Friday, March 1, 2013


Since arriving in Kona for vacation, I have been joking about how strung out on vowels I am. Place names in Hawaii have an exorbitant amount of vowels and I have been told that all of them get pronounced. There will be no merging of vowel sounds on this island. When the language was originally written down, using English letters, in the 19th century, it had less consonants than the standard 20 we use (B, D, R, T, V, H, K, L, M, N P & W). When a consonant is used, it has be followed by a vowel and all words have to end in a vowel. So place names like Honaunau-Napoopoo are a real challenge for native English speakers like myself.

This place holds many fascinations other than the language. Regardless of what Congressman Johnson thinks, islands don't float, but are the clumps of land that are above sea level. The Hawaiian islands are tops of a huge volcanic mountain chain. The largest of these is Mauna Loa which, if measured from its base at ocean floor, is larger than Everest.  Both of Hawaii's active volcanoes are on Hawai'i, aka the Big Island, Mauna Loa and Kilauea.  The Big Island is basically five volcanoes that are so close together that they form an island, half of the island is covered by Mauna Loa.  The planet Earth has 13 climate zones, all but two of them (arctic and sahara) are on the Big Island and yet the difference between the average temperature between winter and summer is four to eight degrees. The hottest temperature ever recorded on this island is 97 (F).  Even my home state of Vermont gets hotter than that sometimes.

Tourists, like myself, usually stay in the Kona district of the island. In my time here, the temperature has been around high 70's to low 80's (F). We drove to Hilo yesterday, a two hour drive. Kona (the west side of the island) gets an average of 3 inches of rain each year while Hilo (the east) gets 113 inches a year (12 feet).  We left the tropical seaside of Kona among the surfers and sunbathers, drove through coffee plantations, mountain dessert, cactus, rainforest, saw some snow and/or frost, eventually into the more working class town of Hilo. The temperature dropped as low as 34 (F) on our drive. While Kona's main industry is tourism, Hilo is where the bananas, macadamia nuts and orchids grow.

Our big event yesterday was touring the Kilauea from a helicopter.  The picture above is of the Pu`u `O`o vent that has been erupting continually since January 3rd, 1983.  In that time, it has claimed 189 buildings (100 private homes), almost 9 miles of highway and not a single life.  Lava moves so slowly, people have plenty of time to get out of the way. Below you will see a highway that is mostly covered by a lava field (now cooled and hardened into volcanic rock).

One square mile of land (640 acres) is created every 20 years on Hawai'i due to hot lava reaching the ocean.  It took two years for the lava to eventually reach the coast line. Here is a picture I took of a newest land on Earth being created:

While most islands are losing acreage due to global climate change, Hawai'i is growing.  I am glad to hear this because I love it here. 

1 comment:

Olga said...

It sounds like you are having a wonderful time! Someday I will get there.