Vacation 2005
day, November 7th, Vacation Day 10
The Cruise Day 6 - Hawaii Day 1 - Hilo

It has been a couple of weeks since I did the last page. This was due to the death on February 1st, 2006 of my father. It was the best for everybody including him. Now that I am mostly over this I am continuing on to try to complete this trip web site as soon as possible. So, on to my arrival in Hawaii and then the tour that I was most anticipating on this entire trip, a visit to the astronomical observatories at the summit of the extinct Mauna Kea volcano. More about these later, but first, the arrival at Hilo.

The northeast side of the big island was first sighted at approximately 8:30 A.M. Hawaiian time. Here are some pictures of the first land that I/we had seen in 4 1/2 days.

Hilo First View 1 Hilo First View 2
Way off in the distance is Hilo on the big island of Hawaii. This picture was taken a few minutes later and somewhat closer from the other side of the ship.
Hilo Coast Guard Escort Hilo 2nd View 1
In every U.S. port the ship entered the Coast Guard made its presence felt. The pilot boat is also shown. (Yellow one, upper left.) Here the ship is heading into Hilo harbour in this view that looks away from Hilo. Mauna Kea is in the clouds just off the left side of the picture.
Hilo 2nd View 2 This is a view of the town of Hilo. There will be a better one in five days when the circle island helicopter tour from Kona (on the other side of the big island) lands here for a refuelling stop. This city was nearly destroyed by a Tsunami in the 1950's but has mostly recovered.

The formalities required for arrival are done before the ship is allowed anywhere near the dock. One of the things those Coast Guard vessels show in the picture above do is to verify the status of the ship and the passengers before the harbour pilot is allowed on board. Once the ship is "deemed to be under proper command" (as the captain put it) then the docking proceeds. Those Coast Guard boats were hovering around the ship all the time it was there.

Many of you who will be reading this will have been on cruises before but for those who have not here is what happens. Sometime prior to arrival you will have purchased you shore excursions. I did it a month or so in advance over the internet. When the excursions are confirmed (which does not happen for sure until after the ship sails) you are given vouchers stating where and when to meet your excursion. In my case, for this one, it was 10:30 in the movie theatre. You are then given instructions after which you are sent to meet the local people providing the excursion/tour.

This tour, officially called the "Mauna Kea Summit Adventure" took a small group of us (about 8) to a place called Rainbow Falls and then up to the summit of Mauna Kea. On the way back we stopped at that Hawaiian fixture Hilo Hattie's. As I indicated above, this was the one I was most looking forward to so there are many pictures below. Most of them have had very little adjustment except for resizing. Most of the ones that were taken out of the vans tinted windows have been colour corrected and there are several composite pictures (several images combined together to create a panorama) where the blending between the images is visible. I just have not had the time to adjust these as much as I would have liked. In my opinion they still do an excellent job of showing what they are intended to show.

On to the Mauna Kea Summit Adventure!!!!

Rainbow Falls 1 Rainbow Falls 2
Rainbow Falls showing what it is named after, a Rainbow. Here is a slightly different view. The name comes from the fact that on a sunny day there is almost always a rainbow here.
Rainbow Falls 3 Rainbow Falls 4
The area just above the falls.
Downstream from the falls.

From this spot the tour headed up toward Mauna Kea. Below is a GPS map showing the approximate locations of the places visited. Rainbow Falls is so close to Hilo that it does no show here. The road to Mauna Kea (called the Saddle Road) winds all over the place before you get to the Mauna Kea access road itself. This road winds even more before it gets to the Visitor Centre and even more above that.

Mauna Kea GPS

The Saddle Road is not shown on this map. The road in its own windy sort of way goes roughly west from Hilo to a point south of the "To Visitors Centre" label then winds its way back and forth to the Visitors centre then to summit. The next group of pictures take us to the summit via the visitors centre.

Sable Road Lava Visitor Centre 1
Some the lave flows from Mauna Loa (in the distance as we traveled along the Saddle Road. The view from the 9,200 foot visitor centre. It is recommended that everybody going up to the observatories stop here for at least half an hour to get adjusted to the height.
Visitor Center 2 Visitor Centre 3
A view upwards in the direction of the observatories. They are approximately 4,500 feet above this spot. The Visitor Centre. There is a telescope on a tripod out front with a solar filter on it for viewing sunspots.
Visitor Centre Plant 2 Visitor Centre Plant 1
This is some kind of unusual flower that grows only in certain relatively high altitude locations. It is endangered and protected. A different view of the mysterious plant that I cannot remember the name of. The only other place we saw it was high on the Haleakala Volcano on Maui several days from now.
Visitor Centre Alter Visitor Centre from road
An alter used by the native Hawaiians. It does have a name but that escapes me as well. As we started up the final section of the access road this was visitor centre below us. There are accommodations for the technical staff next to the Visitor centre.
Mauna Loa From Road to Summit A bit further up the access road from the right picture above showing the Visitor Centre with Mauna Loa in the background.

