Saturday, July 27, 2013

Talk While You Walk

Thursday, July 25, 2013
11:32 P.M.

I've been thinking lately. About a lot of things... family, fishing, friendships, and, if you can believe it, weather patterns. But there's something more that I've been thinking about, and that is anthropogenic global warming. I've touched on this subject quite a few times in this blog, and I've primarily done it from a science or morality perspective.

But I haven't had a serious discussion with myself about how I'm contributing to the problem, and honestly, I think it is because I have subconsciously discarded the effects of my daily activities and how they commit to global warming/ocean acidification. Sure, I don't drive and I'm a pescetarian. I take "sailor showers." I use florescent light-bulbs. For clothes, I shop exclusively at thrift stores (some stores sell new socks/underwear, and I buy those). I even make a conscious effort to breathe less. Now that's dedication.

But I do so many things to contribute to the problem. I use public transit (this is better than driving, but by creating a demand for a bus you are contributing to the economic validity of a bus route and therefore the decision for Seattle Metro whether or not to put a bus on that route). I'll get rides from my mom to certain locations. Most recently, my mom flew to Micronesia and back to pick me up for my "medical evacuation" (I was fine... it's a long story). And let's not forget about my audiophile speaker system in my room. It sounds fantastic, but with ~80 pounds of amplification to power the speakers and subwoofer, even moderate volumes can cause the lights in my room to dim, and the lights throughout the house will flicker completely on and off if I turn it way up, particularly if there is a lot of bass.

And in a couple days, I will be with my father trailering a 22 foot boat from Whidbey Island to go to Nootka Sound, BC, where we will go fishing for a week. Trailering a boat to the central coast of Vancouver Island takes a ridiculous amount of petroleum, and getting three miles per gallon while at cruising speed on a boat similar to ours is extraordinary. The amount of energy spent on this coming trip will be immense. But at the same time, my father and I will have the trip of a lifetime, and we don't want to let carbon emissions come in the way of our vacation. Besides, with so much carbon dioxide being emitted by other anthropogenic activities, our energy consumption and contribution to increased CO2 emissions is negligible.

Our train of thought is a perfect example of the tragedy of the commons. I learned about this in my Honors Fisheries 101 class; the tragedy of the commons is when individual people act in their self interests to do a thing that, while they know it is harmful to the environment, don't care because their particular action has a negligible effect on the environment. However, if everybody was to do that action, the "common" (the resource) would be depleted or harmed. Some examples are collecting rocks from trails that say that you can't collect rocks. If one person collects a rock, life will go on. However, if a million people expect others to follow this rule but don't, the rocks will get depleted. I'm guilt of committing to the tragedy of the commons in some way or another. I do it every day. But this boat trip is an especially blatant example.

This is something I need to think about. I really, really like fishing. But I'm also really passionate about global warming mitigation. I can certainly talk the talk, but can I walk the walk? My carbon footprint says that I'd be lying to myself if I tried to tell myself I was. I don't have any clear solutions at this point, and I'll need to crawl before I can walk. I can't even crawl right now though.

And on depressing note, uh, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Videos From My Micronesia/Hawaii Trip

Tuesday, July 23, 2013
12:14 A.M.

2:08 A.M. - I finally have all the videos on their respective blogs as well. I will number the videos, from top to bottom, and tell you the blog they correspond to.

1: Hawaii Day 3: Sea To Sky

2 and 3: Micronesia: Day 4

4 and 7: Micronesia: Day 14 - Sakau, Seagrasses and Sunsets

5 and 6: Micronesia: Day 8 - Storms and My Mangrove Report

8 - 12: Micronesia: Day 17 - Globetrotting Day

Finished 2:23 A.M. Time to sleep.

Hi everybody, I've finally uploaded the 'worthy' videos from my trip to Youtube. I'll post them here for ease of access, and I'll also post each one on the blog it corresponds to. Warning: my standards for 'worthy' videos are mediocre at best.

Here's a sunset from the top of Mauna Kea. A video doesn't do it justice... it was spectacular. Only thing missing is the green flash.

Here's a clip from our travel to one of the estuaries we took mangrove data at.

Here's a little clip once we were in the estuary. It was stunning... I felt like I should be hosting a show on Animal Planet.

It was cool to see a plane land on the airstrip. Pohnpei is so remote, yet it can be accessed with a couple airplane flights, which is amazing if you really think about it.

A classic tropical rainstorm. I didn't catch the most intense part of it, but it's still way heavier than anything in Seattle.

This late-night thunderstorm was the same day as the heavy shower above. I've posted the times of the lightning flash and thunder. Not a particularly memorable video unless you want to hear the soothing sound of my voice in the background.

It wasn't raining terribly hard where we were, but the runoff from the nearest storm drain suggested that it was pouring somewhere else.

Definitely my favorite video. It shows the view I had from the airplane lifting off from Kolonia. Pohnpei is astoundingly beautiful. I've never seen anything else like it.

We landed in Kosrae after our liftoff from the Kolonia air strip. Kosrae is beautiful too.

Lifting off from Kosrae.

Our pilot was not good at landings, and our landing into Kwajalein was a great example.

I saw some Kelvin-Helmholtz waves while we were flying and decided to try and attempt to film them. It was pretty turbulent, but Youtube stabilized the video for me. You might find it interesting.

Thanks! Hope you enjoy the videos. :)


Finished 12:36 A.M.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Recent Revisions

Sunday, July 21, 2013
11:53 A.M.

I just finished my last edit of my posts from Hawaii. These are Hawaii Day 3, Hawaii Day 4, and Hawaii Day 6. Technically, I still working on cropping some Youtube videos from my Day 17 Globetrotting Day post, but I'll let you know when all of those are up. For now, I hope you enjoy these posts. :)


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

An Electrical Storm

Wednesday, July 17, 2013
12:26 P.M.

It's all a matter of perspective.

I had a long, meaningful conversation with a girl last night. It wasn't under starlight, it was under partly cloudy skies. But hey, those were just as cool.

She asked me why I wished for bad weather. I was confused; I never wish for bad weather, I only wish for good weather. This was the catalyst for a deep discussion about the way we interpret things in the world. Sometimes, our interpretations of things are similar. Coffee may taste bad for one person, but it may taste worse for another. Sometimes, they couldn't be more different. One zoologist could take pride in their array of ant farms, while one toddler with psychopathic tendencies could take pride in the number of ants they've fried with a magnifying glass. We all know that no two lightning bolts are the same, and no two thunderclaps are the same either. Because our life experiences are different, no two opinions are the same either.

We got shaken by one bolt of lightning. The thunder, although loud, was not booming. However, it was very prolonged. I have noticed that in storms like the ones that came through last night - rather dry ones with their bases at very high elevations - tend to have longer and more "muffled" thunderclaps than the ones we associate with other thunderstorms we see, such as spring convective showers that roll through our area or the great supercells of the Great Plains. Many of these other thunderstorms have much lower bases and therefore have more "cloud-to-ground" strikes than the ones we saw last night, which have more "cloud-to-cloud" strikes.

But this begs the question: why do higher storms produce a lower percentage of CG (cloud to ground) strikes? Well, Chris Callais, a man I met on Facebook who is a University of Utah graduate with a degree in atmospheric sciences, told me that the atmosphere acts like a giant capacitor of sorts, and the greater the distance between the two surfaces of the 'capacitor', the higher the amount of voltage required to bridge it. Things in nature don't go searching for the most difficult and complex way to do something - they take the easiest path possible. There are some instances in which you can see a lightning bolt travel all the way from the top of a thunderhead to the ground (technically, the big bolt you see is the return stroke, which starts from the ground and heads skyward), but these strikes are abnormal and can be thought of as "supercharged strikes." This is all stuff I will learn about in the coming years unless I drop out of school to spend my days sipping margaritas in Cancun. Even then though, I'd be on the blog, jamming to some Jimmy Buffet as I write up my posts.

