A Stroll in the Garden

My mother is on island, escaping the cold and grey of Portland for a week. An excuse to visit the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden… Again.

A white ginger (Alpinia purpurata) at Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
I have visited the gardens several times across our years on the island. The garden is a beautifully maintained array of tropical plants collected from across the globe. Set in the lush jungle of the Hamakua coast above the pretty Onomea Bay the gardens are always a treat to visit.

Onomea Falls
Onomea Falls at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
I admit plants are pretty, but the dizzying array of botanical specimens leaves me just a bit overwhelmed. Yes, it is yet another pretty orchid. I love to study the local plants and animals, but this collection from all over the world lacks much organization, having little focus. No matter, my main interest in visiting is to have fun with a camera and take advantage of the many photographic opportunities of these beautiful gardens.

Of course, being a tropical rain-forest it rained for our visit. I have never actually managed to visit the gardens when it was not raining. Still, the soft light of heavy overcast and the drops of water on leaves and flowers are just another photographic opportunity.

As my mother and Deb wandered around talking plants, I wandered nearby with a tripod and an umbrella borrowed from the entry station. I did come up with a few pretty photos. Not a bad day for a stroll on the garden.

The 2014 MATE ROV Big island Regional

This is the seventh year I have travelled to Hilo to help out. The seventh year of watching students attempt a difficult mission of the bottom of a swimming pool. The 2014 MATE ROV Regional competition was held Saturday, May 11th at the Hilo High School pool.

Ready for the Water?
The team from Kailua High School ready and test their ROV for a mission in the 2014 MATE Regional in Hilo
The mission this year is to explore a Great lakes shipwreck. As usual the “shipwreck” is made of PVC pipe, shade cloth and other hardware store parts. By measuring the wreck and discovering various features the identity of the ship could be determined. The robots are also built with hardware store parts, most with frames of PVC pipe. Interestingly there was a notable presence of parts manufactured with laser cutters and 3D printing this year. It is great to see these technologies making their way into educational programs, giving students unprecedented power to design and create.

Students from Highlands Intermediate School run a mission in the pool
Some teams did quite well. I was impressed by the professionalism and dedication it took to build and operate the ROV’s. Teams travelled from neighbor islands to compete in Hilo, raising the funds for plane tickets and to ship the ROV’s they had created. Besides the underwater activities the teams must also make presentations and supply technical reports that are also scored.

A scout class ROV getting ready for the water
It takes a lot of work to properly judge the competition. I have noted that the rules and scoresheets just keep getting longer every year. I must tip my hat to the folks that make this competition happen every year, giving the kids a chance for invaluable experience.

Who won? Not really that important, even failure in the pool results in learning, even if the lessons are uncomfortable. The students will take that experience forward in life.

Akatsuka Orchid Gardens

Some tourist traps are worth wandering into.

Akatsuka Orchid Gardens
The showroom at Akatsuka Orchid Gardens
Akatsuka Orchid Gardens is a business that caters to serious gardeners and casual tourists. An oddly diverse clientele, but a seemingly successful business model. Located on Highway 11 halfway between Hilo and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The tour buses shuttling visitors between the cruise ships and the volcano often stop here, as do many tourists traveling the usual island loop.

It is worth the stop. Upon entering you are greeted by a profusion of spectacular blooms. Even with no intent to buy you can enjoy the many spectacular blooms. Orchids are utterly amazing in the variety of flower shapes in an array of intense colors.

Akatsuka Orchid Gardens Greenhouse
The main greenhouse at Akatsuka Orchid Gardens
Ever popular Cattleya and Dendrobiums make up the bulk of the offerings. But there are other families represented among the bewildering display of flowers.

There is no charge to enter the main showroom to view the many orchids for sale. Many spectacular blooms are simply on display. For a fee they offer a growing operation tour, probably a must for an orchidphile, but the cost was a little steep, $35 per person.

All of the plants for sale are pre-inspected and come with export paperwork. Better yet, you can have your order shipped home to avoid the trouble of passing through the various agricultural inspections. The staff has the shipping procedure down to an art, packaging the delicate plants just so and holding the order so it will arrive after you are home from your vacation.

As long as the gardens are not swarming with tourists, just look for the tour buses, I would recommend stopping. If my home on the dry side were a little more orchid friendly I would probably have dropped a few dollars, it was tempting.

Astroday 2012 and a VIS Lecture

I have not had a bad cold in quite a while. Wednesday last week I felt the first symptoms, a sore throat beginning. I expected it, Deb had been suffering for a couple days by then. Thursday morning it was inescapable, I called in sick to work. I hoped it would be over by the weekend, I had promised to help out with Astroday and present a lecture on behalf of Keck at the Mauna Kea VIS. This would be the second run across island to Hilo in as many weeks, after almost a year without visiting Hilo, funny how that works.

By Saturday morning things were better, but not great. So off to Hilo I went, a good dose of decongestant improving the situation. I may not have been at 100%, but I had commitments to keep.

Astroday 2012
David Lynn manning the Keck table at Astroday 2012
Astroday is always fun, everyone from the astronomy community setting up tables and educational exhibits throughout the Prince Kuhio Plaza Mall in Hilo. At this point I know so many of the folks there, even the guys from Hilo I only meet a few times each year. The event is really designed for kids, with plenty of activites and a little education mixed in.

I manned the Keck table for a couple hours until David relived me. We did the Astro Haiku contest again. Not bad, but it was a repeat of last year. We really need to get some science experiment bling for our table next year. I have some ideas for that.

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Kaumana Cave

A fern draped opening into the earth, that beckons us to explore what was once the domain of Pele. A place of fire and molten rock, now a cool, dripping passage beneath the earth. The island of Hawai’i is riddled with hundreds of miles of lava tubes, most are inaccessible, but some are easy to get to. Kaumana Cave is one of the easy ones.

Kaumana Cave
The fern draped entry to the Kaumana lava tube, HDR blend of three exposures
A steep staircase leads into a collapse pit. Here the cave roof collapsed and allows entry into the lava tube. From here you can enter different sections of the cave, going mauka (uphill) or makai (downhill) paths. I would suggest turning to the right from the staircase and taking the downhill section if a short exploration is desired, but both are good.

Going makai, a short path leads to the entrance. There are a few boulders to step carefully through, after which sections of smooth and mostly level surfaces allow a bit easier access. About 50 yards into the downhill section you will reach a choke point, a little scrambling and a bit of duck-walk is necessary to get through. After the narrow, the cave opens back up again. After another hundred yards there are a series of ledges, old crusts left by cooling lava when it half filled the cave. To continue from here requires crawling through another very low passage. Perhaps a good place to turn around if you are only interested in a short exploration.

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