While at the visitors centre we had a boxed lunch. Meanwhile back on the ship in Hilo Harbour the noon hour weather was dutifully being recorded. It was mostly sunny with a light breeze and a temperature of 77 F or 25 C. From the pictures above you can see what the weather was like a bit more than 2/3rds of the way up Mauna Kea. The temperature here was in the high 40s or low 50s F.

The next group of pictures are all near the 13,000 ft summit of Mauna Kea. Our tour guide was an assistant that worked at several of the observatories here and was a wonderful source of information. The job he has is a bit too difficult to explain here but it was fairly boring he said. He was happy to be bored though because he was working at a location where some of the most leading edge science in the world is being performed on an almost daily basis.

Summit Radio 1 Summit Radio 2
The westernmost antenna of the 25-m diameter Very Long Baseline Array is situated 3 miles below the summit. This is combined with a number of other dishes on other continents to make one very large radio telescope. The next 3 pictures are of what is called the Submillimeter Array. It is a group of radio telescopes used for measuring interstellar gas and dust. Each antenna consists of some very complex temperature controlled radio receivers and drive mechanisms.
Summit Radio 4 Summit Radio 3
Here are some of the other SM Array. There are 8 antennas that can be moved into different configurations depending on what they want to observe.
Here are a couple of more of the antennas.
Dome 1 Dome 2
The California Institute of Technology 10.4-m Submillimeter Telescope (CSO). The dome contains a 10.4 metre radio telescope dish. This is the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT). This dome contains an even larger radio telescope dish (15 metre) than the previous one.

Summit Composite 1

After passing the group of telescopes above we stopped to take in this view. The is a composite of four images that for perspective reasons do not fit together perfectly. Even with the imperfections in this image the effect was just too good not to include here. The view is looking in approximately the northwesterly direction from the same spot as the next picture below.

Keck from site of composite

This is the W.M. Keck Observatory.
This is probably the most fascinating of the observatories on Mauna Kea. Each dome contains a 10 Metre optical telescope that have segmented mirrors and adaptive optics. The altitude above sea level (where I started several hours ago) is 13646.92 feet. The white speck between to two domes is the half crescent moon.

We visited this next.
Here are some pictures and information about the Keck Observatory.

Keck Dome 1 Keck Dome 2
The dome of Keck #1. Each insulated dome has a volume of 700,000 cubic feet and is kept near freezing 24 hours a day (using large air conditioners in the daytime) to keep the mirrors and telescope structure stable. This is the dome of Keck #2. Note the size of the vehicles relative to the size of the dome. Each dome is 101 ft. (30.8 meters) high, 121.4 ft. (37 m.) wide and has a moving weight of 700 tons (635 metric tons).

Here are some facts about the Keck Telescopes (both are the same):

The primary mirror consists of 36 hexagonal segments making a diameter of 33 feet (10 meters). Each segment is 6 feet (1.8 m) in diameter and weighs 880 pounds (400 kilograms). The material used is a low-expansion glass-cermanic called Zerodur. Each segment is so smooth that if it were the width of the earth any imperfections would be only three feet high. All this glass creates a light collecting area of 818 square feet (76 m2) and weighs 15.9 tons (14.4 metric tons). Each mirror segment is computer adjusted, relative to its neighbours, twice each second to keep the telescopes focus sharp across the entire mirror surface. Using this process an accuracy of 4 nanometres, about the size of a few molecules, or 25,000 times thinner than a human hair is achieved.
The focal length is 57.4 ft. (17.5 m). The height is 80.7 ft (24.6 m). The total moving mass of each telescope is 298 tons (270 m.t.) including the mirrors.

Keck Inside of Dome 1

In the two pictures of the telescope the darker coloured steel bars that are running from the top and curve down near the bottom (slightly out of focus) are not part of the telescope. These are part of the viewing enclosure. The lighter coloured blue bars are part of the telescopes structure. This is a picture of the Keck #1 telescope. What is shown here is the bottom of the segmented mirror. One of the focus points where the observations are taken can be seen from here. It is located in line with the very centre of the mirror just above the platform at the top of the picture. The other one is out of the picture on the left side (I think).

Keck Inside 3

Another view of the Keck #1 mirror.
You can make out the hexagonal shape of the mirror segments.

Keck Entrance
All observations made with the telescopes are electronic and relayed by fibre optic connections to the telescopes headquarters building at the base of the volcano. This is where the scientists work. There are only technicians at the telescope. Here is a view of the small exhibit area in the visitors area between the two domes. The viewing area for the telescope is just to my left. If you want some additional detail about this observatory here is a link to the Keck Observatory Web Site.