The whole setup for the electrical storm was pretty complicated. The forecasts made yesterday weren't perfect, but they were close. Here's a comparison of the infrared satellite picture last night to the forecast for last night. The low marine clouds shown off the Oregon and Californian coasts don't show up on the infrared satellite picture because they have relatively warm cloud tops, and the infrared satellite scale is based on the temperature of the cloud tops and the corresponding amount of radiation emitted (colder clouds emit less radiation and are usually higher in the atmosphere, so tall clouds with tops reaching significant heights show up on the satellite and can correspond to regions of precipitation). Often, the coldest cloud tops in the world that emit the least infrared radiation are the thunderstorms in the tropics because they have the highest cloud heights. Pretty crazy, huh?

NWS Infrared West Coast Satellite - 08:00 pm PDT, Tue 16 Jul 2013
Valid 08:00 pm PDT, Tue 16 Jul 2013 - 27hr Fcst - UW 00z WRF-GFS: 4km column integrated cloud water
One thing that the models did not handle very well was the onset of lightning. I don't have access to lightning forecast data (or I don't know where I can find it), but the National Weather Service was calling for the lightning and thunder to begin ~8 P.M. yet, in their 8:30 P.M. forecast discussion yesterday, they said:


After getting that big strike around 10 P.M., a swath of storms rolled through the area around 2 A.M. Reports say that 120-130 lightning strikes occurred west of the Cascades. East of the Cascades, the number was closer to, get this, 2,500 strikes. I was asleep at the time; even though I am a heavy sleeper, you would think that all the thunder would wake me up. Remember how I was talking about the muffling of CC lightning above, though? It could have been possible that this lightning was heat lightning, which is a useless name that defines itself as lightning without audible thunder. Lightning always makes thunder, but I have noticed that CG strikes are much louder and crisper than the CC strikes. Perhaps this was due to some sort of destructive interference with some aspects of the clouds (maybe water droplets?), but I don't know. Since the cloud bases were so high and the rainfall  was relatively low thus allowing lighting to be visible for dozens of miles, it is possible that the strikes were simply too distant to be heard even if they were CG. The thunder at 2 A.M. was accompanied by some rain woke my mom up, but my mom wakes up at everything, so that's not saying much.

Below are some pictures of the lightning taken by Matthew Charchenko at the end of his driveway on Novelty Hill, which is northeast of Redmond. These pictures were taken around 2 A.M., with the second picture down of the big bolt taken at 2:34 A.M. He's a very ambitious kid who is not only knowledgeable beyond his years in the atmospheric sciences realm but is, as you can see, an extraordinary photographer. He explained to me that he captured these strikes using a long exposure shot, where you keep the shutter open for 15-20 and pray that a strike occurs during that time frame. Check out his Facebook page @ Matthew Charchenko Photography.

John Ruskin, the leading art critic of the 19th century, once said this: "there is no such thing as bad weather, only different types of good weather." One person may not completely enjoy the weather occurring in their area, but you can bet that another person is fascinated by it, even if they are lying right next to you.

Thanks for reading! You guys are the best.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Back in Seattle, Thunderstorms Tuesday, and Micronesia Days 24-25

Monday, July 15, 2013
10:45 P.M.

Howdy everybody. I've been trying to readjust to Seattle time today, and I've taken a couple steps in the right direction. Today was not without its follies, however. I went fishing at the end of a street near my house, but I kept losing hook, line, and sinker because the wind would blow my slack line over a post near another person's dock. When I reeled my line in, it would keep getting stuck on this rope that was attached to the post. At one point, I was running low on additional setups, so I actually jumped in the water (with a lifejacket) and swam to the post to try and save my setup. I use barbed hooks, so I wasn't able to get my hook out, but I was able to recover my lead and swivel. After many failed attempts to catch a fish at this street end, I decided to head down the street to the nearest water treatment plant. Eating the fish in this vicinity isn't probably the smartest idea, but at this point, I just wanted to catch something. Well, I cast my line out as far as it could go, but the whole place was filled with Eurasian Watermilfoil and my setup got stuck in the weeds. It is worth noting that although the entire lake is infested with milfoil (one of my friends runs a milfoil removing service and makes a lot of money from it), there is more milfoil here than inebriated Husky fans at a home game. That's a lot of milfoil.

Although I was able to recover my setup, the wind blew my slack line away into a branch of the tree above. I hopped over the fence separating the water treatment plant and the lake and began carefully lowering myself down to the rocky surface of the lake, which was probably 8-9 feet below where I was originally standing. I then tried to reach to get a branch of the tree so I could pull it down and recover my setup, but it was just out of reach.

Therefore, I decided to jump for it. The first time, I jumped, but I couldn't jump high enough, so I missed the branch and my bare feet landed on the rocks, which was extremely painful (I was wearing flip flops, which slipped right off). I was determined to get this setup though, so I tried jumping higher. Again, I missed it, and I fell harder onto the rocks, which just hurt my foot even more. By this time I was furious, so I decided to jump as high as I could and just deal with the pain. This third time, I was able to grasp the branch, but it broke in my hand. I fell down directly on my feet and cut open my left sole, and to add insult to injury, I lost my balance and fell completely into the lake. Finally, I gathered some common sense and used my limited, albeit finite and existing, cognitive abilities and found a way to strategically remove the line from the tree. I then limped home and called it quits. I'll try again tomorrow.

Anyway, it's good to be back. The fruit on the trees in my yard has grown, the grass is brown, the water is warm, our neighborhood beach is filled with nude men... all is well in Denny Blaine. Now let's talk about weather.

The focus for the immediate future will be a chance of thunderstorms Tuesday night into Wednesday. Unlike the thunderstorms that typically hit locations east of the Rockies, these thunderstorms will have characteristics similar to those commonly found in desert regions. The air in which these thunderstorms are in will be warm and dry, so any sort of precipitation that falls will evaporate before reaching the ground. There might be a few hundredths of an inch of rain here and there, but the amounts will be very light.

Valid 08:00 pm PDT, Tue 16 Jul 2013 - 27hr Fcst - UW 00z WRF-GFS: 4km 3-hour precipitation
You can see the light amounts of rain over the area, but this map doesn't really tell us a whole hell of a lot about what's happening with the atmosphere. Take a look at these column-integrated cloud water images below, and notice how the water vapor changes in certain areas over this 24-hour time period.

Valid 08:00 pm PDT, Mon 15 Jul 2013 - 3hr Fcst - UW 00z WRF-GFS: 4km column integrated cloud water

24 hours later...

Valid 08:00 pm PDT, Tue 16 Jul 2013 - 27hr Fcst - UW 00z WRF-GFS: 4km column integrated cloud water
There are two main things to notice here. First is the explosion of convective clouds over Washington. Yet, if you look at the three-hour precipitation, you can see that the precipitation from these clouds is expected to be negligible. Second, check out the fog/stratus bank off the Oregon coast. We currently have a thermal trough moving up the coast right now, and this is what is giving us our warm weather. The stratiform clouds off Oregon represent the edge of the trough where a warm and dry offshore flow has transitioned to a cool and moist onshore flow with advection fog forming as a result. By Thursday, the entire Pacific Northwest coast will be covered in low clouds.
Valid 05:00 am PDT, Thu 18 Jul 2013 - 60hr Fcst - UW 00z WRF-GFS: 4km column integrated cloud water

Inland areas, however, look to stay high and dry for the foreseeable future. We won't be talking record heat, but no major marine pushes are in sight at this time.

Enjoy the lightning tomorrow. Dry lightning often leads to forest fires, so watch out if you have property in the affected areas, particularly if it is east of the Cascade crest.

No news from Micronesia, so I'll use this as a placeholder until I get the scoop on what's happening.

Ended 11:59 P.M. 7/15/13

Charlie :)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Carpe Diem

Sunday, June 14, 2013
4:42 P.M. (Hawaii time)

Well, I’m almost to Los Angeles, which is where this plane will stop before I board another one and land in Seattle. Also, I know this is irrelevant to you, but I have to push my ‘h’ key like an dilapidated doorbell right now because it is not responding to the standard typing force I typically use with all my keys. I guess I’ll keep beating this stubborn fella until I win.

