Thursday, June 2, 2016

Monday's Minor Mystery Solved Pretty Quickly: Poles with no Shadows in Hawai'i

You can't mystify scientists of the Earth with questions of latitude. I had numerous answers pretty darn quick about why this stop sign reveals my location. The sign pole is casting no shadow! The only way that can happen is if the sun is directly overhead, and that can only happen if one is within 23 degrees of the equator, and only at noon. I have never thought to seek such a picture on my previous trips to Hawai'i, but I lucked out and thought of it while we were eating lunch at a nice little cafe in Kapa'au on the north end of the Big Island.
Kapa'au was once in the heart of sugar cane country, but the plantations folded in the 1970s, and the town should have, but refused to die. It has a nice selection of art galleries, and is the location of a very famous statue of King Kamehameha. Most people see the second version of this statue in Honolulu (and in the opening credits of "Hawaii 5-0"), but fewer people know that the original statue was lost at sea in the 1878 (it was cast in Paris, and lost off the Falkland Islands). Someone salvaged the original statue, and it eventually ended up here, actually only a few miles from Kamehameha's birthplace.

Kamehameha is fondly remembered as the first king to unify the Hawaiian Islands in the late 1700s, but when one reads the stories, it was a savage time, and it certainly was not a good idea to oppose him. He did bring about stability, and the last decades of his life were peaceful, despite the arrival of Europeans. Huge changes followed his death, and not necessarily good ones for native Hawaiians.
The region is quiet these days, with some incredible scenery. At the end of the road a few miles beyond Kapa'au, there is the Pololu Valley and coast. These are the highest sea cliffs on the Big Island, caused when a flank of the Kohala volcano 12 miles wide collapsed into the sea several tens of thousands of years ago. The ensuing tsunami would have been catastrophic, although no humans were on the island at the time. A steep, but beautiful trail leads through the rainforest to the Pololu Valley and beach.

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