Today’s post incorporates many different days and lots of different things! First, I will start with the Pu’ukohola Heiau. The heiau was on top of the “whale hill” and was built by King Kamehameha in the 1780s. What was incredible about the site was not the actual structure (although it was pretty cool), but the whale watching station that was set up by a group that is active in their preservation. The whales came early to the island, so it was good that they were still hanging out. For those of you who do not know much about whales, there are four types of whale sightings, a breech, a dorsal fin, a fluke (tail), and a blowhole. The blowhole is a whale’s way of sneezing and getting the mucus out of its body. Sadly, the whales are not always safe and there are many threats for them. Entrapment by nets, strandings on land, and boats are dangerous to the whales, and the conservation group works to keep the whales swimming free. In terms of clean energy, I saw a whole cow field full of windmills. The locals hate them because they take up a lot of room, but they do not provide a lot of energy. When I went, a lot of them were not turning. Wind energy does not seem to be very effective. On a final note for that day, I saw a few crabs that were black to blend in with the black lava rocks on the beaches (even more camouflage for the third graders).
My third day was a slow day. I sent most of it snorkeling around the Mauna Kea Beach Resort. I got to see a lot of different kinds of fish. It was amazing! The fish, like the trigger fish (humuhumunukunukuapua’a), the parrot fish, and the butterfly fish, were unbelievable. They were fish that you only see in pictures or paintings.
That brings me to today, day four. We started the day by driving to the almost summit of Mauna Kea, the biggest volcano. Believe it or not, the road to the summit was closed due to three inches of snow and ice. It reminded me of Virginia! On the drive up we stopped at a lava field and saw the old lava up close. It looked as if it had just erupted yesterday. I got some pictures of the inside of a collapsed hole where the lava had hardened on the surface, but continued to flow underneath. Then, instead of going to the top, we hiked up a little peak, a pu’u. The views were great, and you truly got a sense of how massive the volcanoes are. On the way down, I noticed some tall trees. It made me think back to biology class where we discussed water potential and how it contributed to the height of trees. As the atmospheric pressure decreases, the water potential decreases and the water flows from an area of high to low potential through the xylem. The atmospheric pressure was certainly very low close to the summit, and it made me wonder how it affects tree and plant growth. Next in my day, we hiked down to Pololu Valley. The beach was fairly secluded because there was a one mile descent. The beach remains relatively unchanged and well protected. In contrast to the arid, desert-like ecosystem we had been travelling through all day, the valley was almost a rainforest. The hike was well worth it, and I got to see the abundance of life that I envisioned.