On arrival at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel our first of many ‘gob-smack’ vistas was not in any of the guide books. Floating off Waikiki Beach and well out to sea was an enormous pillared structure topped by a giant white ‘golf ball’. We had to do a double take to make sure we were not seeing things or suffering vapours or jet lag ... but numerous photographs and a Google search soon determined that this was a part of the star wars defense system for America, originated under Ronald Reagan in 1983. Within and below the spherical colossus is some of the world's most advanced radar and computer technology whose aim is to rapidly detect the speed and trajectory of an approaching intercontinental missile and then predict the exact re-entry location so it can be intercepted and vaporised. As the concept was carried through, and over two billion dollars spent on the recycled Norwegian oil platform … yet the concept has been plagued by problems and the machine is under repair here in Hawaii more often than being deployed near or facing Russia, North Korea or other potentially hostile parties. A local air hostess told me that she sees it in the Pearl Harbor area frequently. As it was on the horizon from our hotel room window one estimate is that it would have been 11km away.
Milky Way atop Mauna Kea (from NYT)
We have been struck by the number of world records, especially on the big Island of Hawaii which consists of 5 volcanoes in various states of activity. Kilauea is the most southerly mountain. After many years of inactivity it erupted in 1983 and has been spewing lava, smoke and ash ever since. Even today the central bubbling ‘caldera’ and surrounding enormous volcanic crater are partly off-limits at certain times, especially the south side since the prevailing winds are usually from the north and the fumes contain sulphur and can be very dangerous. The sight of this 3x4km chasm is awesome indeed, and it is a comfortable 45 minute drive from Hilo.
The summit is a sacred site for locals and there is a current dispute about the new 30 metre telescope which hopefully will be resolved soon (perhaps with the removal or resiting of other facilities).
Andrew in front of Kilauea 'caldera'.
RESTAURANT SCENE - AWARDS CEREMONY
Some excellent food was sampled on both Oahu and Hawaii islands. We had the privilege of attending the annual "Hale 'aina" awards held in the lush gardens of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. 15 categories of food allowed 15 stalls for restaurants to provide samples of their signature dish for the (paying) guests. We also ate well at our 'local' near our guest house in Hilo: The Moon and Turtle Café/Restaurant. They had a small but adventurous menu including this fried 'akule' fish (a type of mackerel or 'big-eye scad).