When the police reports hit the web we were all a bit worried. A bullet hole reported in a door at Subaru Observatory. The photos circulated shortly after the reports did not help, it really looked like a bullet hole in the door.
While the news circulated Sunday it was all conjecture and accusations flew everywhere. The threats made against the telescopes were discussed. Protesters protested their innocence, and claims of “false flags” and inside jobs were made on Twitter and Facebook. The national news picked up the story and reports could be found all across the web.
Arriving at the summit Monday morning we took the few minute walk over to Subaru to look at the door in question.
This was not a bullet hole.
We had gotten word over the radio a few minutes before that it was not a bullet hole, but there was no explanation as to how that had been determined. A close look and I had to agree, the hole looked wrong to me. I do have a fair amount of practical experience in making real bullet holes. It was clear that the door had slammed against a bit of piping on the adjacent wall, possibly pushed by high winds.
An adjustment screw protruded from the pipe in just the right spot. There was paint transfer to the screw and an impression of the lock nut in the side of the hole. It was exactly the same distance from the door hinge to the hole and the hinge to the pipe.
The shape of the screw and nut made a hole the looked just like a bullet hole, complete with the large patch of missing paint around the hole that is usually seen in the impact of a high speed object. I am not sure if I could have come up with as neat a way to simulate a bullet hole without a bullet if I tried.
What does amaze me is how far this went. That someone reported it, that the police who responded to the call were convinced enough to write a report and issue a press release. That the local and national media picked up the story as quickly as they did.
The entire incident goes to demonstrate the tensions that currently exist on our mountain. Everyone is hoping for the best but fearing the worst. In general the Kapu Aloha holds and the conversation is amazingly civil despite the extreme disagreement over the future of Mauna Kea. I have had conversations with telescope opponents and met people who exemplify the real meaning of aloha.
The fear is someone who had been radicalized by the more extreme rhetoric that surrounds the controversy. While face to face discussions tend to be civil, some of the online postings have been anything but civil. Threats have been made and we worry that someone out there may act on those threats.
Where to from here? The state supreme court has agreed to take the case, bypassing the intermediate court of appeals. Having read the lower court decisions I am optimistic that any decision will be in favor of TMT. Construction could begin immediately as the courts have refused to issue an injunction, but perhaps it would be best to wait for this final court decision. With the legal side of this resolved the road to construction would be much clearer.