Fotoeins Fotografie

faces of home & place-story

Posts tagged ‘Big Island’

Kohala Mountain Road, Mauna Loa, volcano, Big Island, Hawaii, USA,

Previously, on the Big Island

Above/featured: Facing south to Mauna Loa, from Kohala Mountain Road – 20 May 2008 (450D).

I’ve already described memorable return visits to Berlin and Prague, and I wanted to end the trio of “previous” posts with something a little more wild and natural, located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

In a previous life, my first visit to Hawaii and the Big Island occurred in 1999 after I had successfully applied for observing and research nights on the CFHT telescope near the Mauna Kea summit. Between 2006 and 2011, I worked at Gemini Observatory South in Chile, and I travelled occasionally to the Big Island for research meetings and consultations with colleagues at the offices of Gemini North. My last visit occurred in early-2012 at the outset of my year-long around the world journey.

The yearning to hop back across the great western pond is deeply imbedded with many memories; the following 10 images is as good a place to start.

( Click here for images and more )

Laupahoehoe Point, Laupahoehoe, Hamakua Coast, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, myRTW,

Hawaii Big Island: A Tranquil Tip at Laupāhoehoe

I’m standing in the warm ocean breeze, with rustling palm trees and crashing ocean surf for company. My friend appears from around the corner, and she tosses me a look before breaking out to a smile; I must be sporting a ridiculous gobsmacked expression.

New land laid with volcanic lava takes days, weeks, even years; but breaking the land down takes millions of years. Even with abundant foliage as partial deterrents, the absolute power of moving water and the unstoppable process of erosion must produce the inevitable; the hardest of rock gets pounded into submission, broken and ground down to fine particles of sand. But all that fun geology is forgotten in this rural idyll next to the open ocean, and it’s a big reason why about 600 people make this place their home.

On the Big Island of Hawaii, the drive on the number 19 Mamalahoa Highway north from the state capital city of Hilo turns northwest along the Hāmākua Coast. The scenery becomes a mix of grassy meadows along the descending flank of the Mauna Kea volcano, accompanied by deep gulches and steep cliffs dropping into the Pacific Ocean.

The word Laupāhoehoe means “a flat or tip of smooth lava” for the tip of land that sticks out into the water. At its peak in the late 19th- and early 20th-century, more than two thousand people lived in the town, self-contained with a school, stores, and a hospital. Taro root farms, cane plantations, and the Laupāhoehoe Sugar Factory (1880) provided employment and the local economy. Factory operations ceased in the mid-1990s, bringing a century of sugar-making along the island’s east coast to an end.

On 1 April 1946, a strong earthquake occurred inn the Aleutian islands on the Alaska coast. The resulting tsunami swept across the Pacific Ocean, and arrived at Hawaii at about 7am local time1. Waves up to 15 metres (50 feet) high hit the Big Island, creating widespread damage and killing over 150 people in total. At Laupāhoehoe, multiple waves struck, wiping out the only rail link to Hilo, and causing property damage; over 20 died, drowned, or went missing. After the tsunami, the school and houses moved back and further up the slope. The loss and subsequent abandonment of the rail line connection to Hilo meant a loss of transport, shipping, and tourism; the town population never recovered to the numbers in its heyday. The 1946 tsunami’s reach, power, and resulting destruction raised calls for an early warning system, and by 1949, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre was in operation in Hawaii.

Near the shoreline is a memorial to those who perished in 1946. Not far from the memorial, someone has jammed a fishing pole between rocks next to the breakwater. Life continues here, slowly and surely. The warm breeze still comes onshore, fallen palm fronds lay scattered on the beach, and ocean meets beach in a wet foamy crash.

Memorial to the perished at the 1946 tsunami (picture by Wmpearl for Wikipedia, CC1 license).
Laupahoehoe Point, Laupahoehoe, Hamakua Coast, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, myRTW,

From Laupāhoehoe Point: east-southeast towards Welokā (centre) and Pāpa’Aloa. (centre-right)

Laupahoehoe Point, Laupahoehoe, Hamakua Coast, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, myRTW,

Built in 1983 by the US Army Corps of Engineers, this breakwater consists of concrete tetrapod wave-breakers.

Laupahoehoe Point, Laupahoehoe, Hamakua Coast, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, myRTW,

Life in the harbor.

Laupahoehoe Point, Laupahoehoe, Hamakua Coast, Big Island, Hawaii, USA, myRTW,

1With Google Maps, the distance from Scotch Cap at the southwest tip of Unimak Island in the Alaskan Aleutian Islands to the northern tip of the Hawaiian island of Oahu is about 3700 kilometres (2300 miles). After the 1946 earthquake in Alaska, tsunami waves arrived at Hawaii about 5 hours after the earthquake, making the “surface speed” 740 kilometres per hour (460 miles per hour) which is consistent with general speed estimates. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center created a model animation for the 1946 earthquake, and the video animation is on YouTube.

