Followed By a Week in Hawaii

Flowering vine in the petrified tree park in Puna.

My poor brain was so confused after my China and Hawaii trips that it gave up all semblance of a time-zone and obediently returned to Pacific Standard Time in only 24 hours.  Truly a silver lining to the most exhausting two weeks of my life.  But Hawaii!  Like last time, it was an unbelievable experience, both observing-wise and snorkel-wise.  We got at least some data on all four of our half-nights on Keck, and my observing partner graciously let me sit in the drivers seat and press the image exposure button (as well as the other less interesting parts of observing like making sure the instrument is setup correctly and sending new astronomical targets to the telescope operator… they only let astronomers control the instrument — basically the camera — and hire other people to control the telescope and dome).

Hapuna beach again, one of our favorites.

Before and after our four nights of observing, my observing partner Vardha and I revisited some of our favorite snorkel places and then explored a new region of the island: Puna.  Oh my, is all I can say.  Puna is so different from the rest of the island, less touristy, with the most impressive canopy of trees overhead as you drive down country roads.  And then there were the tide pools large enough to snorkel in.  Apparently in the 1970s, scientists “sprouted” some coral in the tide pools and oh man has it taken over since.  I’ve never seen coral so varied: large mushroom coral, small delicate coral, in all different colors.  The tide pools also added an element of danger, since as you swam between them, you had to be careful not to be torn to shreds by said coral.  And of course there was a surf that jostled you around a bit and threatened to beach you if you didn’t swim quickly enough between deep pools.  Basically it was the most fun ever.  I want to go back.  As soon as possible.

Hidden valley with a black sand beach.  You can't get down there without a special vehicle; the easiest way is actually to hike.

After snorkeling in the tide pools until we were both rather chilled, we headed off to a pool heated by volcanic activity.  Puna is very close to the active eruption on the Big Island, so it isn’t surprising that there should be heated pools in the area.  This pool is especially fun because it is heated by water from underground and cooled by a channel to the sea.  You can hang onto a rope in the channel to the sea and be pulled out to sea and then back into the pool as the waves come in and out.  It’s basically a roller coaster ride and I was rather afraid that the slimy rope would give out under the weight of a few of us (it didn’t.  We survived).  There are a lot more interesting heated pools in Puna that we didn’t get to see this time, so I’m anxious to return with a four-wheel drive vehicle to get to some of the more “out of the way” ones (really just ones at the end of a bumpy dirt road… nothing there seems to be more than 10 miles from anything else).

Petrified tree, killed by lava and then made permanent...

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