The Impacts of Sugar

The impact of the sugar industry in these islands simply cannot be overstated. For over a century sugar was the dominant industry in the islands consuming land, water, and people. These islands were shaped by sugar, physically and culturally.

An abandoned truck sits outside the Kōloa sugar mill
An abandoned truck sits outside the Kōloa sugar mill

So much of what you see today is a direct resut of sugar, many people and cultures that now call these islands home are descended from the immigrant laborers who came to work the plantations. These immigrants brought with them thier languages and so much more. So many traditions, foods, and words, blended with the Native Hawaiian culture to create the island culture we enjoy.

While this legacy is seen on almost all of the islands it seems most visible on the southern shore of Kauai, perhaps as these plantations were some of the last to shut down, and very little has replaced or re-developed in the area. Plantation towns sit in the shadow of rusting mills that loom over the landscape.

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A Personal Moment

Lives are often measured by the great events that take place during our short spans of existence. Wars, revolutions, social movements, mark both the great saga of human history as well as our personal stories.

Syringes loaded with SARS-CoV-1 vaccine await use at a vaccination clinic
Syringes loaded with SARS-CoV-2 vaccine await use at a vaccination clinic

The COVID pandemic will certainly be such an event. An event with worldwide impact, so many changes, so many lost.

While the start of the pandemic was slow, the events unfolding over weeks and months, I can mark it’s end as today. At least in a personal sense. Today I received my second dose of the Moderna vaccine, a moment I will likely remember, a moment that forever marks my personal journey.

Receiving the second dose of SARS-CoV-1 vaccine
Receiving the second dose of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine

This pandemic is not done, with me or the world at large. The pandemic will still have impacts, and the deaths continue, years from now when I look back this moment is where I will likely consider it done, at least in a personal sense.

For much the last year Deb and I have lived quietly, marking time, staying home. Re-discovering the small joys in life… Cooking, gardening, spending time under the stars with a telescope.

Time to move on with life. The timing seems even more appropriate in that I start a new job on Monday. I can plan for events more than a few weeks away, even consider some travel further than the shores of this small island.

It may not be over, but in my life, in my mind, it is over.

Walking the King’s Trail

Rather than spend the evening obsessing over election results I opted to take a hike. Nothing dramatic, just a short loop hike close to home, along the shoreline south of ʻAnaehoʻomalu Bay .

Looking north the Waikoloa Resorts along the King's Trail
Looking north the Waikoloa Resorts along the King’s Trail

The plan was to use the King’s Trail to quickly hike a couple miles out, then to take my time hiking back along the shoreline. I timed my start so that sunset would occur while I was coming back along the beach.

While this section of the King’s Trail is over 150 years old, it is in excellent condition and allows easy hiking across the lava fields. The trail cuts absolutely straight over the ridges and tumuli of piled rock, much faster than slogging through the beach sand.

I had hiked the shoreline here many times, but had not hiked any real length of the King’s Trail. The trail crosses the lava flows well above the coastline, as a result it can be brutally hot under a tropical Sun, while the shoreline offers regular shade and a cool ocean breeze.

This particular election day evening the Sun was muted by a broken overcast sky. Why not use the trail?

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Globus Aerostaticus

As I worked my way through the evening’s observing list I came to an entry for the asterism ‘Hot Air Balloon’

A detail of Plate 16 of Uranographia by Johann Bode (Berlin, 1801)
A detail of Plate 16 of Uranographia by Johann Bode (Berlin, 1801) with Capricorn and Globus Aerostaticus

This asterism found its way into my personal observing catalog from the one of the Saguaro Astronomy Club observing lists. These lists are an excellent resource for those who roam the starry sky, sort of an ultimate best-of list. These lists are one of the many sources I pulled together when creating my own giant list of where to aim my telescope.

So often I find surprises in my own database among the thousands of objects that I have dumped in there over the years.

Asterisms are simply odd patterns of stars that form memorable groups, but are not necessarily real clusters or other stars that are physically associated with each other. Many of these are well known such as The Coathanger, the Diamond Ring around Polaris, or The Stargate.

