I was quite anxious to get down the mountain to figure out how I was going to finish editing my paper without my laptop. When I got to IfA I found the computers there didn’t have Word, only the free version which couldn’t handle the equations or track changes in the document. Thankfully I received an extension on my re-submission deadline. This was a great relief! It’s frustrating because I was literally so close to finishing the manuscript, but this is good because it will only take me a couple of days to complete once back in the UK.

After faffing around trying to connect to my research groups server and figure out how feasible it was to be to continue with work, I decided I would still be able to do some data reduction. After some more faffing, I decided that it was not the time to do this and headed back home to say hi to the Germans and arrange a trip to the National Volcano Park during my “weekend” of Tuesday and Wednesday. I also decided that I would book a mini holiday to Maui! Realistically I’m not sure when I’ll be back in Hawai’i, and just a short 45 minute flight away is the best place to see Whales and a Mecca for surfers, it would be rude not to!

I love the National Volcano Park! It’s such an amazing place! It was really fun to visit with the Germans, who hadn’t been before, and see how excited about the volcanoes they were too! We first hiked down into the Kilauea Caldera. It’s a really fun jungle trail down to the floor of the Caldera. Once down at the bottom you’re standing on lava that was made in 1974, and its really beautiful, it looks like dried mud in places and up close the lava is really colourful. You can’t walk very far into the Caldera as it’s closed now due to all the fumes coming out of the main Halema’uma’u Crater, where the lava lake lives!

Small trees flourishing on the floor of the Kilauea Caldera. The steam and gas venting from the Halema’uma’u Crater in the distance.
We hiked a small section of that big colourful Caldera (Kilauea Caldera), we hiked on the bit that was made in 1974. Then we hiked in the green Kilauea Iki crater which was created in 1959. Kilauea is still erupting but not from it’s summit, from Pu’U O O, a cone along the Eastern fissure, which isn’t on this map.

We hiked up through some more jungle and down the other side into the Kilauea Iki crater, which last erupted in 1959. You can walk all around this crater and it is very impressive. The lava turns from the sharp and spiky A’a lava to the smooth and ropey Pahoehoe lava. There are a few steam vents across the crater floor which is exciting and really reminds you that you’re walking on an actual active volcano!

A lava fountain in the Kilaeua Iki crater 1959 and the resulting lava lake. (Wikipedia).
The same view but 57 years later!

We did the classic drive down the chain of craters road all the way to the ocean to see the lava sea arch. On the way back up to the top we had a quick stop off at the Thurston lava tube, another fun classic not to be missed at the park! By the time we came out of the lava tube the sun had pretty much set so we headed up to the Jagger museum from which you can see the voggy glow from the lava lake which is 52m below the rim of the Halema’uma’u Crater. Last April we were lucky enough to be there when the lava lake rose and was visible from the Jagger museum! This was an awesome sight I will never forget, and it was fun reminiscing about it while admiring the view 8 months later.

The lava lake, visible from the Jagger Museum last April.
This time the lava lake was not visible but it was still an amazing view.

It was a very fun but tiring day and to my dismay I realised once I was home I would have to finish my diving homework! I still had the last section of the on-line learning part of my PADI open water diving course. With my laptop breaking, I’d forgotten about this but thankfully one of the Germans lent me his laptop so I could take the final test. Although I was exhausted I managed to pass and then headed straight to bed!

I woke up early for my 8AM dive. I was a bit worried about the conditions as it had been stormy the last couple of days. We went to the same site as last time and the water seemed especially cold, my instructor joking with me to just imagine I was on a tropical island somewhere…

Once we swam out into the salty sea, it did warm up again but the current was really strong. We had to use the rocks to help move around as we exited a particularly constricted section. It felt like a wind was whipping past your face, it was pretty cool. Once we got into deeper water the currents weren’t as strong so we began practising the skills I had to learn that dive. The storm had done a fair  bit of damage to the coral and my instructor set about doing some aquatic gardening, upturning felled coral and propping them up with stones.

More treasures found my instructor to add to my collection.

