Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Mauna Kea

I went up to the top of Mauna Kea yesterday. The air was very thin, since I was at 13,700 ft (about), and because my lungs have been adapted to not moving much at sea level, I could really feel it. Something was different, however, from the last time I was at that kind of height. Climbing Mt Shasta was more rewarding to feel the breath snatched from my nostrils, and the headache and pains were more earned, I felt. There is a road to Mauna Kea, so I caught a ride up to the top and it was quite easy, just step from the car and into the void. I did, of course, try to run about a bit, and noticed that the punishment ran faster than me. I felt loopy and dizzy and then headachy and tired. 
It is beautiful up there, but not quite as beautiful as Mt Shasta, since I worked for the view in California. The Telescopes are neat, and quite unguarded. We drove right up to them and parked alongside these very expensive machines. There wasn't anybody around, but I suppose they were all inside the domes sipping oxygen and snacking on light and numbers. We watched the sun set, dipping into the clouds like it dips into the sea, and then the full moon rose behind us. There is a weird squashing effect on the moon from high altitude. It was full but the bottom parts of it were squashed to make it look like it was a waning gibbous, the shape where it is more than half.
Back down at the 9,000 ft visitors center, they had telescopes set out to look at various stars and things, and I got a good look at Saturn. I had never seen Saturn's rings before, but there they are! Like two little ears listening in to the sun. We could also see the Southern Cross quite clearly as well as Polaris. Funny that you can see both at the same time, but the Southern Cross is not on the South Pole.
The climate changes on the way up were interesting to see. In Hilo it was raining and there is the typical wet lush palm trees and tropical things. A little higher the air was cooler and still very wet, like a cloud forest. There were these trees that I imagine as african savannah trees, where they spread out at the top and are flat. Soon those died away to the lava fields and scruby trees, short and twisted by the hellfire. Then as we moved up beyond the saddle and away from Mauna Loa, there wasn't any more lava flows but instead the cinder cones of Mauna Kea, and we were immersed in wide grasslands and some small copses of evergreens. I thought some were Douglas Fir because of the way the branches curved up, but I didn't get a close enough look to be sure.

 Above the grasslands there was less grass and more rock until it became all rock and pumice. Mauna Loa, I am sure, is not the same shifts because it is a shield volcano all the way up, so lava flows should cover all the slopes.

So now I am going to leave today and sail over to Maui.  I hope to arrive in two days or less, it is about 160 miles, but there is also a lot of wind shadows so I might not have a lot of speed.  This channel is also a challenging channel to navigate, so I am going to try to be as careful as I can. 

No comments: