kailua-Kona can see them en route, but those staying in Hilo should take the time to visit the footprints. The trek across the small section of desert is fascinating, and the history of the footprints makes the experience more evocative. The trail is only 1.6 miles RT and can be hustled along in less than 30 minutes, but allow at least an hour, mostly for observation. The predominant foliage is a red bottlebrush that contrasts with the bleak surroundings-the feeling throughout the area is one of foreboding. You pass a wasteland of a'a and pa'hoehoe lava flows to arrive at the footprints.

A metal fence in a sturdy pavilion surrounds the prints, which look as though they're cast in cement. Actually they're formed from pisolites: particles of ash stuck together with moisture, which formed mud that hardened like plaster.

In 1790 Kamehameha was waging war with Keoua over control of the Big Island. One of Keoua's warrior parties of approximately 80 people attempted to cross the desert while Kilauea was erupting. Toxic gases descended upon them and the warriors and their families were enveloped and suffocated. They literally died in their tracks, but the preserved footprints, although romanticism would wish otherwise, were probably made by a party of people who came well after the eruption. This unfortunate occurrence was regarded by the Hawaiians as a direct message from the gods proclaiming their support for Kamehameha. Keoua, who could not deny the sacred signs, felt abandoned and shortly thereafter became a human sacrifice at Puukohola Heiau, built by Kamehameha to honor his war god, Kukailimoku.

/* Sadly, most of the footprints had been vandalised! :( */

We then visited the Thomas Jagger Museum, where we learned a great deal about seismology and making volcanic predictions as well as the recent history of volcanic eruptions in the Big Island.

That night we returned to the end of the road to see lava entering the sea again, this time from the beach. We had a better viewing angle and actually saw it streaming into the sea along with the large red glowing plume surrounded by the dark sky filled with beautiful stars. What an amazing sight! I shall never forget!

Wednesday 28 June

We left Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park to continue our adventures towards the West coast of the Big Island. En route, we stopped off at Kipuka Puaulu (bird forest), on the outer part of the Park. We enjoyed a romantic relaxing walk among conifers and other types of lush vegetation as we searched for exotic protected birds. I was amazed at yet another new setting. I did not feel as if I were in the middle of an active volcanic region because there were no signs of lava destruction anywhere, everything was verdant and full of life! We saw lots of Koa and and Ohia trees.

Kipuka Puaulu

Kipuka Puaulu is a sanctuary for birds and nature lovers who want to leave the crowds behind, just under two miles from Route 11 down Mauna Loa Rd. The sanctuary is an island atop an island. A kipuka is a piece of land that is surrounded by lava but has not been inundated by it, leaving the original vegetation and land contour intact. A few hundred yards away, small scrub vegetation struggles, but in the sanctuary the trees form a towering canopy a hundred feet tall. The first sign for Bird Park takes you to an ideal picnic area; the second, 100 yards beyond, takes you to Kipuka Puaulu Loop Trail. As you enter the trail, a bulletin board describes the birds and plants, some of the last remaining indigenous fauna and flora in Hawaii. Please follow all rules. The trail is self guided, and pamphlets describing the stations along the way are dispensed from a box 50 feet down the path. The loop is only one mile long, but to really assimilate the area, especially if you plan to do any birdwatching, expect to spend an hour minimum. It doesn't take long to realize that you are privileged to see some of the world's rarest plants, such as a small, nondescript bush called aalii. In the branches of the towering ohia trees you might see an elepaio or an apapane, two birds native to Hawaii. Common finches and Japanese white eyes are imported birds that are here to stay. There's a fine example of a lava tube, and an explanation of how ash from eruptions provided soil and nutrients for the forest. Blue morning glories have taken over entire hillsides. Once considered a pest and aggressively eradicated, they have recently been given a reprieve and are now considered good ground cover-perhaps even indigenous. When you do come across a native Hawaiian plant, it seems somehow older, almost prehistoric. If a pre-contact Hawaiian could come back today, he or she would recognize only a few plants and trees even here in this preserve. More than four times as many plants and animals have become extinct in Hawaii in the last 200 years as on the entire North American continent. As you leave, listen for the melodies coming from the treetops, and hope the day never comes when no birds sing.