Earlier this morning, I was considering what I wanted to do on the plane ride home. I was originally planning to work on my blog write-ups that I said I’d complete (like the Kilauea or Mauna Kea ones), but I was pretty tired, so I didn’t want to do those. I also pondered whether I should write a philosophical post, analyzing the thoughts of everybody from Socrates to Newton and how my experiences played into the realm of human existence and thought, but that would be drier than a lunch lady explaining the health benefits of boiled carrots. So here’s a little bow, which I will put on a larger paper-wrapped present of the trip in another blog.

This whole thing was a maturing experience. First, there were the endless disclaimers and hardships less than a week before departure. Upon arriving, the first couple days were truly fantastic, but soon, I felt so alienated from the group when I was prohibited from taking part in certain activities that all I could do was put on a happy face and try to make it to the next day. Finally, I gathered the strength to shatter all of the glass walls surrounding me so that I could reach out and touch what I had instead of wistfully gazing at what I didn’t.

And then, the two seizures in one day. I felt like a tape cassette being reversed back through all the negative feelings I previously had. The UW didn’t make things any easier; despite my doctor’s approval of my finishing of the course in Micronesia and his recommendation to the administrators at IPE to work out a solution that would work for everyone involved, the UW shut the door on me and ordered an ‘emergency evacuation.’ This felt demeaning (I felt perfectly fine after the seizures and haven’t had one since), but I had no choice.

We landed in Hawaii, and with the help of my mom, we helped each other get our tapes going again. But this time, they weren’t in normal speed. They were in fast forward. And now, I feel like I’ve learned so much more than I ever could have with a typical, more-or-less trouble-free study abroad experience. I’m not just crawling through days with bloodied shins and tears in my eyes. As I told my mom, “we carpe-diemed.” And that’s all I ever wanted to do.


1:28 AM PDT, 7/15/13

I've finally made it home. Kaselehlie, aloha, and goodnight.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Hawaii Day 6 (Micronesia Day 23) - Pu'uhonua o Honaunau

Saturday, July 13, 2013
10:54 P.M.

It's weird to think that in less than 24 hours, I will be back at my house. I'll see my dog, go fishing in the lake and sound, see friends, blast music on my speakers, and play saxophone (albeit I'll get home after midnight so the last two will have to wait). I say that I'll be home in less than a day because of the time change. In reality, I'll be home early Monday morning PDT, but it should still be late Sunday night here.

Today was another wonderful day in paradise. We did a whole bunch of things... snorkeling (with a coral reef in decent condition), boogieboarding, and even cliff diving at South Point, which is the southernmost point in Hawaii and therefore the southernmost point of the 50 U.S States. I've heard some claims that this point is the southernmost point in the entire U.S., but I think some of the unincorporated territories of the U.S. in the Pacific would beg to differ... specifically American Samoa. That's the southernmost territory that pops into my head but I'm sure there are more; let me know if you know one that is further south.

Boogieboarding was great because the waves were a bit larger than usual and I tried catching waves at a spot that had a shallower reef break, therefore producing higher waves. These waves weren't anything to laugh at... they were at LEAST 20 inches. The problem with that spot was that it had a bunch of rocks. Thankfully I didn't hit any, but there was one wipeout in which I came particularly close. We saw these extremely tan pacific islander kids who we assumed were native Hawaiians riding on top of their boogieboards and attempting to do sick aerials, like rodeos and flips. None of them executed these seemingly impossible stunts completely, but some came close, and it was extremely fun to watch.

Cliff diving was definitely my highlight of the day. My mom was nervous about me cliff diving due to my recent seizures, and I was too. When I got to the spot we were jumping, I felt more nervous in some ways and less in others. The drop was much higher than I expected. I guestimated that each jump took around 1.5 seconds to travel from the top of the jumper's altitude to the water, and since I know that gravity accelerates things at ~10 m/s (on Earth), I calculated the velocity to be proportional to 10X, where X is the number of seconds that have passed, and the distance to be equal to (10/2)X(^2), or 5X^2. Since X ranged from 0 to 1.5, the acceleration was equal to 10 meters/second, and the distance was half the acceleration multiplied by the time that had passed squared, I took the integral of 5X^2 took the integral of 10X from 0 to 1.5 and got 11.25 meters. Air resistance was negligible, and since I rounded up to 10 m/s from the widely accepted value of 9.81 m/s, I decided to simply let one meter equal one yard. There are 3 feet in one yard, so 11.25* 3 = 33.75 feet.

Of course, it felt like 337.5 feet. Before I jumped, some beautiful Hawaiian native girls (there's plenty of them) told me to keep my hands by my side and flex my butt cheeks. I forgot to do the latter and experienced pain in my groin. I think the flexing of the buttocks is especially important for guys because of our anatomy in that area. Also, my epilepsy bracelet on my hand snapped off due to the force of me hitting the water. One of the other guys who was jumping and snorkeling in the area dove beneath where I jumped and called my mom's cellphone to report that he had miraculously found my bracelet. It's currently being mailed from Hawaii to my house.

The most educational thing I did today was to go to Pu'uhonua o Honaunau which, for those of you who have been reading my blog, is like Nan Madol Jr. I took a whole bunch of pictures and will explain the site to you when I have time, but now it is time for me to get a good night of rest and get ready to catch a plane tomorrow morning.

On a side note... it was raining here earlier, but the rain was light compared to Pohnpei. Tuesday night may feature some thunderstorms over the Cascades and into the lowlands, but it's hard to tell at this point. We do occasionally get these summer thunderstorms that are pretty dry but provide some spectacular light shows.

Oh, and read Cliff Mass' blog. He's had some great posts lately.

Thanks for reading!

Ended 11:37 P.M.

Saturday, July 20, 2013
11:24 P.M.

Hello everybody, I'm back in Seattle, and I'm ready to talk about Pu'uhonua o Honaunau. I'm writing outside my Whidbey Island home by moonlight. I can see a couple stars, but nothing like I experienced at Mauna Kea. Anyway, let's get to it!

There are a lot of Hawaiian terms here, so I'll define them for you. I listed them in the order they appear in my post.

ali'i - royal chiefs
The Great Wall - a massive wall up to 10 feet high and 17 feet think that separated the pu'uhonua from the royal compound.
pu'uhonua - place of refuge
kapu - sacred laws
ahupua'a - a large climatic/socioeconomic/geographic subdivision of moku
moku - the largest divisions on the island
konane - an ancient Hawaiian game which bears similarities to checkers.
Keone'ele - a cove which acted as the royal canoe landing
kanoa - Bowl-like holding places that were carved into rock
papamu - a stone surface often used to play konane
mana - spiritual power, often (but not always) possessed by the bones of deceased ali'i
heaiu - a final resting place for previous chiefs
hukilau - a method of fishing that involves dragging a net through shallow water.
ki'i - statues representing guardians of the pu'uhonua
kahuna pule - a priest that absolved kapu offenders so they could return from the pu'uhonua back home

Pu'uhonua o Honaunau was a complex that consisted of royal grounds for the ali'i and a massive wall (The Great Wall) to protect and enclose a  pu'uhonua for defeated warriors, noncombatants in wartime, and those who violated kapu. It is located on the southern Kona Coast inside Honaunau Bay. It was used for centuries until 1819, when Kamehameha II abolished traditional religious practices that were used there. As a result, many of these old religious structures or temples were purposefully destroyed by the Hawaiians or were abandoned and left to decompose naturally. It was set aside in the 1920s as a county park, and in 1961, it graduated to a national historical park to, as my field pamphlet says, "maintain a setting where old Hawaiian ways continue in the modern world."

11:39 P.M. - A brief dog fight broke out. Serious Micronesia deja vu.

As I previously said, there are two main components to Pu-uhonua o Honaunau: the ali'i and the pu'uhonua. Let's describe both in a little more detail.

