So That’s a Luau!

Me and one of the Hula Dancers

Let me just say this: Luaus are one of the coolest things I have ever been to. Seriously. Tonight we went to the King Kamehameha Hotel and attended their luau. More food than I could ever imagine (which is hard, what with having a Jewish grandmother), drums that made my heart pound and dancing that made me want to yell and join them. I had one of the best times of my life tonight. There really isn’t that much to tell, so I’ll just leave you with a few pictures and you can deduce from them how awesome tonight was.

Tomorrow sees me on planes headed back to Seattle and then Spokane on Saturday. This has truly been a great month filled with learning, new experiences and finding God in His creation. Thank you, Lord, for your abundant goodness and grace and thank you for this chance to grow closer to you and experience Romans 1 first-hand. You are awesome and I couldn’t have asked for a better pick-me-up. Final semester at college? You have big shoes to fill.

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Wrapping it Up

A group of ki'i (tiki) outside the temple at Pu'uhonua o honaunau

I realize I haven’t written a blog in a couple days. I’ve been kind of tired and haven’t really had pictures to show you, so I waited until I had some good ones to post with this blog.

The last few days have been consumed with snorkeling (seriously, three out of four saw us in the water with goggles and breathing apparatus), as well as visiting petroglyph fields and temples. We had two days at Beach Club Beach to snorkel and do a fish exercise that took two days to gather information about the fish we were seeing and do write-ups about how they eat, swim and interact with the other fish. The best part of this trip was the fact that myself and the two other students with me got the chance to follow a sea turtle. We were the only ones at the beach who saw it. We got to swim right alongside it for a good 20 minutes. It was interesting to me how it didn’t propel itself. It used its front legs to direct its movements, but it waited for the current to take it where it wanted to go. Insert life lesson here. Before that, however, we went to Pu’uhonua o honaunau, or “city of refuge.” For more info about this, see my previous post!

Pu'ukohola Heiau, where Kamehameha I secured his throne

Yesterday we went to the Puako Petroglyph Fields. To get there we had to hike about a mile through a’a lava and evil forest (see picture), but once we got there, there was a large field of pahoehoe lava on which was etched thousands of pictograms. We were instructed by our professor to draw at least three of them and come up with possible meanings for them. Well, I outdid him. I drew seven. They were really fascinating. Being able to sit there and hypothesize about their possible meanings and realize how long they had been there and how long it took to create them. The ancient Hawai’ians did not have metal of any kind, so these were carved with hardwood sticks or other stones. So much work for such an elusive thing.

That same day we were able to go to Pu’ukohola Heiau, an old temple that was built by King Kamehameha the first as a way to appease the people, conquer his cousin and unite all the islands into one kingdom. It was built in 1790 and was still in perfect condition. There was a second one lower down the hill that was constructed a couple hundred years before it and that was also still there, although a bit deteriorated. The cool part about the big Heiau was that the national park allows native Hawai’ians to still come and practice their religion on the temple itself. Nowhere on the mainland have I known a national park to do that. With that we finished “classes” and were officially on break.

Two of us having fun while eating shave ice and fries at Hapuna Beach

Break for us consisted of us going to Hapuna beach yesterday and out on a snorkel cruise today and getting to see the Captain Cook Memorial and swim in really deep water. I am loathe to admit that I and one of the other guys on the trip got into trouble because we decided to go off the slide at the back of the ship at the same time, which was dangerous but fun. Well, the lifeguard forgave us and eventually gave us cookies, so all was well.

That pretty much summarizes our last four days. Tonight we’re going to go watch the manta rays swim at the Sheraton hotel down on the water and tomorrow is packing and our final test. It seems strange that this month is already over. It flew by while still seeming to take ages. What a wonderful experience this has been. I will probably post a couple more times, but now you know what  we’re up to, so I’m going to go look at manta rays!

Our professor, his wife and one of the students getting ready for our snorkel cruise


Solar City of Second Chances

One of the group looking at a half-size model of the big temple at Pu'uhonua o honaunau

(Erika, the blog title is for you.)

Sorry about not writing yesterday. I had a sort of meltdown that tends to happen about two weeks into trips I take when I get homesick and frustrated with where I am… Perhaps it’s something to do with my ADHD, but whatever. I’m back. You couldn’t get rid of me that easily.

Yesterday we had the chance to go visit the headquarters for the W.M. Keck Observatory in Kona. The observatory itself is on top of Mauna Kea (see previous entry), but where they see the images and control the telescopes is down in Kona. We got to see the control room as well as get a full lecture in their conference room on spectrography and how they are able to find new planets and stars and figure out their masses and what they’re made out of just using light. Isn’t that cool? Okay, I’m a nerd, but it’s really awesome.