When I wandered through the coordinates listed from the Balloon I found a pretty starfield, but nothing that stood out as a recognizable shape, much less a balloon. I wrote down a few comments on the area and a note to myself to look this up later. What is The Balloon?

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Ripple Rock

Seymour Narrows is a bit of water one approaches with caution. This narrow passage north of Campbell River provides the shortest route between Vancouver Island and the mainland for transiting vessels. This passage is also subject to dramatic tidal currents of up to fifteen knots.

The strong currents create large areas where the water seems to boil, dotted with whirlpools and debris swept along by the rushing water. The result is what explorer Captain George Vancouver described in his logs as “one of the vilest stretches of water in the world.”

The remains of Ripple Rock well beneath the surface in Seymour Narrows
The remains of Ripple Rock well beneath the surface in Seymour Narrows
As usual we had anchored and waited a couple hours for the tide to change, waiting for the worst of the currents to slack. While small, fast boats can pass by during high current, most vessels wait for the tide here. We were not alone, when we pulled anchor and nosed into the narrows we joined a parade of boats that had waited.

The passage was once much worse, a large rock named Ripple Rock lurked just under the surface at low tide. This mid channel rock created huge standing waves and vicious eddies as the current ran over it.

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Gypsum Creek Mine

I believe I have said it a few times here… I love ruins. And while good ruins are fewer in Hawaii, southeast Alaska has plenty to explore.

Old pilings across the sand and gravel from Gypsum Creek into Iyoukeen Cove
Old pilings across the sand and gravel from Gypsum Creek into Iyoukeen Cove
Iyoukeen Cove, is a place we have been many times. We have fished halibut here more times than I remember, doing fairly well, a favorite spot. A few years back we landed a 205 pound fish here.

For one reason or another, fate seems to highlight this odd cove every time are in the area. From the first time I noted the unusual name on a chart to the halibut we have routinely caught here. Once when we simply planned to cruise by some odd activity caught my eye, again leading me into this place. Changing course we discovered whales bubble net feeding along the southern cliffs, a sight I will not soon forget.

The odd name is from the Tlingit, Iyukin, and was first recorded in 1869 by G. Davidson, U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. This name was accepted and was published in the 1883 edition of the Coast Pilot, to be shown as Iyoukeen on nautical charts ever since.

Google Map of Iyoukeen Cove and Gypsum Creek
Located on the west side of Chatham Strait, the cove is a wide open reach of water, unprotected from the wind and waves that can rage up the strait.

A sand and gravel beach backs much of the cove, with steep hills behind. An odd, very narrow, rocky peninsula separates the cove from Freshwater Bay to the south. Cruise ships, ferries, and fishing boats pass by taking little heed of this seemingly unremarkable cove.

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Smashing the System

In light of recent events I have been re-reading the history of the early 1930’s Weimar Republic again. The parallels we can see in the current presidential election are simply frightening. A populist leader arising to manifest the resentments and fears of a large segment of our population that feels dis-empowered and threatened. The issues have inspired me to consider again the history of our own country, what it really means to be American.

US Constitution
First page of the US constitution
It is not so much Donald Trump I am worried about. He is merely a con man who’s game has grown out of all control. No, it is what Trump enables and represents that I am truly worried about. A basic disrespect for the institutions of government put in place by the founding fathers two centuries ago. Trump and his followers do not want to work to improve our government, they want to take a hammer to it and destroy two centuries of success.

Trump has repeatedly indicated his contempt for many of the functions of the federal government. Worrisome proposals by Trump include significantly reducing the freedom of the press, allowing more participation of religious organizations in politics, slashing environmental protections, and repudiating many longstanding international treaties. While the candidate is extreme, a good portion of his political supporters go far further in expressing their desire for slashing at core functions of the federal government.

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Mauna Kea Adze Quarry

The AO system was broken, nothing really bad, but something I would need to go up and fix. Reading the nightlogs each morning there are occasionally surprises like this, a sudden re-planning of an otherwise lazy Sunday.