Royal Grounds:

These grounds were the home of the ali'i of the Kona district on Hawai'i. They were located within the ahupua'a. This ahupua'a spanned from the gentle slopes of Mauna Loa to the southern Kona Coast and offered not only plentiful drinking water but provided great opportunities for farming and fishing. The fish were held in freshwater and saltwater holding ponds so that the ali'i could have their fish nice and fresh. The ponds are pictured below. Unfortunately, I forget which is which.

As far as fishing goes, workers tied ki leaves to ropes to form a net, and they dragged this net through the shallows. This method is called hukilau.

ki leaf nets for hukilau

The residence for the royalty included at least 10 thatched buildings in a grove of coconut palms. The scene was quite bustling, with servants constantly running from hut to hut to serve the chief, prepare fish taken from the royal fishponds, or anything along those lines. The ali'i, on the other hand, could be doing anything from negotiating war treaties to playing konane.

konane on a papamu

Canoes landed in Keone'ele and only allowed to be used by the chief and his assistants. Anybody else who used the canoe would be breaking kapu.

A reconstruction of a typical canoe with an outrigger. They were pretty nice boats.

Throughout the entire place were kanoa which may have been used to evaporate saltwater to create salt or serve as a place to pound awa, a Hawaiian root, to make a drink for ceremonies.



A broad overlook of the pu'uhonua

A HUGE stone wall that was built in the mid-16th century kept the royal grounds and pu'uhonua separated. The ali'i's bones were often brought here, and mana encircled the area as a result. The wall, while impressive, didn't represent any spiritual purpose.

The Great Wall

However, it protected some very spiritual temples and objects. An example is Hale o Keawe, which was built in 1650 and was the newest heiau. Both photos below are of the Hale o Keawe temple complex.

Keawe'ikekahiali'iokamoku (try saying that three times fast), the great-great grandfather of Kamehameha I, had his bones placed in the temple, and his (Keahw's) mana was believed to protect the pu'uhonua.

The pu'uhonua was designed to be a place of peace. Because no blood could be shed here, even enemies of the chief could seek peace in this place. For example, in the 1782 Battle of Moku'ohai, an archrival of Kamehameha fled here and later became Kamehameha's prime minister.

Kapu were very important here. Commoners could not even allow their shadows to cover the palace grounds, let alone walk in the ali'i's footsteps, touch his stuff, or look at him. Women couldn't eat with men or prepare meals for them (that has sure changed). A person could be executed if a kapu was broken, for if they angered the gods, tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, famine, and other disasters may strike down upon the area.

But here's the ironic part. If people broke kapu, they were immediated sought out to be caught. If they made it to the pu'uhonua, however, they were safe and the kahuna pule (priest) would absolve them of any wrongdoing, giving them the option to return home safely if they so chose. Talk about running for your life.

The whole place reminded me of Nan Madol from Micronesia and made me realize how spectacular Nan Madol was. I don't mean to take away from Pu'uhonua o Honaunau at all; I think it is incredible even though many of the structures have been restored. But I had never given much thought to the work it took to build Nan Madol. I was astounded by the width of The Great Wall, and it made me realize how grandiose Nan Madol really was.

Finally, I discovered another mangrove. After our Micronesia unit on mangroves, I hold these trees in much higher esteem. Mangroves aren't native to Hawaii, but oh well; they're cool anyway.

There's a weird illusion going on with my arm and leg (viewer's left)

Thank you for reading! This is probably the last of the Micronesia/Hawaii posts, at least for now. I hope you've enjoyed them!


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Hawaii Day 5 (Micronesia Day 22) - Mahi-notta

Friday, July 12, 2013
11:41 P.M.

This is going to be another quickie just to let you know how my day went. It was good. Bye.


Ok, I'll give you a little more detail than that. Yesterday was exhausting, and we didn't waste any time exhausting ourselves today either. We woke up at 5:30 or so and headed down to a pier in Kailua-Kona to go on a half-day fishing adventure with "Bite Me" charters. I personally feel like the fish should be biting the lure and not the captain, but I'll play it safe and just assume that their name refers to the hope of landing a big, pelagic fish. "Pelagic" refers to fish that migrate the open seas and don't just stay in one area close to shore, although they definitely do come close to shore on occasion. An example of a common pelagic fish would be the Mahi-Mahi (Coryphaena hippurus), and an example of a not-so-common pelagic fish would be the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus). A word of advice... if you catch a huge bluefin tuna, either release it or sell it to the Japanese. Earlier this year, a 489 pound bluefin sold for 1.8 million dollars (155.4 million yen) in Tokyo. In my opinion, a worldwide ban needs to be placed on the commercial fishing of bluefin tuna.

But let's get back to our fishing adventure. We fished for 4 hours and got 1 bite. Suffice to say, the fishing was slow. We listened to the radio and heard of nearby boats catching Blue Marlin anywhere from 150 to 500 pounds, but we didn't get nothin'. Thankfully, my mom's "shift" was rolling when the mahi below bit, so she got to reel it in and we got the fish.

My mom and the deckhand with her fish. Mahi Mahi are some of the most beautiful fish in the sea.
Look at those colors! Many tropical fish (sailfish, mahi-mahi, marlin, tunas) have chromatophores that cause the skin of the fish to turn bright and vivid when they get excited or stimulated (aka they are trying to escape death). A couple hours after we had killed the fish, it still had pretty colors, but they were much more subdued than before

Still a really pretty fish, though.


One thing worth noting is how hazy the sky is. It's not fog. According to the locals, it's "vog," which is haze produced by the active volcanoes on the island, namely Kilauea and Mauna Loa. I was taken by surprise when I first saw how hazy the sky was... this isn't L.A.; Hawaii is over the open ocean. But now, it all makes sense. Kona is downwind of the particles released from the volcano and Hilo, on the other side of the island, is upwind. On Thursday when we went to Hilo, things were still a tad voggy, but to a much lesser extent.

And, as I'm sure most of you are aware, water in the tropics is generally much bluer than water near our coast and in Puget Sound due to the relative lack of nutrients in the tropics. Take a look at the picture above and see how blue the water is! That thing that we are reeling in is a net that got snagged onto one of our lures. Nets like these are dangerous and can kill fish if they get trapped in them, so we took the net out of the water. Ironically, fish (especially mahi) love to congregate around these nets because of the shelter they offer and the chance that they might house organisms they can eat (we found a couple small crabs on the net). We did not see any fish by this net though.

After the trip was done, we had the fish filleted at the official "Bite Me" restaurant. Our fish only weighed 8 pounds and there was only ~3.5 pounds of meat, but we set aside one pound for dinner that night, another pound for dinner tomorrow night, and gave the rest to another couple on the boat who wanted it. For dinner that night, we gave the fish to the restaurant, asked them to cook it up for us, and got half-off on our entree because we provided the fish. It was absolutely delicious... you can't go wrong with Mahi-Mahi.

After our charter, we took a much needed rest (remember Kilauea yesterday?) and then went boogieboarding before getting dinner. My mom's quite the boggieboarder... she's improved tremendously since our first outing. I looked for a green flash, but one of the best waves of the night obscured my view right as the sun was setting. That's probably the only time I've been frustrated at a good wave. But even if the wave hadn't come, I doubt I would have been able to see the green flash due to all the vog. As a little, talented boogieboarder said, "our volcano has been real busy lately," and when volcanoes are busy, air quality deteriorates.

Haven't heard anything from the Micronesia folk, but I'm hoping to get a response from them soon.

Ended 12:41 A.M. - waiting for Youtube video to upload (internet is very slow here!)

EDIT 8:44 P.M. 7/13/13

I put the finishing touches on this blog by adding a video I took of my mom catching the fish. She's using an extremely stout rod and is sitting in a specialized fighting chair for an 8 pound fish. Also, the video quality is horrible, I didn't know that taking videos with the camera turned 90 degrees ended up looking so bad on Youtube. Oh well, you know what they say, a day without an useless video uploaded to Youtube is an useless day.