After that we got to go to Puwawa Ranch, which is owned by Mr. Rogers. No, not the one in the little yellow house and King Friday, but the one who created Tetris. Yup. That one. He is having one of the buildings on his ranch converted into a mini solar power plant. This way he can power his ranch without having to be part of the island’s grid. Within three years he will start saving 44 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s not bad at all!

Canoes in the style of the ancient Hawai'ians... Apparently they knew I was coming, so they put up extra signs telling people not to get into the canoes

That was it for yesterday. Today we went to Pu’uhonua o honaunau, or the city of refuge outside of Kona. This is an old sacred site where one could go if they had broken the law and escape death. If you made it to the temple you could be absolved by the priest and not have to be put to death. This is also where defeated warriors could go to escape death at the hands of the winning army or women and children would go there during a war and couldn’t be touched.

This particular temple has been there for around 700 years and remains relatively untouched. An interesting story about it is as follows: When the earthquake happened in Japan last year, the tsunami reached Pu’uhonua o honaunau it ripped up the walls, took away all the sand and destroyed much of the vegetation, but it went around the temple and it didn’t even get wet. Weird, huh? I thought that was really interesting.

The front of The Painted Church... It was quite beautiful with a large, old cemetery along the side and a stations of the cross area behind it

We also got to go to The Painted Church, which is an old Catholic church that was painted all over in the inside by the priest who started it with depictions of different Biblical stories and ideas. The inside was quite beautiful, but I felt bad taking pictures in there as there were signs all over talking about trying to preserve it for future generations. So I took a picture of the entrance to the church, and that will have to suffice.

Well, that’s it for today and yesterday. I’m becoming increasingly short-winded as we go on because I’m trying to not repeat any information because I’ve received some complaints that I’m, unwittingly, rubbing my experience in some people’s faces, especially considering the current weather in the Pacific Northwest. Therefore, I’ll leave you there and go play a game of Balderdash, then go to bed. Tomorrow is church and our first snorkeling adventure!

Hawai’i: Land of Superfoods

An aerial view of Cyanotech. The blue and green stripes are ponds growing Spirulina and Haematococcus and the red ones are ponds where the Haemetacoccus are stressed out

So I don’t understand why so people live in Hawai’i. First off, it has gorgeous weather. Secondly, it has amazing beaches and forests and don’t forget the volcanoes! But, on top of that, Hawai’i boasts the most amazing plants and foods that are so much healthier than anything I have ever heard of before. I’ve regaled you with tales of many of the plants that I think are cool so far, but none are more awesome than Spirulina.

What is that? Real-life Lembas, that’s what it is. It is blue-green algae, such as what is used in Naked Juice‘s Green Machine drink. It is 60% protein, has 3100 times the amount of iron as spinach, 670 times more protein than tofu and 5000 times more beta-Carotene than carrots. You could eat Spirulina alone for your whole life and never need anything else, except for water. Isn’t that awesome? Okay, I admit, the whole “algae” thing kinda puts me off, but seriously, with health benefits like that, who needs anything else? It promotes brain and eye health, boosts the immune system and is perfect for weight loss because you get all the nutrients you need without the nasty processed stuff you get from most other common foods.

We went to a company in NELHA called Cyanotech where they grow Spirulina as well as another type of green algae called Haematococcus. What this is used for sounds absolutely disgusting when it’s explained. When this algae is stressed out (exposed to severe sunlight and warmer water) it forms hard red cysts around it. Inside these cysts is an oil called Astaxanthin. This is the most powerful antioxidant in the world. It pains me to say that because of my new-found devotion to KonaRed, but it’s true. If you take a gel cap of Astaxanthin you will be a hundred times healthier. Isn’t it fascinating what a single-celled organism can do for humankind?

The author sporting his new forehead gash

Before all of this happened we were clowning around at the house with a seed-pod from the tree next to our house (it’s a foot long and feels like it was carved out of oak, seriously!). Well, at one point it got thrown over-hand at me and I, being my usual clumsy self, somehow got my face in the way instead of my hands and got whapped in the head with it. This caused bleeding and much laughter. It stung a bit, but the salt water at the beach we went to later in the day cleaned it out and I feel much better.

Not much else to tell you, but keep checking back! More cool things to come.

The beach we went to today... It was quite beautiful with white sand and ringed around with lava

An Introduction to NELHA

The Friends of NELHA building... It provides all its own energy and uses a copper roof to keep the building cool

The best part of today: Sleeping in. That’s right, we weren’t able to get in for a tour until 1pm, so we got to sleep in until 10am – what a blessing. This was followed by a briefing about NELHA, the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority. There they found out that they can gather energy using the cool deep-sea water and the warm surface water to react together to condensate and create steam energy. It’s a long, complicated process that I would rather not go into detail about here.

