Maui I - around the island

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Hawaii is the most remote and exotic state in our country, aside from Alaska. Hanging in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, almost half way between US and Australia, over 2,000 miles away from any continent in any direction, Hawaii is the most isolated archipelago in the world. It is entirely consist of a chain of hundreds of volcanic islands, that is, islands born in volcanic eruptions. In fact, the land mass of the state is still growing from volcanic actions such as the outpouring larva into the ocean in Kilauea. The islands had been occupied by Polynesian since 300-500 A.D. (the exact time is still controversial), before they're "discovered" by Captain James Cook in 1778. We may recall Cook also "discovered" Australia earlier in his career, but he's far less fortunate in this voyage. In the Big Island, he got into trouble with the local Hawaiian and was killed in a conflict in 1779. However, publicity of Cook's voyage brought in European colonists, who in turn brought in European diseases that would wipe out a good fraction of the native population. Meanwhile there were constant power struggles among Hawaiian chiefs, until King Kamehameha the Great united the islands and established the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1810.

The monarchism didn't last very long. In 1887, backed by American and European businessmen, the Hawaiian government passed a new constitution that striped the power of the sixth Hawaiian king Kalakaua (six generations in 77 years, as you can tell, these Hawaiian kings typically don't live very long) and established a democratic country. In 1893 there was a brief attempt of resuscitating the monarchy by Queen Liliuokalani, but the episode quickly ended as of a troop of uniform US marines arrived and the queen was overthrown. From 1894 Hawaii is officially the Republic of Hawaii; but soon in 1898 it was annexed to the US as the Territory of Hawaii; finally in 1959 it became a US state.

This page is on our trip to Hawaii in May 2008. From San Francisco International Airport, after some 5 hours of flight over the mostly featureless Pacific Ocean, on the horizon, emerging slowly a piece of cloud-covered land surrounded by a rim of turquoise shallow water. It was the Oahu Island, the third largest and the most populous island in Hawaii. Underneath that cloud are thick forests and the state capital Honolulu.

Oh that gorgeous coastline...

Some 6 miles west of Honolulu is Pearl Harbor, the headquarter of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The deep-water naval base is best remembered by the infamous surprise attack by Japanese navy in 1941 that engaged the US into World War II. In the morning of Sunday, December 7th, 353 planes from six aircraft carriers sunk four US battle ships, damaged another four, destroyed 188 aircraft, killed 2,402 and wounded 1,282. Soon the US formally declared war on Japan and went on to win the war. But the day, December 7th 1941 will forever "live in infamy" (words of Roosevelt). Today the harbor is a National Historic Landmark, though at the same time still serve as an active navy base.

 

Here in Honolulu Airport, right outside of Pearl Harbor, we'll transfer our flight to the final destination, the island of Maui. Maui is the second largest island in Hawaii, with an area of 727.2 sq. miles. The island is often called the "Valley Isle" because in between the West Maui Mountain (2 pix) and the massive volcano Haleakala (last pic) is a narrow strip of plain. They are actually two different volcanoes millions of years ago and their lava flows met and overlapped each other to form the valley.

Traditional industries of the island are farming and tourism. It's visited by over 2 million tourists yearly. Notable attractions include the nice beaches, resorts, and a variety of water sport and activities shown below, a long and curvy scenic drive known as Road to Hana, and the Haleakala National Park featuring the prominent Haleakala crater, which rise to over 10,000 feet above sea level.

 

The Road to Hana is a 68-mile stretch of Hawaii State Highway 36 and 360 that connects the towns of Kahului and Hana. For the most part the winding and narrow highway stretches through dense tropical rainforest, passes countless of one-lane bridges that allow only one car pass through. The journey typically takes 3 hours of driving.

Along the scenic drive are pools and waterfalls. In the first 4 pix are the Seven Sacred Pools, a popular attraction near Hana.

A quite Shangrila-ish village. Surround by such green lush tropical rain forests, facing the ocean, leisurely working on fields of sugarcane - that's as close to a earthly paradise as you can get.

Ubiquitous along the coast are these dark, irregular-shaped volcanic rocks that were formed when red-hot liquid lava was quenched by sea water. The dark color is because the rocks' composition is high in iron but low in quartz.

Where these volcanic rocks are grinded into sand by the waves, they form black sand beaches.

 

The eruptions of the massive Haleakala Volcano in the last 2.0 million years are responsible for about 75% of the landmass of the island of Maui. It took some 0.6 million years to for it to grow from the sea floor to reach the sea level. For the rest of the time it simply spread out dark volcanic rocks to build the east end of the island. Although it has been inactive for a couple centuries, scientists believe that it's likely not extinct but only dormant.

The tip of the Haleakala crater, at 3,055m (10,023 ft) above sea level, is the highest point in Maui. Haleakala means "house of the sun" in Hawaiian. The crater is said to have one of the most beautiful sunrise in the world. Such reputation attracts horde of tourists, especially in the summer tourist season. Typically one has to get up before 4am to beat the crowd and get a reasonable parking spot and enough space to set up the camera. Night owls as we are, getting up before 4am is simply ridiculous. After browsing for Haleakala sunrise pix on the web we concluded that the sunrise is probably overrated. What's more, we had another option - watching the sunset is much less crowded, the view is at least as good according to some, and we don't have to shiver in the bone-cracking cold before dawn.

So late in the afternoon, we drove up the narrow, winding two-lane road that is full of deceptive sharp turns that overlook very steep cliffs. The summit is so high in elevation that a layer of cloud constantly gather well below it. It got very misty when we were going through the clouds. At some point it actually started to rain. But once above 2,500m elevation, in a sudden it all cleared up - blue sky, green forest, and an ocean of white misty cloud below us. In fact, the summit is so clear, so dry, so well isolated from city lights, it's a perfect spot for space telescope. In the last 2 pix is a government-operate astrophysics research facility know as the "Science City" on the summit.

Finally we're at the tip of the crater, 3,055m above sea level, watching the setting sun painted the ocean of cloud with a warmer hue.

Call the summit of the Haleakala volcano a crater is a bit misleading. The 7-mile long, 2-mile wide, 2,600 ft-deep depression on the summit was not formed by volcanic activities but from erosion. Inside the depression of the crater there're a few volcanic cones born from previous eruptions.

Zoom in. In the 2nd pic, someone built a trail inside the crater.

As the sun sank further down, the cloud streamed into the crater, turned it into a boiling caldron.

It's about time...

We set up our camera...

Ready? Here we go...

Next we'll dip into the crystal clear Pacific Ocean.

 

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