- Charlie

Friday, July 12, 2013

Hawaii Day 4 (Micronesia Day 21): Volcano National Park

Thursday, July 11, 2013
10:05 P.M.

As the title says, my mother and I saw Volcano National Park today. It was a breathtaking experience... I'll talk to Pele about that... I'd like to have my lungs back. Especially after breathing in all of that sulfur dioxide. But honestly, I couldn't have imagined a better day. Below is a running script of things I wrote while I was in the car.

It’s 12:59 now… we probably got to the park entrance at 11 or so. So far, we've seen some pretty awesome things… we watched a cool video on Kilauea that gave us a history of some of the eruptions, but I think the coolest part was the voice of the narrator, which was highly reminiscent of the declaratory, patriotic voices giving the history of WWII and encouraging the U.S. citizens to enlist. The coolest thing we’ve seen so far are the steam vents and panoramic views of the Kilauea crater. Inside the larger Kilauea crater is the Halema’uma’u crater which, albeit much smaller, is currently active. See the live cams above for snapshots. I'll post these later when I have more time.

It didn’t start out raining here, but now it has transitioned to a “heavy drizzle.” This may seem like an oxymoron, but what I’m referring to is a multitude of small water droplets.

Alright: 5:09 Update

We’ve done a ton of things thus far today; after Kilauea, we went to the Jagger museum, the Halema’uma’u crater, some steam vents, some sulfur banks (which should be avoided by children, the elderly, and, according to our guidebook, 'anybody eating lunch.'), Kilauea Iki, and the Thurston Lava Tube, to name a few. We finished by driving down Chain of Craters Road with a stop at some lava fields near Mauna Ulu before carrying on to the ocean cliffs at the end of the road. We stopped when cars cannot physically drive any further due to lava from a 1974 Kilauea eruption engulfing the highway. Still, we were able to see some massive waves crashing against the shoreline and a a really cool arch extending out into the sea - the Holei Sea Arch, as I learned later. at the terminus of the road. These waves had a lot of gnarl, but they were certainly not surfing waves…they crashed against a sheer cliff that rose ~150 feet. Besides, while there was indeed a swell, the waves were more of a hodgepodge of chop with whitecaps breaking everywhere.

Right now, we are driving to Ken’s House of Pancakes in Hilo. Apparently this is a Hilo staple and is open 24 hours a day. Seeing as my mom and I had light breakfasts, we are both hungry (though my mom to a MUCH greater extent). After reaching Hilo, we are planning to return to Kona via the north side of the island, which means we will have circumnavigated the entire island in one day while still spending six hours in the park. My mom is a trooper, and she passed a little bit of that spirit onto me.

I could talk about everything from invasive species to hydrofluoric acid, but if I tried to write all this stuff while on my vacation here, I’d have no time to do fun things, like deep-sea fishing (I’ll be on the boat in a little over 13 hours!) or rectifying my horrible tan lines from Micronesia by doing some sort of snorkeling or surfing. Yes, I’ll be wearing sunscreen… Banana Boat SPF 50 to be exact, but the only thing that would prevent be from getting sunburnt is one of those full-body suits that people wear when they are trekking through Antarctica. Therefore, I’ll humor you with my newly found worldwide-influenced vernacular for now, and when I get back to Seattle and have nothing to do other than fishing and playing saxophone, I’ll analyze all the pictures I’ve taken and science I’ve learned and put together some pretty schnazzy blogs. Oh yeah, I’ll talk about weather too.

Update 10:01 P.M.

Got back from eating pancakes, left Hilo a little before 6, and finally got back to Kailua Kona around 9. Waking up at 5:45. Night. No word from anybody in Micronesia... I've bugged them for info and pics, but they haven't yet responded. Fingers croosed.

Ended 10:31 P.M.


Started 1:37 P.M. 7/16/2013

Well, I'm back in Seattle, and it's time to actually write about what I said I would write about earlier: the science behind my adventures at Volcano National Park. Unfortunately, I wrote a lot of stuff last night but Blogger did not save it, so I'll just have to write it again. It's ok, I could always use some qwerty practice.

Note: All pictures were taken with my Nikon Coolpix S6300 Camera on July 11, 2013, which is the day I went to the park.

Upon arriving at a parking lot in the park, we smelled that smelly smell of sulfur. Looking forward, we saw steam arising from small vents in the ground. Not surprisingly, these vents are called "steam vents" and are formed when water seeps through the ground, is heated by hot volcanic rocks buried underneath the soil, and rises back up again as steam. These vents smelled of sulfur, but the smell was not particularly potent.

Another thing about the steam vents is that the steam they expunge holds a LOT of water. There's the invisible water vapor that can still be held by the localized area of hot air arising from the vent, but once this air rises and mixes with the cooler surrounding air, a lot of water vapor condenses into droplets, and this is visible as steam. Fog can be thought of as a much less intense version of this general effect of the air already being saturated with invisible water vapor and no longer being able to hold any more, so the remaining moisture in the air condenses out as microscopic cloud droplets. That is what happens with these vents... cool air can hold less moisture than warm air, so the remaining moisture condenses out of the air and is visible as steam. 

You don't get wet walking through fog, however, and you can get pretty damp pretty quickly by standing in front of one of these steam vents. This is just a testament to how much water these guys bring up from underground.
There is a picture of the author half-naked and  relishing in an even more prominent vent, but I figured that'd be too steamy for this blog.
There is, however, a picture of my mom near the same vent. These steam vents are nothing to scoff at. I haven't tried it and I don't recommend doing so, but if you jumped into one of these vents, you would not only fall an unknown number of feet but you may become scalded to death by the steam. Additionally, since these gasses have volcanic origins, they are chalk-full of hydrofluoric and sulfuric acid which, besides being hazardous to humans, eat away rock and leave behind dangerously thin crusts of surface ash that may appear homogeneous to the land around them, so it is wise not to get too close to these vents. I learned about this rock dissolution stuff after looking at the vents, so I have an excuse for being a bit too close.  Some boy was injured in 1996 when he fell into one of these cracks, and you can check out the L.A. Times story here. Had he not grabbed onto some grass at the last moment, he would have almost certainly slipped into oblivion and return to the surface as steam.
She takes the steam like a champ
And folks, all of this steam stuff occurred on our walk to the visitor's center overlooking the Kilauea caldera. Let's get to our feature presentation.

 Kilauea - The Most Active Volcano On Earth

Source: Hawaii Volcano Observatory, USGS - Retrived 7/16/2013 from Wikimedia Commons
In Hawaiian, 'Kilauea' means "spewing" or "much spreading." The Hawaiians knew this was an extremely active volcano, and that is what the "spewing" refers to - the nearly constant flow of lava that originates from the magma chamber underneath the volcano. As such, it is the current center of the Hawaiian-Emperor Seamount chain of islands, atolls, or seamounts that were formed by volcanic activity. It is the youngest part of the island of Hawai'i (Big Island), but it is not the youngest part of the entire chain; that title belongs to the undersea volcano Lo'ihi approximately 30 miles due east of South Point on Hawai'i. The volcano itself is 300,000 to 600,000 years old, but 90% of it is covered by lava flows that are less than 1,000 years old. Folks, this is not Mt. Rainier, or even Mt. St. Helens. The current eruption has been constant since 1983 - 30 years of lava. That is absolutely mind-boggling.
I tried to make a panorana-esque shot of the entire caldera, but it turned out pretty badly. The picture below is a satellite shot from space, and hopefully this can give you a better view of the structure of the caldera.
Satellite shot of Kilauea on January 28, 2012 - Retrieved from NASA 7/16/13
There are several things that stand out in this picture. So let's get to it.

