Hawaii trip 8: when do I want to give it up?

Standing 13,803 ft (4,207 m) above sea level, Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in Hawaii. This is one of the main reasons we have chosen to visit big island over other islands. I can say that this is the highlight of my vacation at Hawaii. Agreement with Hawaiian people, it’s allowed to set up only up to 13 observatories at the summit.  And they are one of the best in the world because of the location and some other reasons.


You are allowed to go up there only by 4WD by yourself, or join a tour riding a 4WD van. We’ve decided renting a 4WD 4Runner.
Went to Mauna Kea visitor center at 1pm, get an orientation and watched a movie about the Mauna Kea and observatory history. We’ve learned that the mountain itself is a sacred for Hawaiian, so there are many sensitive subjects to deal with for having observatories as well as visiting there. The image below shows that the true peak of Mauna Kea on the right, and observatories on the left. We are strongly discouraged to go on the path to get to the peak. It’s probably only 10 – 15 minutes away from where I took this picture, but we didn’t go there.

The path to the summit. Viewing Mauna Loa, 2nd tallest in Hawaii, behind the Mauna Kea summit. Both mountains are so massive and like a mound.  I thought it’s a tough one to take a good picture.  マウナケアの後ろに2番目に高いマウナロア山が見える。

We could go into one of observation room at Kecks observatory. Each telescope is made with 36 hexagonal shaped millers, and the room temperature is controlled to match with the outer air temperature at night.  This way, they won’t get any influence from the temperature changes.


This is one of Gemini observatory. Another one is located at on the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) campus near La Serena, Chile.
I’ve heard many important piece of information, but all I remembered was that it cost $40,000 per night operation. It was made by seven countries joint project, but because of the outrageous cost of the operation each night, allowed observation hours are scheduled based on the amount of funding.


Subaru is standing right next to Kecks made by Japan. It has a unique shape, and the telescope is based on single mirror. Until 2005, it was the largest telescope in the world with 8.2 meter mirror.日本からもスバル天文台が設置されている。2005年までは一枚鏡の8.2メートルが世界最大の望遠鏡となっていた。

It was so impressive and great and all… on the other hand, my head started hurting a lot every step I made. The original plan was to stay up there until senset so that we could capture a one of the kind sunset picture. I wanted to stay up there as long as I could… and did, but we still had two more hours until sunset. So we cried and gave up, and went down to Visitor center. High altitude sickness can not be cured until you go down to certain elevation. You just have to give it up. 😦
With mighty last power, we hiked to nearby hill for the sunset. A super large shadow of the hill was on the haze colored like grenadine.



We stayed there till after dark. Many astronomy fans brought large telescopes, and showed us stars. But again, my headache was still there. It was my limit. So we left and head back home. I remembered that I was told by my doctor; don’t wait so long without a treatment when I get an headache.  I know, I know… I should had given it up much sooner, but I just couldn’t give it up because it’s the place I wanted to be….!  Even with extreme headache, it was fantastic. I could see billions of jewel starts I’ve never seen before on the sky then.

By the way, baby Mauna Kea silverswords were just planted there at visitor center. It’s only 2-3 inches tall, but it will grow as tall as my hight. I don’t know how long it will take for that, but I wished to come back there again to see the growth of silversword someday in the future.


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