Once learning about that we drove to the headquarters of the Friends of NELHA which is housed in a LEED Platinum building. For more information on what that means, click the link. Here we heard about the many different projects NELHA is helping out such as researching solar energy, aiding the cold-water aquaculture in Hawai’i as well as many other projects. For instance, did you know that Maine lobster are mostly grown in Hawai’i now? Due to near-extinction of the lobster population in Maine, they sent broodstock to Hawai’i and they now breed them there. They also grow abalone, shrimp, oysters (that Washington state helps out in) and blue-green algae for hippies. Okay, other people consume it as well, but the guy told us that hippies are the biggest market. It’s known for being basically the modern “manna.” This means that a human being could actually live only on blue-green algae if they had to. He referenced Soylent Green and how blue-green algae is the better alternative to that… cannibalistic food.

The group learning about Analemma, the cycles of the sun as it travels the sky throughout the year

We also got to go over to the solar energy research facility. Here we learned about Analemma and how the plant was run. I got a little lost in the technical aspects of how the engines worked, but the way the solar plant works is there are long troughs of mirrors that focus the sun’s rays onto a collector beam made out of stainless steal and encased in glass. The glass is filled with mineral oil that is the ideal heat transport material due to the fact that it cannot freeze or turn into steam. It also can last up to 30 years without having to be replaced. Currently this plant doesn’t produce very much energy, nor is it very efficient, but that is why it is a research facility. It does, however, provide 100% of the energy needs for the plant and all leftover energy is put into the main grid for the island.

The Mahalo Hawaii Deep Sea Water bottling room

We also got the chance to visit the Mahalo Hawaii Deep Sea Drinking Waterbottling plant. Here they use some of the cold deep-sea water that is pumped up from 3,000 ft. below sea level, desalinate it then add back in some of the salt and minerals that were taken out to give it a distinctive taste. They then ship it to Japan where they have the largest market. They also, just today, sent some cases to California. You can only buy this water by subscribing and ordering a 12-bottle case. Each 1.5L bottle costs seven dollars in Japan. We were given a 24 oz. bottle and a .5L bottle so we could try the water. Personally, I don’t see what the hubbub was about. It just tasted like water. But it was cool to see how the plant worked.

Tomorrow we are going to visit where they grow the algae and get some time to learn a little bit more about the rest of NELHA.

We had a bit too much fun in downtown Kona after our tours of the day

Ethnobotany and Coffee

Kahaluu Park Beach... One of the best places on the Big Island to snorkel... Or tan

I didn’t write a post yesterday because not much happened. We had a test in the morning (which was quite difficult…or…well, yeah, we’ll leave it at that) and then were given the rest of the day to spend at the beach soaking in sun and, for those of us with snorkeling equipment, to go snorkeling. I was, unfortunately, one of those without snorkeling gear. I wanted to go swimming in the clear blue water that beckoned so nicely to me, though, so me and one of the other guys set out for a small island. After getting chewed out by an elderly matron for stepping on coral by accident (we thought they were rocks…who knew?) we made it to the island and sat down. Not having much to do there we decided to head back. That’s when the coral attacked. It ripped open my right leg and left foot leaving the doctors no choice but to cut them both off. I now am in the hospital getting ready for life in a wheelchair.

Sorry, overdramatized that a bit. But seriously, it tore up the big toe and toe next to it on my left foot and bit my knee on the right leg. I didn’t notice until we got back to shore and one of the girls pointed it out worriedly. I made light of it for the tiny scratch that it was. Men don’t cry over a little blood. We pump our fist in the air and say, “YES. Blood attained.”

Once that whole episode finished we trundled into our two shiny black new rental vehicles, one a Tahoe and the other a minivan, and went back to the house for a night of book reading and walking, followed by a birthday cake for one of the group who turned 22.

Our guide explaining different plants to us during our tour of the Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Gardens

Today was brilliant. We got the chance to go to the Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Gardens. This is a place that is part of the Bishop Museum on the Big Island and is dedicated to growing plants pre-Cook (i.e. plants that are either indigenous or were brought over by the Polynesians). Here we learned about some plants we already knew, but many others to add to our fieldbooks that aid in health, food and clothing manufacturing. Truly, plants are amazing.

