ISO Honu and Stars

On Hawaii’s Big Island, we searched for honu (the Hawaiian name for the green sea turtle) and stars. The Big Island has high mountains, and I wanted to photograph the Milky Way from there.

Shown above, a father and son fish at Kiholo Bay, where we looked for honu. We asked a Hilo family camping at the beach, but they hadn’t seen any either. Days later, they emailed us that their auntie saw honu when walking the other way from the parking lot.

We also read that there are honu at Punaluu Beach Park, so we stopped there and walked around. There’s a pretty, uncrowded, black-sand beach, but we didn’t see any honu. After we got home, we talked to friends who had seen honu there.

We finally found a honu near Waikoloa. Look for the dark head protruding from the water — the honu taking a breathe. Click on the photo for a larger image. This was the closest we got to a honu on this trip. 😦

turtle taking a breathe
turtle taking a breath

I wanted to take photos of the Milky Way in Hawaii. At home in the San Francisco Bay Area, there’s too much light pollution to see the Milky Way well, but the Big Island has much darker skies. We visited Hawaii in August, when the Milky Way is visible at night from the northern hemisphere.

The Big Island is dominated by two large volcanic peaks. Mauna Kea is 14,000 feet high and has observatories. While waiting for our loco moco in Waimea, the clouds broke, disclosing the silver observatories atop Mauna Kea.

Mauna Kea observatories from Waimea
Mauna Kea observatories from Waimea

The Mauna Kea Visitor’s Center offers a nightly stargazing program. To take Milky Way photos, we drove up through the clouds to the visitor’s center in the late afternoon. When we reach the visitor’s center at 9200 foot elevation, it was covered with clouds. Individuals like us aren’t permitted to drive past the visitor’s center, so we couldn’t go higher up the mountain.

There are commercial tours of the summit from the visitor’s center. I asked a guide how long it’d take for the clouds to lift. He looked around, scanning the clouds, and said it’d be a 50-50 chance for the clouds to life by 9 pm. It was 5:30, too long to wait. After looking at the clouds and the beckoning blue sky near the summit, we drove down the mountain without seeing the Milky Way. Nights in Kona were cloudy. Something for another trip.

clouds covering Mauna Kea Visitor's Center
clouds covering Mauna Kea Visitor’s Center
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charley280

I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

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