1.) The Halema'uma'u Crater

See that miniature crater from which steam is erupting within the larger Kilauea caldera? This is known as the Halema'uma'u Crater and is the current 'eruptive center within the eruptive center.' It has constantly been erupting a cloud of steam, sulfur dioxide, and other volcanic gasses since at least 1983.
And yes, there is the famed "hot lava" within Halema'uma'u. I came to Hawaii when I was 5, and when it turned out that I couldn't see any hot lava, I had an extraordinarily large temper-tantrum that may very well have been mistaken for a high pitched eruption from within the crater. When I was young, I was obsessed with volcanoes. You think I'm obsessed with weather now? This is NOTHING compared to my preschool through 1st grade infatuation with geology, and, in particular, volcanology. Although atmospheric science has taken the top spot, it is followed closely by volcanology and oceanography, with women a distant 4th behind.

You couldn't see the lava from where we were standing, so here's a picture taken at night that shows the lava lake glowing below the crater. Parts of the park within the general caldera were closed due to an abnormally high risk of death due to an eruption of lava.
Taken 3/22/13 at 10:10:35 (after dark) by Wikimedia contributor TimBray - Retrieved 7/16/13
If you want a view of what's happening inside the crater, check out this cam below. It is simply extraordinary.

In fact, the whole USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory website is awesome; check it out here:

2.) Kilauea Iki

The satellite picture shows two additional craters outside of the larger caldera. I don't know anything about the smaller one, but the larger one is called Kilauea Iki. Kilauea Iki erupted in 1959 and has not had significant volcanic activity since, but for November 14 to December 20 of that year, Kilauea Iki was extremely active and put on some fantastic shows. The picture below is a "lava lake" inside Kilauea Iki. These lakes are common throughout the region and are the reason why the surfaces of these craters are so flat. The most expansive example of this in Hawai'i is the entire Kilauea caldera, but they can be found in other places throughout the island as well. There may even be some remnant lava lakes on Maui, Oahu, or Kauai, but I have no clue. However, they probably had lava lakes on them when they were under the current Hawaiian hotspot.
Kilauea Iki filling with lava on November 14, 1959 - Retrieved from USGS on 7/16/13
There were also some incredibly strong lava fountains from Kilauea Iki. A lava fountain is exactly what it sounds like; a fountain of lava. Imagine Drumheller Fountain at the UW, but instead of E. Coli with a little bit of water being shot up into the air, pure molten rock is. Some of these lava fountains were incredibly high, reaching 1,900 feet above their eruptive center. I don't think there would be any geese defecating in the liquid in an environment like this.
A lava fountain on Kilauea Iki on December 12, 1959 at 7:00 A.M. Retrieved from USGS on 7/16/13
There were 17 separate eruptions in the 10/14 - 12/20 time frame. The first one began when the south wall of the mountain ripped open, and a "curtain of lava" a half mile wide flew into the crater. Kilauea Iki had erupted 90 years before, so a crater was already formed. With each successive eruption, the lava lake rose and rose, and with lava surging out the vent, huge waves of molten rock surged through the crater like waves in a nasty Columbia Bar crossing. The crater, which was 800 feet deep, was filled halfway with lava.

I'll just stop and let that thought percolate through your mind for a bit.

The eruption finally ended when the lake rose high enough to drown the vent from which the lava was outpouring. The lava drained back down the vent but left behind a 50-foot "bathtub ring" of dark rock as evidence.

I took some pictures of the crater, and I have posted them below.
Overlooking the crater from a trail we hiked around the rim of it
A steam vent of sorts inside the crater
This was one of the most awe-inspiring eruptions ever recorded. As USGS scientist Don Richter (hint: there's a scale named after him) said, "Our senses were overwhelmed by the eruption - we could see it, feel it, hear it, smell it." The eruptions of Pinatubo and Mt. St. Helens may be more explosive and dramatic, but take a moment and imagine yourself staring at a fountain of lava over three times the height of the Space Needle. There is a mesmerizing component that these relatively gentle shield volcanoes have over catastrophic eruptions from stratovolcanoes.

3.) Different Rock Colors Within the Caldera

If you look inside the Kilauea caldera, you can see specific areas that are darker or lighter than others. I don't know much about the origin or formation of these different colors, but if I had to guess, I would hypothesize that they were created by different lava flows originating from different areas at different times. The problem with that theory is that the surface of the caldera looks the same; there doesn't look to be any overlying flows. Another theory which I think would be more plausible is that they were all part of the same lava lake at one time, but they had different characteristics and did not mix. Of course, the problem with that theory is that the transitions are pretty sharp, so there would have to be essentially no mixing of any of the lava, which, as a liquid substance, might not be very plausible. Lava is very viscous though, so it is quite possible that different lavas don't mix that well.

This topic of lava flows leads me on to another very important subject (which is accordingly named)...

The Different Types of Lava Flows

I'm sure there are many different types of flows. One-flow, two-flow, red-flow, blue-flow. But for simplicity, we are going to focus on two types of flows: A'a and Pahoehoe

I hope you haven't had trouble understanding anything I've talked about. But if you only come away with this blog from one thing, it will be the difference between a'a and pahoehoe.

Short answer: Don't cross a'a barefoot
Pahoehoe is in the foreground, A'a from a January 1974 lava flow is in the background
 Long answer:

Pahoehoe lava has a smooth surface texture, not unlike that of a pan of chocolate brownies. Additionally, they have little textures on them that provide a glimpse into how the lava cooled into solid basalt. Check out the pictures I took at the end of Chain of Craters road by the ocean.
A'a lava has an extremely rough surface, and it tends to remind me of the giant stones often around quarries, but only sharper and more numerous. Some a'a lava that I found had these incredible colors on the outside, with lots of blue/grey and copper-colored reflective material surrounding the rock. I don't know what this is or how it was formed, but it sure is fascinating. The second a'a picture of a singular rock with an a'a background shows this well.

There are several differences in the way these two types of lava form. Pahoehoe tends to form in an eruption with a low rate of effusion (amount of lava discharged per unit time) while the opposite is true for a'a. Pahoehoe flows are more fluid and can spread across different parts of a landscape, but an a'a flow acts like a bulldozer and obliterates everything in its path. Pahoehoe flows can turn to a'a flows when there is a change in conditions or the pahoehoe simply loses heat and gas as it travels further from the vent from which it came, but it is hard for a'a to transition to pahoehoe.

Pahoehoe and a'a flows often come from the same eruption and there is no difference in chemical composition between them. This shows that the mechanism that determines whether the lava is a'a or pahoehoe is related to the physical conditions that the lava travels in rather tan the chemical composition itself.

It's getting kind of late here... 5 P.M. with essentially no breaks, but I'll try and wrap it up.

The steam vents were cool, but they could not compare to Sulfur Banks, a location nearby where sulfur crystals could be found. There were a host of gasses that were emitted from Sulfur Banks, including sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. These specific gases react with each other to create pure sulfur and water, and this sulfur manifests itself in these stunningly gorgeous yellow crystals. Don't touch them though... they are fragile and coated with sulfuric acid. These crystals were known as kukaepele, or the waste of Pele. I wonder why...

They sure don't look like waste though, even if they may smell like it. Take a look at some of the pictures I took of the banks. They are absolutely stunning!
Some individual sulfur crystals
The banks as a whole
These banks were formed when Kilauea's summit collapsed 500 years ago. The summit collapse occurred because as the mountain continued to erupt, the magma reservoir under the mountain was gradually emptied. Eventually, the pressure upwards from the magma chamber to support the summit could not support the downward force of gravity, and the summit collapsed into a caldera. The collapse didn't occur as one giant drop throughout the mountain... there was a "stepped" characteristic to the surface after the collapse, with the center of the caldera being the lowest and discontinuous step-like features increasing the elevation and gradually ending the caldera. Sulfur Banks is on a terrace on one of these steps. We talked earlier about how steam vents emit primarily water vapor and some other gasses such as sulfur dioxide. With Sulfur Banks, the water extends all the way down to the magma chamber, vaporizes, and, having a much high sulfur content, creates crystals on its way back up to the atmosphere

Above, I mentioned Pele. Pele is the legendary Brazilia... oh wait. Wrong Pele.