The visibility wasn’t as good as last time but we still saw so many beautiful fish and several turtles. This time we saw 2 poison leaf fishes, hanging out together, one yellow and one purple. Hiding amongst the rocks, which I would have never spotted myself, was a very funny looking pinky purple thing, all lumpy and very well camouflaged. This fish can give you a nasty sting, just like the poison leaf fish, so I definitely felt glad for the scuba gloves I was wearing! We also saw a flounder chilling with an usual fish, the Hawaiian flying gurnard fish, they were swimming along the floor like buddies. Afterwards my instructor was really made up with this, he said he’d never seen anything like it before in his whole time diving! Apparently the flounder was as big as they get in Hawai’i. The flying gurnard fish is quite rare and walks around the floor on its pectoral fins, it doesn’t have scales, instead it has sections more like a Cray fish and when it got scared it’s wings shoot out, it was really beautiful. It was nice to see that those fish were buddies. I had such a great time learning to dive! I think I’ve been spoilt by the amazing aquatic life of Hawai’i. Once we got back to the shop I did another test and passed, so now I’m qualified! Excited to go to more places and dive in the future!

Scorpion fish… Lumpy pink fish! (Wikipedia)
Hawaiian Flounder (Wikipedia)
Hawaiian flying gurnard fish. (Wikipedia)

I had a fantastic ‘weekend’! So much fun, I finally felt like I was making the most of being in Hawai’i. Then, of course, mountain time came round again. My luck finally ran out and there was little note on the key box instructing me to fuel up the car. Two weeks ago this would have seriously stressed me out, but I was feeling so chilled and full of confidence from the last two days I managed to navigate from memory to the fuel station, without getting lost, fuel up (after asking the lady which one to use!) and then drive back towards saddle road and onto Manua Kea, no stress at all! I think I should rename this blog… how to get over being scared of diving and to achieve other normal adult tasks. Bring on the driving in Maui! 🙂

The drive up the hill was wet and cloudy and things weren’t much better at Hale Pokahu. I had my dinner, went to bed and when I woke up the sky was quite clear again. I spent the small hours of the morning faffing around trying to get some code together so that I could begin to reduce the data. Since I didn’t have my laptop I have to remotely access my research groups server, which I’m not used to, so progress is slow at the moment.

After lunch I did some more coding to tie me over until dinner. I didn’t sleep for so long as I was going on a tour of the East Asian  Observatory JCMT. A TO I’d made friends with on the mountain offered me a tour. So I woke up early and got the cals going and headed up the mountain.

JCMT is much larger than IRTF, it’s a huge dish of 15m wide and looks in the sub-millimeter wavelengths. The whole building rotates around the huge dish! After I was shown around the telescope and all the instruments were pointed out, we climbed up to the roof. It was quite a lot of stairs, especially at altitude!! The view from the roof of the moon lit summit was amazing. It was really fun to hang out in the control room (much posher than at IRTF!) and hear about how they run the telescope and what sort of observing they do.

Keck and IRTF shining in the moonlight.

Observing went great! Almost perfect except for the first scan I forgot to ask for the correct beam switch. Remember when I said we had to take images of the sky and then subtract this from the Jupiter data to get rid of emission lines from the earth atmosphere? Well I forgot to tell the telescope to move far enough away from Jupiter. Usually we take a big jump away from the planet. When the telescope operator focuses the telescope they don’t need a big jump, because they use a star to focus the telescope and this is obviously a lot smaller than Jupiter! So yes, I forgot about this. But its manageable because I can use the sky images from the next scan as the weather was behaving and we had good seeing.

The rest of the night was uneventful. I messed around with some code and then once I’d finished all my observations I drove a car down as there were two TOs that night.

Had breakfast and a nap and then lunch! On my way back to Hilo I stopped off at the Pu’u O O trail. It’s an ancient trail that runs from saddle road and it used to reach all the way to Kilauea but more recent lava flows have destroyed the path. The trail really draws you in. You don’t stay in one type of terrain for long. You start next to the car park by crossing a small section of A’a lava and then you’re into a small wooded area. The trees that grow on the lava fields look silvery and sometimes still very small, depending on the age of the lava field. The path winds down into a Pohoehoe lava field, where grass has begun to take over. Then you’re back in a forest but this ones more established, the trees are taller and there ferns everywhere. Once more the terrain changes from Pohoehoe and grass into forest and then suddenly opens up onto an A’a lava field! I wanted to keep going, just see what’s around the corner. But I knew I should probably head back. The sun was shining on the return walk and the bird song all around was really lush. Such a fun walk!

Me and some A’a lava along the Pu’U O O trail 🙂

So now I’m back in my house in Hilo preparing for my trip to Maui tomorrow. I’m somewhere between excited and terrified! But I’m pretty sure it’s going to be good.