We took another short 32 minute flight on Hawaiian Airlines to the Big Island, also known as Hawaii. We landed at the Kona airport which felt like a true Hawaiian airport with its no windows or walls design. The Big Island is really an island of contrasts with Kona on one side and Hilo on the other. Kona is a major beach resort area with less than ten inches of rain a year. Hilo is the largest city on the island and tropical with more than 150 inches of rain annually. The total population of the island is around 185,000.
The Big Island is the biggest island with 4,028 miles, twice the size of all the other Hawaiian islands combined, and most importantly, it is still growing!! It is the youngest of all the islands, estimated to be about 800,000 years old. This is the most volcanic of all the islands, with Kilauea near Hilo being the world’s most active volcano. kilauea has been sending rivers of lava since January 1983, adding more real estate to the island every day. It is also an island seeped in history. It is the birthplace and deathplace of King Kamehameha, a great king who united all the Hawaiian Islands under his rule. He died in 1819.
British Captain James Cook, after exploring in 1778 the islands of Kauai and Oahu, arrived on the Big Island in 1779. At first, thinking Cook was perhaps a god, the natives welcomed him with great feasts. After discovering he was in fact not a god, they became hostile. Cook and four of his men died on the Big Island during a battle. A small bronze plaque at the north end of Kealakekua Bay marks the spot of his death. Cook’s countrymen erected a 27-foot memorial near the plaque to honor him.
This time we rented a Mustang convertible to use during our nine days on the island. It was about a 30 minute drive to our condo in Kona. Once again the condo was very nice and we could see a cruise ship parked in the distance with tender boats taking passengers to shore as well as hang gliders soaring over the water.
One day we drove to Mauna Kea which is the tallest of Hawaii’s volcanoes and in fact the tallest island mountain in the world, measuring 33,476 feet from its base on the ocean floor. Mauna Kea at 13,796 feet is the highest point in the state of Hawaii. Mauna Kea means “white mountain” in Hawaiian and is named that because of the white snow that covers its slopes. We drove to the Visitors Center there at 9,000 feet but did not drive to the summit because a four wheel drive is needed to get there. At the top of the summit is world’s largest observatory for optical, infrared, and submillimeter astronomy. Thirteen working telescopes, capable of tracking stars and galaxies 13 billion light years away.
Okay this is where it can get confusing. The Big Island also has the world’s largest most massive mountain called Mauna Loa which also is a volcano. So Mauna Kea is the world’s tallest sea mountain and Mauna Loa is the world’s most massive.
Mauna Loa, which means “Long Mountain”, was built by innumerable lava flows. It is the world’s largest active volcano and spreads over half of the island. From sea level it is 13,680 feet in height but has a base of 30,080 feet! One of the more voluminous flows in recent history began in 1950. This massive eruption amounted to about 600 million cubic yards of lava, enough to pave a four lane highway 4.5 times around the world. How neat is that!!!
On the way back we stopped and looked for a geocache hidden among the lava fields. It was amazing to walk on the lava and finding this geocache turned out to be quite a challenge. Everywhere we looked on the Big Island there were amazing fields of lava.
While on Kona we continued celebrating Bill’s birthday by attending a luau. We watched as they uncovered the pig which had been roasting all day underground. We sat next to a very nice couple from Utah and enjoyed talking with them during dinner. The after dinner show was quite entertaining with Hawaiian native dancers and a fire dancer.