The koa, a form of acacia, is Hawaii's finest native tree. It can grow to over 70 feet high and has a strong, straight trunk which can measure more than 10 feet in circumference. Koa is a very quickly growing legume that fixes nitrogen in the soil. It is believed that the tree originated in Africa, where it was very damp. It then migrated to Australia, where it was very dry, which caused the elimination of leaves so that all that was left were bare stems which could survive in the desert climate. When koa came to the Pacific islands, instead of reverting to the true leaf, it just broadened its leaf stem into sickle-shaped, leaf-like foliage that produces an inconspicuous, pale-yellow flower. When the tree is young or damaged it will revert to the original feathery, fernlike leaf that evolved in Africa millions of years ago. The koa does best in well-drained soil in deep forest areas, but scruffy specimens will grow on poorer soil. The Hawaiians used koa as the main log for their dugout canoes, and elaborate ceremonies were performed when a log was cut and dragged to a canoe shed. Koa wood was also preferred for paddles, spears, even surfboards. Today it is still, unfortunately, considered an excellent furniture wood, and although fine specimens can be found in the reserve of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, loggers elsewhere are harvesting the last of the big trees.


The ohia is a survivor, and therefore the most abundant of all the native Hawaiian trees. Coming in a variety of shapes and sizes, it grows as miniature trees in wet bogs or 100-foot giants on cool, dark slopes at higher elevations. This tree is often the first life in new lava flows. The ohia produces a tuftlike flower-usually red, but occasionally orange, yellow, or white, the latter being very rare and elusive-that resembles a natural pompon. The flower was considered sacred to Pele; it was said that she would cause a rainstorm if you picked ohia blossoms without the proper prayers. The flowers were fashioned into lei that resembled feather boas. The strong, hard wood was used to make canoes, poi bowls, and especially temple images. Ohia logs were also used as railroad ties and shipped to the Mainland from Pahoa. It's believed that the "golden spike" linking rail lines between the U.S. East and West coasts was driven into a Puna ohia log when the two railroads came together in Ogden, Utah.

We travelled south on Belt Highway 11 and stopped at Punalu'u Beach, a black sand beach, but a bit rocky. We continued on 11, passed the south point, past even more lava fields, these a bit older, from the 1920s and 1930s. We stopped at Kailua-Kona on the West coast for ice cream, got our snorkeling gear and proceeded north to Waikoloa Beach.

What awaited us there was a genuine Hawaiian lu'au! We watched as native Hawaiians dug up a pu'a (pig) from an imu (underground oven filled with hot rocks and used for baking), the pig having been "cooked" since early that morning. The pu'a and the rest of the food were wonderful! Lots of pineapple and guava fruit. I even ate poi, this grey youghurt-like consistency paste made from the pounded corn of tao. It is allowed to ferment slight and has a light sour taste. I cannot say I am crazy about it, but it wasn't that bad. :) Martin devoured it though. I think he enjoyed it. Afterwards a hula dance and song show was performed. Dance numbers from different Polynesian backgrounds were performed, including a few from New Zealand. There was even a fire-dancer, which IMHO, stole the show. Quite enjoyable, too bad it was too "touristy." Next time I make it to Hawai'i, I hope to get invited to a lu'au held by a church or a town hall. Nevertheless, we enjoyed it. The costumes of the dancers were also quite spectacular; then again, the group performing were of a professional nature.

Thursday 29 June

Martin and Kim hit the surf! A day of snorkeling extravaganza! Stop 1 'Anaeho'omalu Bay (beautiful white sand beach on the north-west coast of the Big Island). Saw loads of fish: four-spot butterfly fish, longnosed butterfly fish, Moorish idol, gilded triggerfish, little bitty yellow tang, parrot fish, manybar goatfish, eye-stripe surgeonfish, among many. Plus beautiful sea urchins and coral.

