In 2014, Fred and I led an astronomy and volcanology tour of Hawaii. We were fortunate to get an up close and personal visit of the telescopes on Haleakala, talked about the rich Polynesian cultural connection to the stars with the locals, and bathed in the warm glow of the lunar eclipse viewable from this Mauna Kea. The tour, group and destination, was memorable for all the right reasons; the clear and starry skies, the red glow of the caldera in Volcano National Park and the warm and hospitable people showing and sharing with us their passion for science.
Yesterday, 5 years later, Fred and I returned to Haleakala and ventured the 19 miles to the summit through Haleakala National Park. This was our first trip in five years, our second in total. Whist fogged in and rather chilly, we were delighted to see a new solar telescope in between gaps in the clouds almost reflecting off the enigmatic Hawaiian Silverswords. What charmed me were the NeNe that slowly crossed the road next to the alpine flowers growing despite the challenge of the wind and cold.
Maui, truly is a stunning place. The more I am here, the more I value how miraculous this cluster of islands in the middle of the pacific, formed by lava and a millennium of evolution, can support a rare and wonderful set of flora and fauna. The people of Maui are connected to this, and the expansive solar farms, electric vehicle fleet and sustainable fishing practices reflect their commitment to conservation and sustainability.
So what about dark sky initiatives? It rates pretty well, so far. All streetlights appear to be full-cut off and, other than light packs on private or commercial buildings which are glarey and overly powerful, there are few issues to pinpoint. Hearten warmingly, floodlights appear in warm hues and infrequently go any other direction but down. Perhaps this is due to the work of the Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund, Conservation Council for Hawai‘i, and EarthJustice as noted in this Article.
One thing for sure though, I’m super keen to bring another group back to share the astronomy, geology and dark skies of these incredible pacific islands.