Starry, starry night

Mauna Kea summit

“Ho hum … another day, another volcano” you may be saying to yourself.  But what a volcano:  Mauna Kea, at nearly 13,800 ft / 4,200 m or so, is Hawaii’s tallest.  If you measured it from it’s ocean-floor base, it’d top Everest by a good three quarters of a mile, apparently …

It’s a holy mountain not just to the Hawaiians, but almost all Polynesian and Micronesian peoples, who’ve been trekking up here for millennia.  They’d typically take weeks (or even months) to make the pilgrimage;  gradually acclimatising themselves to the altitude, and – once closer to the top – smearing their skin with fat and leaves, and (the rich ones at least) covering themselves with feathered cloaks to ward off the cold.  We took the time-pressed wimps’ tour instead, in a four-wheel drive minibus with rented arctic parka jackets.  We still felt the altitude though (it’s significantly higher than either Macchu Pichu or even Cusco, where we trekked last year);  and a couple of our party were feeling sufficiently sick that they had to bail out at the Visitor Centre level, some miles from the summit.  We also felt the cold:  it was a windy evening, making it – 15 F / -26 C with wind-chill at the top.  What a contrast to the 85 F / 30 C we’d left behind at the coast …

Anyway:  the whole thing was amazing.  The summit (as you can see above and below) often pierces the clouds;  and we had an amazing sunset and then phenomenal stargazing, where – thanks to Hawaii’s location – we could see both the North Star and the Southern Cross in the same sky.  The astronomers who manage the (13) observatories clustered on the summit certainly have some awe-inspiring views.

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)


2 thoughts on “Starry, starry night

  1. Enjoy your volcanoes….be glad you are having to fly over Europe at the moment. Is Iceland getting its revenge I wonder. Spring had sprung and today it is sunny, warm and inspiring.

  2. Can you see why it’s my dream to work up there someday?? I’d be happy even just being the cleaning person at one of the observatories…

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