From Keck we went on to the highest location where observatories are located which is shown in the two picture composite below. These two pictures were taken from just outside the Keck Observatory. The observatories shown here, from left to right are: the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF), the Canada - France - Hawaii Telescope (CFHT), the Gemini Northern 8 Metre Telescope, the University of Hawaii 2.2 metre telescope, the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) and the University of Hawaii 0.6 metre Telescope. The pictures that follow were taken mostly from a spot between the two largest white domes on the right. That is also where the highest altitude GPS reading was taken. The white speck near the top to the right of centre is the moon.

Highest Location Composite

Here is a selection of pictures from there. These were taken mostly from the approximate location marked as being at 13,842 ft on the GPS map above. Actual height according to the University of Hawaii's Institute of Astronomy web site for this location is 13824.00 feet. (for the 2.2 metre telescope).

Hilo Composite

The image above is a composite of 5 images looking from north-northeast to southeast. The mound just to the right of centre with the path going up it is the actual summit of Mauna Kea. According to a map it is 13,796 feet. That means the GPS readings are just a bit high. The town of Hilo is just behind the summit. Everything else to the left under the broken clouds is ocean. To the right is Mauna Loa and the person to the far right is the tour guide.

West Composite

This composite of three images is looking almost the same direction as the first one above that was taken from below the Keck Observatory. The observatories shown in this picture are, again from left to right, the CSO, the JCMT, the Submillimeter Array, the Subaru Telescope (a close up is below), Keck, and the NASA IRTF. At the very right edge of the image are parts of the CFHT and the Hawaii 2.2 Metre observatories.

West Composite 2

This view is almost identical to the one above but is included to show how the clouds in the background were changing .

Dome 3 Tour Van at Summit
This is the Subaru 8.3 metre optical telescope. It is operated by Japan. This is the tour van that brought the small group of us from the ship to Mauna Kea.
High Domes 1 High Dome 2
The Canada - France - Hawaii and Gemini North telescopes. Take a close look at Gemini. There are a couple of men on the dome by the slightly open viewing doors. Here is a closer view of the men. It gives you some idea of the size of the dome.
Silver Dome 2 Me in Window
Last view of the men. Can you see them just right of the open hatch? Just in case you think I wasn't actually there, I took a self portrait in the window of one of the observatories.

Big View with Maui in background

In this single frame you can see the Haleakala Volcano on the island of Maui just to the right of the Keck Observatories two domes. You could not see it before because of the way the clouds were positioned. Haleakala is approximately 10,000 ft high. You can see the relative locations of the two volcanoes as labelled on the map from the GPS software below. The distance between the two summits is approximately 120 kilometres or about 70 statute (land) miles.

Map Mauna Kea & Haleakala Volcano

After spending about 90 minutes at the summit we started back down. Not many pictures were taken on the trip back but there were a few.

Domes from Sadle Road 1 Domes from Sadle Road 2
Here are the final Mauna Kea pictures taken as the tour group returned to the ship along the Saddle Road. I am not exactly sure which domes these are but my best guess makes them to be Canada - France - Hawaii and Gemini or Hawaii 2.2.

If you would like some additional information about the observatories on Mauna Kea, click on the link below which will take you to the University of Hawaii's Institute of Astronomy's web site. The Institute of Astronomy manages the Mauna Kea Science Reserve as the site is called. There are explanations about why it is such a good site for astronomy and there are links to the web sites for most of the observatories located here.

Link to the Mauna Kea Observatories Web Site

The final pictures were the ones below taken just after returning to the ship after the shore excursion. The ship was still at the dock when these were taken.

Evening view 1 Evening view 2
Hilo with part of Mauna Kea to the right with the low clouds in front taken from about 60 feet above sea level instead of about 13,760 feet. Far end of Mauna Kea with the clouds and that always present Coast Guard boat.
Evening View 3 Evening View 4
Hilo in the evening as the sunsets to the left. Oops, that is to the west. This is a wider shot similar to the one above. A shot further along the coast. You can see how the mountain causes weather on this side due to the prevailing winds.

We sailed from Hilo at 6:00 P.M. heading for Honolulu, 185 Nautical Miles away. After sailing, dinner was served. After dinner I returned and found another towel animal. I am not sure what it is intended to be but it was cute. Here it is.

Towel Animal Nov 7

Finally, after a very busy and interesting (to me at least) high altitude day, I went to bed.

Tomorrow, Honolulu and the Island of Oahu.

Originally Created: February 15th, 16th, 17th, and partially reworked on the 19th, 2006
Last Updated: March 14, 2006