Workshop
A workshop in the Mauna Kea adze quarry

I suspected that the fix would not take me long at all. But I would be on the mountain… What to do with the rest of the day? I load camera and hiking gear along with my backpack of tools. If I do complete the job quickly I will go hiking. The Mauna Kea adze quarry springs to mind as a likely spot to spend a few hours.

The ancient Hawaiians had no access to metal on these volcanic islands. What they did have was a source of very hard volcanic rock. High on Mauna Kea there were once glaciers, a place where the fury and heat of the volcano met ice. Cooling quickly in the icy realm the lava formed a dense, fine grained rock suitable for making tools.

The rock from this quarry could be shaped and ground into a number of tools, particularly adzes that could be used to cut wood or carve the great ocean going canoes. Tools made from this particular rock were so prized that they have been found in archaeological sites on distant islands across the Pacific.

I have known how extensive the adze quarry is for years. The numbers are abstract, number of find sites mapped, square kilometers of area, just numbers on paper. What I found was quite different than what I was expecting, nothing conveys the actuality of being there.

I was amazed at the sheer size of the piles of flakes. These are sites that were worked for centuries, each workshop accumulating many tons of waste rock flake to tumble down the slope. Having worked with my hands continually over my lifetime, I know how hard hand labor like this is. I stood amazed at the sheer amount of human effort it took to accumulate these piles.

I found I had another misconception to correct… Looking from a distance you see the caves with piles of waste rock spilling down. I had assumed that the caves and ledges are where the actual mining took place, where the basalt was pried from the mountain. Visiting one of the workshops I quickly see this is not the case.

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Inside Passage – Echoes of the Past

SE Alaska and the coast of British Columbia are a place where the past does not get wiped away. Ruins, wrecks, and abandoned places are often left for nature to reclaim rather than scrapped or redeveloped. When traveling the waterways of the Inside Passage you are often wandering through echoes of the past.

Inside Passage – Echoes of the Past from Andrew Cooper on Vimeo

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Changes in Tenakee

I realize things change, but sometimes the “improvements” seem to involve a loss. A loss of what was, a loss of a little piece of history.

Snyder Mercantile
The original early twentieth century interior of Snyder Mercantile, Tenakee
The Snyder Mercantile was a time capsule of another era. Built over a century ago the store was a glimpse into the past. The products on the shelves were fresh, mostly, but the store appeared much as it did decades ago. A single room with a little of everything from bread to fishing tackle and boat parts. They still used the century old cash register to ring up your sale. Never mind the trouble finding tape and ribbons, it still worked, emitting a classic bell ring as the total was calculated.

Snyder Mercantile
The rebuilt Snyder Mercantile, Tenakee
I was not pleasantly surprised when I made my way into the store. The old mercantile was gone, a modern interior greeted me. Some time since my last visit the past had been swept away. For a minute I could only stand there in the entrance, a feeling of loss overwhelming me. Some time in the last couple years the store has been rebuilt.

Much of the building has been replaced, from pilings to decking new lumber can be seen. The interior pays homage to the original, the walls made from the original tongue and groove woodwork stripped and stained. The stock is groceries, the hardware and tackle is mostly gone, only a few shelves remain. The old cash register is relegated to being a museum piece in the corner, a new computerized machine with a touch screen and laser scanner serves in its place. The satisfing crunch of gears and bell no longer signals each sale.

Snyder Mercantile
The rebuilt Snyder Mercantile in Tenakee
Having skipped Tenakee last season I had missed the changes. The renovations were completed last year. To be fair the renovations were probably necessary. The years of Alaskan winters had taken a toll on the structure. This climate is not kind to the works of man, particularly those built of wood. The location, built on pilings over a tidal flat makes this even worse.

Having first shopped in Snyder Mercantile back in 1994 I have been visiting this store for over two decades. Goods brought out from Juneau are not cheap, but we always have something that has run out after a week on the water. Tenakee means a few groceries and a soak in the hot springs. The changes are good, the store is better, but the rebulding of the century old store still seems a loss.