I could not find a certified public domain image of Pele, so this will have to do.
Pele is the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes, fire, lightning, and wind. Pele is known for her creativity and passion, but most notably, she is known for her deep sense of love. Legend has it that every volcanic eruption in Hawaii is Pele's way of longing to be with Lohiau, a young Hawaiian chief. However, Pele's not just some whipped deity... she has been known to kill her husbands. Her home is the Halema'uma'u crater inside the Kilauea summit caldera. Pele is believed to control everything about a volcano, including when and where it erupts, and is one of the most important goddesses in Hawaiian religion. I knew about Pele before I knew about Jesus.

Similar to Pele is Nene, an extraordinarily dumb bird that is nevertheless the state bird of Hawaii. Sike.
This bird... wow. Most birds run from cars and trucks. This one waddles towards them. We had to slow way down and try to convince the bird to get off the street while we were driving past it. I think we must have put up a pretty convincing argument, because we got him to get off the road.

Hawai'i, with all due respect, at least be honest about the Nene's intelligence.

In conclusion, however, this was an absolutely incredible day, and I'm so glad that I can share it with you in my blog.

Thank you!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Hawaii Day 3 (Micronesia Day 20): Sea to Sky

Friday, July 19, 2013
1:19 P.M.

First off, let me just say that the time I've spent on this post is absolutely infuriating. I wrote a decently-sized post, then wrote a much larger post, then found out that the larger post got deleted after Firefox crashed, then tried to clear the cache to see if this was just a blogger glitch, but it wasn't, and then I accidentally deleted the original stuff I had written down. Now, I'm left with a blank slate of 0's and 1's. I don't know what's up with autosave.

Note: All pictures were taken with my Nikon Coolpix S6300 Camera on July 10, 2013, which is the day I went on this expedition.

Anyway, third time's a charm, right? Blech... let's get this over with and switch to a new mindset.


Day 3 was a heavenly day. And I mean this very literally. We traveled all the way from sea-level to the peak of Mauna Kea, the premier location in the world for astronomical obvservtion. But it wasn't just about Mauna Kea. We learned about everything from Captain Cook to cattle to Kona coffee. I'm running a risk of spraining my fingers by even trying to blog about an abridged version of this wonderful, wonderful day, but I never liked my fingers anyway... they are short and stubby and bad for playing most musical instruments (thankfully, the saxophone is not one of these). So, without further ado, our feature presentation.

The first leg of our amazing journey brought us to a Tesoro gasoline station at 2:25 P.M. Hawaii Time. Although the Tesoro was the most notable feature there, the headquarters of the charter company we had planned our expedition with, Hawaii Forest & and Trail LTD, were in the same plaza. Finding the place was as hassle-free as can be, for we had conveniently parked right in front of it. We opened the door to find a wide variety of folks and some assorted souvenirs and books throughout the store. We knew we had arrived at the right place.

But this right place was hardly our final destination. There, we found two guides that would be leading us on our trip. One was an older man with white hair who seemed to be a longtime veteran of his position, and the other was an upstart young man who was bursting with joy at the thought of being our guide. There were two buses, and each held ten people. With 14 people at the meeting place, ten hopped onto one bus, while my mom, myself, and two other young men from San Francisco (one, might I add, incredibly buff) hopped onto the other, which was driven by the ambitious and easily excitable young guide. We then traveled to Waikala Village, a very high end resort that was originally built on a lava field. Now, it is filled with flawless paved roads, beautiful flowers, endless golf courses, and towering palms that would reach to the sky in a loving attempt to provide the vacationers more than adequate amounts of shady relief. Most startling, however, was the immediate lava flow surrounding the resort. This lava flow had been heavily manicured to suit the orderliness of the resort as a whole. Regardless of the lava flow plastic surgery, the entire resort was breathtaking.

Here, we picked up six additional people so that our bus was full. Among these were a couple we had never met, but we were both mutual friends with one of my mom's best friends from her graduate work at Columbia in New York. My mom had been in contact with her friend and my mom's friend had mentioned that two of her friends were also going to be in Hawai'i that week. Once we had picked everybody up at Waikala Village, we did a name and introduction activity. The couple said their names, and my mom gasped in amazement. We had come across the people that my mom's friend was mentioning. Talk about a small world.

We had wonderful talks with them throughout the drive, but we also had wonderful talks with everybody else and our tour guide, Nate. The drive to Mauna Kea wasn't the most scenic one, but Nate entertained us with a vast pool of knowledge about the landmarks and history of the land we were crossing as he drove us to Mauna Kea.

This map was retrieved from on 7/19/13. I suggest going to the website and looking up the map there, which is interactive and allows you to look at individual maps of smaller sub-regions.
We drove northeast on Highway 190 and turned right onto Highway 200, which is affectionately known as "Saddle Road." If I tried to describe Saddle Road in an at least somewhat pretty way, I'd be lying to myself, so I'll lay it on the line. Saddle Road, at least until we turned left and headed north to Mauna Kea, was ugly. Here are just a few of the pictures I took on our trek across this desolate land.

As you can see, the primary scenery consisted of old (or in some cases, not-so-old) a'a lava flows. The pictures below show Mauna Loa to the south and Mauna Kea to the north, but these aren't the prettiest mountains either. Call me cynical, but they just look like oversized ant hills to me.

Mauna Loa
Mauna Kea

Nate, however, was not one to be lured into grogginess by the monotony of the landscape, and had some extraordinary stories to tell that piqued my imagination and a vast amount of knowledge to share that awakened my desire to learn. He kept me interested the entire ride up.

I'm sure many of you coffee-drinkers are familiar with Kona coffee. In 1828, Samuel Ruggles brought coffee originating from Brazil into the Kona area. The coffee plants grew like weeds and were a huge success, but seeing as they were primarily cultivated on the slopes of the Hulalai and Mauna Loa in the North and South Kona districts, transporting the massive amounts of coffee beans proved to be a hassle. So, who other to bring to the island than... drumroll please...


I retrieved Donkey from Wikipedia, and because he is a copyrighted character, I am committing copyright infringement. Oh well... sue me, Dreamworks.
Donkeys were chosen over horses because they were more size-appropriate for the job. As an added benefit, they have more pound-for-pound strength than horses, but this was not the main stipulation for using donkeys over horses. The Japanese in particular used these donkeys not only for coffee but for sugar cane. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), donkeys became obsolete when the first Jeeps rolled onto the scene, as one jeep could transport as much material as 8-9 typically-sized donkeys and could do so at a much faster rate. The donkeys were then left to roam free throughout the island.

Retrieved 7/19/13 - Photo Credit - Michael F. O'Brien: Uploaded 7/18/11
It wasn't too long before these donkeys became a problem. In the nineties when a resort called the Four Seasons Reasort -Hualalai was being built, feral donkeys, also known as asses, roamed over the golf courses being constructed and dampened construction efficiency. The above group, "Save Our Asses," got these asses off the golf courses and various roads and successfully secured them in a massive fenced-in property. Of course, the asses reproduced and now the ranch is overpopulated. As a farmhand, I could put up with one ass, but I'd lose my cool in a ranch full of asses.

Donkeys weren't the only animals brought over to Hawai'i. George Vancouver brought 5 cows and one bull as a gift to Kamehameha I in 1793, and by 1815, cattle, having no natural predators, numbered an astonishingly 60,000 individuals on the island. The same year, a man named John Parker arrived in Hawaii with a new musket and killed thousands of these cattle for Kamehameha, as him and the king had developed previous relations since Parker's arrival in Hawai'i in 1809 (cool tidbit: he got there by jumping off a ship). To hold all these cattle, he was given two acres and used it to develop his own ranch. The ranch has since expanded to 500,000 acres

The current Saddle Road used to be all but an "impenetrable" forest, as Scottish botanist David Douglas said in 1834. David Douglas may not seem like a recognizable name, but guess who introduced the Douglas Fir for cultivation in 1827? Hint: his first name is 'David.' Much of the forest was cut down to make way for this gigantic ranch, which, according to our tour guide Nate, was once the largest ranch in the world. I do not know the current ranking of the ranch against others worldwide.