Our guide at the Greenwell Coffee Farm showing us what the coffee bean looks like fresh out of the cherry

Once we finished there we headed over to the Greenwell Coffee Farm, where 20% of all Kona coffee is manufactured. We got the grand tour getting to see coffee trees and “cherries” (the fruit that holds the coffee bean seed), see where they pop the seeds out, process them, leave them out to dry, get them ready and, we didn’t go inside, where they roast them. We also found out about this drink called “KonaRed.” What it is is the cherry from the coffee plant is actually richer in antioxidants than blueberries or anything else, so they’ve contracted it out and there’s a man who bottles it. It’s the best thing I’ve ever had and it’s said to add years to your life. Don’t know if that’s true, but I’m happy to drink it!

The tour finished, we bought our coffee goods and went back to the house. This is where we had a yummy chili feed then separated to work on homework or blogs, such as yours truly. Well, now I want to go read and enjoy this lovely night! Aloha!

One of our group holds a chameleon at the Greenwell Coffee Farm

Into the West

The southern tip of Hawai'i apparently wants to be England

We drove to Kona today and only made a couple quick stops along the way. One was at the Punalu’u Bake Shop, where we ate the most delectable sandwiches, salads, POG (passion fruit-orange-guava) granitas and baked goods. Some of our party even bought small tikis and other such collectibles. Great food, if a bit overpriced.

Next we made a stop at the Pakini Nui Wind Farm near the southernmost tip of Hawai’i. This area was quite odd to me as it reminded me of England with its rolling green hills, small stone fences and sheep dotting the landscape. It was as if we had been transported right into a BBC film. All of a sudden we saw about 30 huge white (well, mostly… they were quite rusted) windmills, all of which were shut down. These were the remnants of the old Kama Oa Wind Farm that shut down in the 90s. Pakini Nui recently started up and put in 14 new GE turbines. This is interesting, because GE took such an interest that they bought into the company and helped finance the project to get wind farming to be a much bigger deal on Hawai’i. The southern tip of Hawai’i is known for its sustained winds and as an ideal spot for wind farming.

The author and the professor enjoying dinner at Bubba Gump's Restaurant

Once we finished our lecture time there we got back into our vans and headed on our way to Kona. Here we are in quite a large, beautiful house with enough room for all of us in one house as opposed to the two we had been in in Hilo. It has a pool, a large living room, many bedrooms and a spacious kitchen – quite lovely. We also got to have dinner at Bubba Gump’s, right on the beach. It was quite awesome.  And with that, I realize this is a short post, I’m tired and we have our first test and a snorkeling excursion tomorrow, so I best get some sleep.

The sodium lights used in Kona to cut down on light pollution and aid the observatories at the top of Mauna Kea... This one is right outside our house

Plants are Amazing

The group listens to our tour guide as we learn about plants of all kinds

I have learned that plants are amazing. Yeah. Bet you didn’t get that from the title of this blog. Well, we have had two plant “tours” during this trip. The first was around the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center and the second was today at the Hawai’i Tropical Botanical Gardens. This place has around 84 acres of plant life including a waterfall and a bay. The park was purchased in 1978, cleared of all debris and planted with as many species found on the islands as possible. It’s a pan-Pacific garden in that there are plants there that are found throughout the Pacific islands. There are only around 50 indigenous plants in the gardens. The total number of plants in the garden tops at almost 3,000, however. This includes indigenous plants, canoe plants (see previous blog), and plants brought by European settlers.

The author having too much fun with an Anthurium Cupulispathum... Don't worry, we were invited to stick our heads in them

The garden was originally sugarcane plantations and was cleared out due to the fact that the Hawaiian Islands lost their sugarcane bid due to the high cost of cultivation. Then the Lutkenhouses bought the property and decided to plant a huge botanical garden. The garden is able to grow without fertilizer due to the amount of volcanic ash and high nitrogen concentrations in the rain. The garden is now headed by a man named Shawn who, legend holds, knows every plant in the garden’s name, scientific name, uses, and place in the garden. Talk about being a Kahuna!

Our guide with his four macaws... They were quite talkative

We toured around the gardens for almost two and a half hours, taking copious notes in our field books and being thoroughly awed not only by the plants but also by the four Macaw parrots and one Blue-and-Gold parrot that are held in the park. We got a full show by the parrots including them laughing, saying hello and saying all sorts of things that made the group laugh.

Four of the group at the entrance to Akaka Falls

Once we finished in the botanical gardens we took a short side-trip to see Akaka Falls, which I’m sorry to report was quite the disappointment. They made a big deal about it, but I’ve seen more impressive falls up at Mt. Baker (sorry, Hawai’i…strike one). Then we took a break to send some post cards and then went home early to pack and get ready for our move to Kona tomorrow.

