Thursday, August 18, 2011

Big Island Trip: Banyans, Kua Bay, and Mauna Kea

The Housemate and I took a week-long summer vacation on the Big Island in July. We stayed with his brother, who lives in Kailua-Kona with his wife and two little children.

Our first day there, the swell was good, so the Housemate took the opportunity to go surfing with his brother. The beach wasn't good for swimming, though, so the rest of us just hung out on the beach under a shady tree.

The Housemate's four-year-old nephew collects rocks and coral bits by the water.

A turtle! Shame it didn't put its head above the water, but I think it's still recognizable.

The second day, we went to a beach that was great for swimming: Kua Bay Beach Park. The sand is soft and light, and the water is the perfect, glittering, crystal-clear green the brochures tell you it's supposed to be.

While the Housemate's nephew liked to stay on the beach, running in and out of the gently crashing waves, his 18-month-old niece LOVED boogie boarding with her father.

She was having a great time there.

That night, we went to the Mauna Kea Observatory Visitor Center. On top of the 14,000-ft (4200-m) volcano sits a collection of powerful telescopes that capture important astronomical images. Those telescopes, though, don't have eyepieces and instead feed directly into computers. So aside from appreciating how large the telescopes are, there isn't much to see at the peak. Furthermore, at 14,000 ft, people acclimated to sea level would likely find themselves impaired by the thin air--not able to see straight, feeling ill, and such. Thus, the visitor center sits down the mountain at a comfortable 9000 ft.

9000 ft (2750 m) is still quite high. While at sea level in Kona the temperature was around 80F (27C), at the Visitor Center it was about 49F (9C). This is REALLY cold by Hawaii standards--in Honolulu, a day that doesn't pass 75F is cold, and a night that dips below 65F is downright freezing. Luckily we'd seen on their website how cold it would be, and I wore the warmest clothes I'd brought: a light sweatshirt and jeans. I would have preferred a fleece jacket. Needless to say, the gift shop there made an absolute killing on Cup O'Noodles and hot chocolate mix.

The presentation someone made (armed with powerful laser pointer) was a bit disappointing, concentrating on pointing out the constellations in the zodiac rather than providing interesting astronomical information (the one exception: an explanation of Omega Centauri). But they had about a dozen telescopes set up and focused on various interesting things in the night sky. I tried to snap a few photos with my camera, but given the difficulty of lining up the shots, and the fact that there were often people waiting in a line behind me, I didn't get that many. Here are a couple:

Guess which planet this is. Through the telescope, we could see maybe four of its moons, but the camera only got the rings. Still recognizable, though.

Moon so bright.

Less exposed, so you can see the detail a bit better.

I'm not sure I'm anxious to go back to the Mauna Kea Observatory, but I'm glad I went. I wish that the staff there were a bit more knowledgeable, but I saw some cool things, and they had interesting videos playing inside the building. It makes a good evening trip.

Coming up next: The best photos from our trip, which came the next day when we hiked into Waipio Valley.

Back to Big Island Trip master link page

1 comment:

Tom Tailor said...

This beautiful island is certainly on my bucket list now!