A Snow Week

With a decent snowfall atop Mauna Kea my week was one of snow, and more snow. It was a week of problems and beauty.

The snow started falling on the 10th, a blanket of white covering the mauna. As the observatory crews pulled out and the road was closed we watched the storm on the webcams. While it snowed on the summit near record rains and flooding hit Hilo along with much of the windward side.

Dawn over Mauna Kea as seen from Saddle Road
Dawn over Mauna Kea as seen from Saddle Road

While a few guys from our summit crew made short visits to check on things, for the most part work on the summit was paused through the weekend, conditions inoperable.

It was not until Tuesday that the snowplows cleared the snowdrifts and access was partially restored. With delayed tasks to do I drove up that morning into a spectacular dawn over the mauna.

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A Full Night at Kaʻohe

A last star party of the year, actually the last star party of the decade.

'Scopes in the Twilight
A pair of 8″ telescopes in the twilight, with a setting Moon and Venus over Hualalai

With new Moon in the middle of Christmas week I had the choice of the weekend before Christmas, or the weekend after. Guessing that attendance would be better in the quiet days between holidays I chose December 28th as our monthly new Moon star party.

The site was, as usual our Ka’ohe observing site on the side of Mauna Kea. The weather was nearly ideal, clear, not very cold, and almost no wind at the site.

Arriving at the site to find beautiful, clear skies we marveled at the sunset scene. A brilliant Venus and three day old crescent Moon hung above the fading sunset and Hualālai.

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Postcard from the Summit – Mamane and Fogbow

As you descend from Hale Pohaku in the afternoon you often drive into the top of the clouds at about 6,000-8,000ft elevation. The transition from clear blue skies to fog is often stunningly breautiful, a zone where light does interesting things. This zone is haunted by ghostly phenomena… As long as the Sun angle is low you will see fogbows here…

Mamane & Fogbow
A favorite mamane tree framed by a fogbow along the Mauna Kea access road

Were cultural sites destroyed when building observatories?

Another of the myths that plague this conversation. While not as commonly stated as some of the other myths discussed here, it has been persistent and seems to pop up regularly.

A photo of the Mauna Kea summit area from the Preston expedition of 1892
A photo of the Mauna Kea summit area from the Preston expedition of 1892

When the 12 existing facilities were built, not only were laws waived, heiau and ahus were bulldozed into trash heaps. 

wailana in a comment on Ian Lind’s blog 14Sep2019

The myth is clearly an attempt to show that the state callously allowed the destruction of cultural properties in the past, thus showing that the state does not care for Hawaiian issues and would break its own laws.

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