With one exception, I made the other photos on 21 January 2012 at the beginning of my year-long RTW. Thanks to MK for guiding me to new and unseen (for me) parts of the Big Island. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at as

Kohala volcano, Mauna Kea Golf Course, Island of Hawaii, Big Island, Hawaii, USA,

Fotoeins Friday: Kohala flank, Hawaiian dawn

It’s a glorious December morning on the Big Island of Hawaii. At 8am, there aren’t any early-bird visitors, except staff to cut, trim, water, or rake parts of the golf course. I’m on the Mauna Kea Golf Course, but I’m not about to tackle the 409-yard par-4 13th hole. Instead, I have to leave the sweet digs at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel, and fly to Honolulu in a few hours to catch another hop onto the mainland. Before I leave, I’m saying hello to Kohala, an extinct shield-volcano anchoring the northwest corner of the island.

(Click on the “arrow-window” icon at the upper left corner of the map below for details.)

I made the photo above on 8 December 2009 with a Canon EOS450D camera, EF 70-300 zoom-lens, and the following settings: 1/1250s, f/4.5, ISO200, and 115mm focal length (184mm full-frame equivalent). Gotta love the USGS topo-surveys for providing names to geological and geographical features. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at as

Alhambra, Sierra Nevada, Granada, Andalucia, Spain,

UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Around the World

Since 1995, I’ve been fortunate to experience significant travel: first as green graduate student on my first (of many) trips to Chile; followed by the opportunity to live and work in 3 countries on 3 continents inside a span of 10 years. I didn’t give much thought about their relative importance at the time, but I’m lucky to have visited a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites (WHS).

UNESCO World Heritage logo, Wikimedia CC3 license

( Click here for images and more )

Hawaii Big Island: along the northeast Hāmākua Coast

While visiting friends in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii this past January (2012), my friend MK and I hop into a rental car, and we drive out on separate days along the northeast Hamakua coast and along the south Ka’u coast. Even though I’d made a number of prior visits for astronomy-related work on the Big Island, I had yet to see much of the northeast or the southern coastlines.

On today’s drive along the northeast Hāmākua coast on the Big Island, I seek out three locations: Laupahoehoe, Waipio Lookout, and Akaka Falls. Why these three?

  1. They’re easy to reach from Hilo.
  2. They’re all related in one way or another to Mauna Kea, that massive and dormant shield-volcano, dominating the south the entire drive along the Hamakua Coast.
  3. They’re beautiful: what else is there?

Laupahoehoe Point

For many, Laupahoehoe is associated with the 1946 April 1 tsunami causing widespread damage and taking many lives throughout the Hawaiian islands. I’m standing on the shore, among local residents and visitors. If I close my eyes and shut out the sounds of the people long enough, I might hear the cries of the lost within the crashing waves. The sounds of laughter force my eyes open; decades have passed and life has returned to this place, its charm still intact.

Laupahoehoe Point, Hamakua Coast, Big Island, Hawaii

Laupahoehoe Lookout

Lauapahoehoe Harbor, Hamakua Coast, Big Island, Hawaii

Laupahoehoe Harbor

Lauapahoehoe Harbor, Hamakua Coast, Big Island, Hawaii

Wishful line

Lauapahoehoe Harbor, Hamakua Coast, Big Island, Hawaii


Lauapahoehoe Harbor, Hamakua Coast, Big Island, Hawaii

Numbered pylons

Waipio Valley

Highway 240 officially ends here at the Waipio Valley Lookout: the Waipio valley is deep and wide. To drive down into the valley, a sturdy all-terrain vehicle is required. Going down the steep slope is not the problem; many rental vehicles have died attempting to climb back up. We arrive mid-afternoon which is a little late to walk down to the valley floor, walk onto private land where taro root is still grown, see some waterfalls, and walk out onto the beach facing the Pacific. We make it about one-third of the way down before returning back up. The view is spectacular; I can only imagine what the view might be like from the valley floor. I must come back some day.

Waipio Valley, Hamakua Coast, Big Island, Hawaii

Waipio Lookout

Waipio Valley, Hamakua Coast, Big Island, Hawaii

Waipio River Valley and taro fields below

Waipio Valley, Ainahou Cape, Waimanu Valley, Hamakua Coast, Big Island, Hawaii

Valleys reach out to Maui’s Haleakala in the distance

Waipio Valley, Ainahou Cape, Waimanu Valley, Hamakua Coast, Big Island, Hawaii

Waterfall between Waipio and Waimanu

Waipio Valley, Ainahou Cape, Waimanu Valley, Hamakua Coast, Big Island, Hawaii

Where Waipio River empties into the Pacific

Akaka Falls

Akaka Falls State Park is tucked away inland, not far from the main highway along the Hamakua coast. Over time, Mauna Kea has puffed away, increasing landmass in height and in breadth. But trade winds and the resulting rains have also carved deep gorges, gullies, and valleys along the northern coastline. Inevitably present are waterfalls, and Akaka Falls drops over 440 feet (130 metres) from top to bottom.

Akaka Falls, Hamakua Coast, Big Island, Hawaii

Smooth and steady

Akaka Falls, Hamakua Coast, Big Island, Hawaii

Gravity vector

From west to east in the map below, the locations of Waipio Lookout, Laupahoehoe, and Akaka Falls are marked by pins W, L, and A, respectively.

I made the photos on 21 January 2012. This post appears originally on Fotoeins Fotopress at as

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