Nate told us that there were three principle ways for stuff to get here: Wings, Water, and Wind. Wings refers to objects that were transported by flying organisms, water refers to objects that were washed ashore, and wind refers to objects that were blown to the island. For example, Nate told us that grass had been naturally introduced 100,000 years ago. He later added a fourth W: white people. We've already gone over donkeys and cattle. Whites introduced mongooses to eat rats that were eating sugar cane, but mongooses tend to stay on ground and rats in the trees, so sugar canes continued to get eaten while mongooses killed ground birds. On our Kilauea adventure the next day, we learned about a variety of invasive plants that had been introduced primarily by whites onto the island. Like so many once remote places, travel has made it much easier to introduce species into a certain area. Pohnpei was relatively untouched, which was one of the reasons I enjoyed my time there so much.

Before I move on from biology, I want to address one last animal: the Nene. Also known as the Hawaiian Quail, it is regarded as sacred by Hawaiians, and is an aumakua, or spirit animal. It is an endemic and endangered species because it is extremely tame and often gets clobbered by cars or predators. When James Cook arrived in 1778, it is believed that there were 25,000 nene on the island. Hunting and introduced predators like the aforementioned mongoose reduced the population to 30 birds in 1952, but they were saved from extinction and bred in captivity. As of 2004, there were 800 birds in the wild.

That's the science. Just fair warning: I didn't give the Nene "two thumbs up" on my rather opinionated Volcano National Park post.

Now, let's briefly talk about some volcanoes Nate touched on.

Retrieved from Wikipedia 7/19/13 - Credit: USGS: Uploaded 7/10/10

Mauna Kea

Retrieved 7/19/13 from Wikipedia - Photo Credit - Vadim Kurland: Uploaded 12/16/07
Mauna Kea's last eruption was 4,500 years ago, but it has been pretty quiet since 200,000 years ago. However, it was incredibly active 1,000,000-500,000 years ago when it was in a stage similar to what Kilauea is now. I wouldn't call Mauna Kea extinct, but it is very quiet. The picture above isn't mine, but it is a pretty incredible Creative Commons picture via Flickr that was taken when the mountain had its wintertime snowcap.

Mauna Loa

Looking at Mauna Loa from the top of Mauna Kea. It was windy and cold.
Mauna Loa, on the other hand, is very active. It is 118 feet shorter than Mauna Kea, but with a volume of 75,000 cubic kilometers, it is far and away the most massive mountain on Earth. It has had major eruptions in 1926, 1950, and 1984, with smaller eruptions scattered in between. It started erupting 700,000 years ago, and it could be another 700,000 before it stops.


Another notable volcano is Hualalai, which last erupted in 1801. At 8,271 feet, it is much shorter than its siblings. Despite being the third most active volcano on the island after Kilauea and Mauna Loa, it is perhaps, at this time, the most dangerous. Today, the coast near Hualalai is a haven for vacationers and has many resorts in the area accordingly. An eruption could not only obliterate these resorts but place small villages and both Kailua-Kona and its airport in danger. It is lesser known than Mauna Loa and Kilauea, but it deserves just as much attention.

As we continued our journey up the mountain, we drove through some rolling hills. Nate said these were very uncommon for Hawaii and were actually sand/silt dunes covered with grass. They were formed in the last ice age by wind blowing glacial detritus to the leeward side of small objects, and as more of this material collected on the leeward side, the more the hills grew.

Nate told us so many things that I could write a book. Even more amazing was that he was completely self-taught. But let's get on with the story. Much more awaits us.

At 5:01 P.M., we stopped at 7,000 feet to get some dinner. I, being a very strict vegetarian, had some tofu and some other greens. I can't remember what the exact food was, but it was flavorless.

The place we stopped at was one of the creepiest places I've ever seen, even in broad daylight. Filled with rusty quonset huts and dilapidated sheep shelters, it looked like a scene straight out of Saw.

The cold wind blowing through the creepy compound didn't help at all. Winds must have been blowing at a constant 20 miles per hour, and if one walked far enough uphill, they would be completely enclosed by fog. The only thing I could imagine that would be worse would be if the entire place was silent. Now THAT would be scary.

We left at 6:10 and continued our path up the mountain. As we increased in elevation, we continued to see a variety of interesting things. In particular, we came across some beautiful cinder cones which were once areas of volcanic activity. Unfortunately, the people who have the most experience with it are probably the people who have come to hate it more than anybody else. Soldiers used to run up these to get stronger, which sounds like an exciting way to start a workout regimen, but I imagine it would get pretty old pretty quickly. The clouds you see below are the low clouds that enclosed the Saw location we ate at earlier.

And at last, we reached the summit.

Coming from Micronesia, this felt like Vostok in July
See the picture of Mauna Loa below? Well, it's actually not a picture of Mauna Loa. It's a picture of the shadow cast by Mauna Loa as the sun was setting. I've seen pictures by YouNews contributors on the KOMO website about this same sort of effect happening with Mt. Rainier, but this was the first time I had witnessed it in person.

We even got a video of the sunset. No fireworks, no green flash, no cheering from the crowds; the sun just seemed to gently melt into the horizon.

I had heard of the Mauna Kea telescopes, but I had no idea how large or numerous they are. Below is a list I copied and pasted from Wikipedia (at least I'm honest).
Everybody reading this blog knows of the Hubble Telescope. Well, I should say 99.99% just to be safe in the same manner as a label on a bottle of hand sanitizer. I believed that the Hubble was the premier telescope in the world. Well, it turns out that it's not.

The Hubble and these telescopes, particularly the two Keck telescopes, used to be on roughly the same level as far as usefulness is concerned. Each had their strengths and weakness. But recently, MIT students developed adaptive optics - a technology that, by reducing the distortion of wavelengths by Earth's atmosphere, increases the performance of the telescope. The Hubble and Keck are still relatively equal when it comes to their ability at taking pictures of certain objects. You can find a whole bunch of Hubble images at, and I highly suggest that you check it out.

But when it comes to other aspects (Nate didn't touch on specific ones), practicality, and ease of access (duh), the Keck and many of these other telescopes rip the Hubble to shreds.

Once the sun set and the sky turned dark (it does this quickly at lower latitudes), we could see thousands of stars in the sky and a very distinct outline of the Milky Way. You could even pick out where the center of the Milky Way (and its corresponding supermassive black hole) were located. Because of its subtropical location, one can see many different constellations at the same time. Indeed, we were able the North Star (Polaris) and the Southern Cross at the same time. I don't know of many other locations where you can do that. Large prominent constellations like the Big Dipper were in their full glory, and I was also able to see constellations not visible from Seattle, like Scorpius. Nate eventually popped out an 11-inch reflecting telescope and we saw Omega Centuari (a globular cluster of stars), the Whirlpool Galaxy, The Alberion Binary star system, the Ring Nebula, and to finish things off, the rings of Saturn. It was an amazing night, and one I will never forget.

It's easy to agree with people who say we are but a speck in a vast, expanding universe. But when you are on the top of Mauna Kea and can see stars you've never seen before, it really hits home. It's impossible to explain; it has to be experienced.

But even if I lived in a city whose light pollution was so bad that the only visible objects were Venus and the Moon, I feel as though due to this experience, I have a better grasp on my relationship with the rest of the universe. Now, I grasp that everything I saw is always out there and have realized that I previously only partially comprehended our place in space. I've got some contemplation to do, but with any luck, I'll have plenty of time for that. We joked about the world being small when we saw the mutual friends on the bus, but when you can see galaxies 10 million light-years away with a simple reflecting telescope, you realize that we are just a tiny planet surrounded by sun surrounded by a galaxy surrounded by a cluster of galaxies enclosed in a supercluster of galaxies. And when you realize that we don't even know what 95% of the Universe is (dark matter and dark energy), the millions of superclusters seem small.

And this weather blog? Hah, it hardly even exists.