A Waikoloa Star Party

It started simply enough… Donna asked for suggestions, she was looking for activities the Waikoloa Village Association could share with the community. Of course I suggested a star party. Much of our small club lives in the village, this would be an easy and fun event to put together. Al we need is a date and a place.

Star Party!
A local student checks out Cliff’s 24″ telescope, photo by Bernt Grundseth
A date? Sept 23rd would offer a slim crescent Moon, Saturn, and the Milky Way overhead. The 23rd has the added benefit of being a Saturday.

A place? The Waikoloa Stables have ceased being a place with horses. There remains a nice lawn, bathrooms, and a large parking lot. The stables currently hosts a thrift shop and regular community events like the yearly Wiliwili festival.

A plan? Easy… Light refreshments, parking coordination, keiki fire dancers, the local CERT team for safety backup, a sound system, a speaker for the evening, and at least five telescopes for viewing. OK, maybe not so simple.

We can do this.

Continue reading “A Waikoloa Star Party”

We Have an Arsonist Again

Well? How else do you explain three simultaneous brush fires spread out along several miles of highway? This happened a few times about six years ago.

This is this afternoon along the Mamalahoa Highway and the new Saddle Road just above Waikoloa. Just got the text message of the road closure.

Waikoloa Wildfires
Several wildfires spaced out along Mamalahoa Highway and the new Saddle Road on the afternoon of Feb 11, 2016.


Processing the photo I realized I could not make it green enough. If I pushed the saturation far enough to resemble reality I would be accused of over-processing the image. Yes, the ranch lands around Waimea and Waikoloa are that green right now.

The normal annual rainfall in Waikoloa is about 12 inches. Over the last few weeks we have received eight inches in our unofficial rain gauge on the front lanai. Normally summer is the dry season here, with most of the rainfall occurring during the winter months. The result is endless green across the mountainside.

As the rains have continued this last weekend, another half inch in the rain gauge, it will stay green. Eventually the rains will come to an and, everything drying out, returning the pastures golden brown again. Then, of course, the mice will come.

Waimea Green
The pastures around Waimea are currently vivid green.

Fireball over Hawaiʻi

So last night a Russian satellite burns up over Waikoloa… And I miss it!!

Some of my friends and co-workers did not, asking me what it was this morning after personally witnessing it. There are videos all over Facebook. I am so envious!

The satellite was Cosmos 1315, a Russian signals intelligence mission launched in 1981. It re-entered just west of the Big Island about 11pm HST last night.

I have embedded a video below, the language is more than a bit rough, a few f-bombs. The language goes to illustrate just how dramatic the event was. Aside from the unfortunate choice of vertical format, the video is surprisingly good.

Several items stand out in the video…  The giveaway that it is man made is the very slow speed of the object, not the high speed typical of most meteors.  You can also see the satellite coming apart, fragments breaking away.  Larger meteors can also do this, breaking up upon re-entry.

The guy (I believe Chris Jardine) identifies the object as a meteor, a good guess. I first thought meteor when I saw the video.  I received word a bit later from Steve Cullen who passed along a link to information on the satellite.  The gal thinks comet? We need to do more public outreach and education around the island!

A Lot of Rain

The past two weeks have seen a great deal of precipitation over normally dry Kohala grasslands. Over three inches at the house last week and another three over the last few days from the remains of tropical storm Kilo.  This amounts to over half our normal annual rainfall for Waikoloa.  The result has been hot muggy weather that has everyone complaining.

No sign of it letting up either.  Tropical depression 12E has graduated into tropical storm Ignacio with a probable path that includes the island.  Looking at the sea temperature anomaly maps gives a possible reason, the forming El Nino is stronger than expected, surprisingly warm.  Life will be interesting.

Rain From Tropical Storm Kilo
Our rain gauge showing over three inches from tropical storm Kilo

Mouse in the House

Well? Mice actually… A lot of them.

Continued wet weather has kept the landscape green and allowed the weeds in my yard to multiply. It has also permitted a population explosion in the local mouse community here in Waikoloa. Now they are getting into the house.

A mouse, caught by the cats and photographed by the humans
Fortunately, we have cats.

Our cats had never caught a mouse before, we were not really sure that they would hunt mice. They are a terror for the geckoes and cockroaches. This worry was quickly laid to rest when the first mouse was killed. Multiple mice later and it becomes apparent that the hunting instinct is strong.

The garage had been forbidden territory, the cats kept out to keep them from getting into trouble. With the mice appearing that decision has been rescinded. The current morning routine is feed the cats, then open the garage door. Both felines immediately disappear into the garage. They may appear briefly to be fed, then it is back on post monitoring the rich hunting grounds of the garage.

The cats have shown their hunting prowess by putting the human to shame. My traps have only led to the capture of a single mouse. Currently the score is cats five, human one. I expect the score to rise far higher in the coming month.

Our well fed cats do not typically eat the mouse, but rather play with it until dead. Only one mouse has been recovered from the cats in good shape. Time to take another walk to the field above the house for release, after a few portraits.

We are not alone in our mouse issue, the entire village is being invaded. Elsewhere along the Kona coast it is much the same. I heard from my boss, who’s wife works at the macadamia nut processing facility in Kawaihae, that the mouse catch has risen from the usual handful, to over a hundred mice caught each day.

I had hoped the weather was drying out, that hope has been dashed by the breakup of a tropical storm and another rainy weekend. The mice will keep coming for a while. The humans may not appreciate this, the cats however…

July 20 Update: Human 3 Cats 5!
July 22 Update: Humans 4 Cats 6… Cats assessed a penalty, the mouse was let loose in the kitchen! Humans recover the fumble, caught in trap behind stove and released away from the house. New score Humans 5 – Cats 5… The score is tied!!.

July 23 Update: Humans 5 Cats 6 Evidence that humans missed one in trap as it ate all bait and got out…

July 27 Update: Humans 5 Cats 13 This is getting old, the mice just keep coming. At least one learned how to rob me of the bait in the traps, hopefully that was one of the three the cats got today.

July 29 Update: A mouse caught by Electra escapes in the bedroom, not recovered despite a major mousehunt by humans and cats. Sticky traps deployed.

July 30 Update: Two mice in one trap in the garage! Humans 7 Cats 13. Later in the day another mouse caught by a cat escapes in the bedroom. Caught by one of the sticky traps… Humans 8 Cats 13.

Final Update a month later… Humans 18 cats 16, we pull it out at the end. A few more traps deployed makes a difference. The mouse plague seems to have ended… For now.