Akaka Falls in all its glory

Inside the Most Active Volcano Today

The whole group in front of Kilauea Iki

That’s right! We hiked into Kilauea Iki today. This is the smaller, less active crater on Kilauea. This means that instead of breathing high levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2) we were breathing clean air and standing on top of 300 feet of solid rock. Under that 300 feet is about 100 feet of molten magma, but we tried not to think about that too hard. We started the hike into the crater at about 10:15am and took only an hour to hike the 2-3 miles into the crater. Luckily we had a breeze and cool morning air on our side. Once we got into the crater we were greeted by rough lava flows and harsh sun. I would like to say, for posterity, that I was told many times to slow down and wait for the group (my sister will be proud of that).

We stop for a lecture at the site of the 1959 eruption

We took breaks every now and then to have a lecture on the rock around us and various elements that make up Kilauea Iki. We also paused here to eat some lunch and marvel at the immense expanse of the lava and the “bathtub ring” that was left when Iki filled up in 1959. The crater itself was originally a full mountain but it blew its top about 400 years ago, leaving the crater at 800 feet deep. In 1959 Iki erupted again and filled the crater to about 450 feet, but 50 feet of that drained back out leaving this “bathtub ring.” But it is incredible to think about how there was 400 feet of molten lava where we were sitting.

We eventually made it through to the other side of the crater and hiked up the steep wall (in under 20 minutes, I might add). At this point the students went and explored the Thurston Lava Tube while our professor and his wife went to retrieve the car. The tube was a lot shorter than I expected it to be, but it was still cool, seeing as how I had never been in a cave before.

Studying at the sulfur banks

Our last trip for the day in the park was to the sulfur banks. We got really lucky and the wind was blowing away from us so we were able to study the sulfur without having to hold our noses. It was fascinating how the sulfur, gypsum, hematite and opal had formed on top of old basalt columns and broken down the basalt so that it was no longer recognizable. The amount of steam pouring out of the earth was also quite amazing.

At this point we went and had lunch/dinner at the Lava Rock Cafe in Volcano Village before heading home. That was the day and tomorrow we’re heading out to the Botanical Gardens! Can’t wait to see them and share pictures with y’all.

Journey to the Center of the Earth (while looking at the surface)

Two of the group enjoying the view of Kilauea's main caldera

How would you feel if you walked on a volcano and could see the steam rising from the crater? Yeah, I was pretty stoked, too. We went up to Kilauea to see the main crater and hike around the lava flows.

We started out the trip by going to the visitors’ center and gaining our bearings before heading up to the main crater. Once we got to the top we went to the Thomas A. Jaggar Volcano Research Center and read through the exhibits and ooh’d and aah’d at the various rock samples. We also had a bit too much fun with a sample seismograph and jumped up and down to make large “earthquakes” appear in ink on the paper roll. After that we went outside and marveled at the steam rising from the crater. There was no visible lava, but there was a steam plume that reached up and mixed with the clouds. It was quite impressive.

A couple of us take the temperature of a steaming hole at Puhimau Hotspot

Once we had finished at the caldera we drove down and did a group exercise at the Puhimau Hotspot. Here we put thermometers into the soil to test and see how hot it was in certain areas and try to correlate the soil temperature with the death of the vegetation in the roughly 30-acre area. Our research was less than conclusive, but it seemed to hold up that the heat killed off the plants. Here we saw huge sink holes with steam pouring out of them. Slightly less impressive, but just as interesting was seeing tree stumps with steam coming out of them.

We tried a short hike after this but had to turn back quickly due to the fact that there was too much vog in the area (vog is volcanic fog that consists of various gases). At that time there was much Sulfur dioxide in the air and many of us began to cough and feel our throats tightening, so we took our inhalers (okay, I took my inhaler) and we turned back.

Our last venture of the day was to the edge of Kilauea Iki, a smaller crater at the top of the mountain. We are going to attempt to hike down into this crater tomorrow, if the Sulfur dioxide levels even out and we can breathe. At this point we’ll have to play it by ear.

Most of the group in front of the 1983 lava flow that covered part of the Chain of Craters Road

Okay, I lied. That wasn’t our last venture. We also followed the Chain of Craters Road down to the ocean and saw the massive lava fields that have been left since the island formed. We trekked down the road for a mile to where it was closed due to lava covering the road during the 1983 explosion. This was quite fresh and had just begun to have vegetation growing on it and then only ferns were around (ferns are the first plant species to grow on newly formed lava flows).

At this we returned home via a coffee shop due to the requests of many of our group. We rounded out the night with a viewing of Inception and then headed to bed. Now I must sleep because we have an early start tomorrow. Aloha!

A sign stuck in the 1983 lava flow