We then drove north, after a fabulous pizza lunch. Stop 2 Lapakahi State Park (more white beaches) Martin saw some eels (lucky stiff! You have to catch them swimming in and out out of the coral). We both saw lots more fish of the same variety as before. It was very windy. The park is set on a beautiful, ancient Hawaiian fishing village.

We next drove south to our next stop. Stop 3 Kona Coast State Park (white beach) To get there we had to drive over a lava field. Oh it was so much fun! It was also very windy there. The seeing was not so great but we did see a good share of more fish. More spectacular though, was that both of us swam with a pair of sea turtles. They were beautiful! Flying so gracefully in the water. We didn't even come close to their skill. We tried our best!

We then headed back to Kailua-Kona to catch our last sunset over Hawai'i.

Friday 30 June

Our last day in paradise. We drove south from Kailua-Kona to Pu'uhonua o Honaunau (Place of Refuge of Honaunau). We attended the first day of the Hawaiian Cultural Festival held in celebration of the park's 34th anniversary as a National Historical Park. We witnessed the presentation of the Royal Court. We saw brightly coloured kahili (tall poles topped with feathers (they looked like huge feather dusters!)) used by ali'i (Hawaiian chiefs/nobles) to announce their presence and the na koa (guards) armed with weapons who escorted the Mo'i (chief) and his court. Several hula and instrumental acts were presented before the Mo'i. These were quite good and authentic. The hula is a very beautiful dance, the stories told with the hands and the rhythm of the beat.

We then explored the rest of Pu'uhonua o Honaunau and got a glimpse of Hawai'i before the "outsiders" came in the late 1700s. It was a sanctuary that gave people a second chance to live. Some of the people that sought life at the sanctuary were kapu breakers (those who had broken the sacred laws, or kapu). The usual punishment for people who broke a kapu was death. If a person reached a pu'uhonua, a ceremony of absolution was performed by the kahuna pule (priest) and then the offender could return home safely. Others who sought refuge at the pu'uhonua were noncombatants, the old and young who couldn't fight during battle could find safety here, where life was preserved even in brutal war. Defeated warriors also came here, where they waited in safety until the battle was over. The ground was sacred.

The pu'uhonua was very beautiful. We walked along the palace grounds, saw some more tree molds, saw where royal canoes used to land, crossed over ancient fishponds (he-lei-palala), observed the Great Wall (dry masonry, pretty impressive), walked around the temple (Hale o Keawe Heiau), and saw some petroglyphs carved by the ancient Hawaiians. It was a very beautiful area off the south-west coast of the Big Island.

To complete our trip we drove down south and then up north along the east coast back to Hilo. We flew to Honolulu from Hilo, then caught a red-eye flight to LAX.




KIM P.S. Hawaii: The 50th State "The most beautiful islands in the world"

Location: The southern most state in United States. The only state not on the North American contintent, 2500 miles(9580 km) west of Los Angeles in the North Pacific Ocean approximately on the Tropic of Cancer.

State Population: 1,304,300- Spread over the eight main islands. Oahu 1 million, Maui 100,000, Big Island 110,000, Kauai 80,000, Molokai 10,000, Lanai 4,000, Niihau 300, Kohoolawe 0.

State Capitol: Honolulu on Oahu.

Most famous beach- Waikiki Beach on Oahu.

Largest harbor: Pearl Harbor, Oahu.

Highest elevation- Mauna Kea, the Big Island, 13,796 ft. (4,205 m)

Wettest Spot- Mt. Waialeale on Kauai.

Tallest sea cliffs-North Molokai.

Most active volcano- Kilauea on the Big Island.

Biggest and best surf- North Shore, Oahu.

Climate: Sub-tropical, warm and sunny with moderate humidity, daytime high temperatures in the 80's, lows in the 70's (25 C average). Trade winds from the North East, water temperature averages 75 degrees farenheight (24 C) year round.

Biggest industry: Tourism, over 6 million visitors per year.

State Motto: Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka Aina I Ka Pono, "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness."