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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

PEARL'S ASHES: Part 6--Halemaumau Crater

Nostalgically, the drive from Naalehu took me through Pahala, where Pearl lived in the nurse's cottage when we first met.  I also spent some time at the Hawaiian Agriculture Sugar Company, working at the sugar mill, across the street from the Kau Hospital (this structure was replaced by a new hospital today).  My father lived in Koloa, Kauai, where Hawaiian sugar first was produced in 1837.  This is the natural habitat of the Hawaii State bird, the nene.

What I remember most occurred at 8:30AM on Friday, 13November1963.  I heard that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Texas.  We by then had gotten married and lived in a trainee house in short walking distance from the factory.  Some days you can't forget.

I also remember that the hottest temperature, ever, in Hawaii, occurred in Pahala, at an elevation of 850 feet:  100 F.  I was not around for this recording, as it occurred on 27April1931.  Interesting that this is the lowest high temperature of any state, tying Alaska.  You would think that the maximum would occur at sea level or lower, for the highest ever in the USA was Death Valley, California on 10July1913, 134 F at a point below sea level.  The higher you go on a mountain, the colder it gets.  But Colorado's highest is 118 F on 11July1888 in Bennett at an elevation of 5,484 feet.  

These high temperatures, the coolness at night and generally adequate rainfall are reasons why this sugar plantation held the highest average cane production rate, more than 200 tons/acre.  At sea level, sugar tassles and matures at the age of two.  Louisiana has one year crops.  Here at the Hawaiian Ag plantation, the sugar cane plant does not stop growing.  The average age at harvest was closer to four years.

While sugar cane remains the highest biomass crop harvested around the world, sugar operations in Pahala came to an end in 1996.  Macadamia nut orchards now dot the environment and the population is down below 1500, mostly caused by people moving away for the lack of jobs.  However, there is a more serious problem.  Thirty years ago, Kilauea Volcano began erupting, and the volcanic fumes generally find their way to Pahala. 

So is this the end of Pahala, Naalehu and the Kau Region?  Maybe not, for Aina Koa Pono, led by Melvin Chiogioji (left) and his investors, have proposed growing eucalyptus, sorghum and other crops to produce biofuel.  After an initial setback, recent developments show considerable promise for success.

The reason why we have racial diversity in Hawaii is that the sugar industry established the sociological structure of the state, for it imported workers from Scotland, China, Japan, Filipino, Portugal, Puerto Rico and Korea.  After an agonizing first century, there came a time when there was no majority, so it became politically smart for minorities to band together as Democrats.  The ruling Republican Party was overwhelmed after World War II veterans returned with degrees because of the GI Bill.  Democrats now totally control the politics of the state.

The longest uninhabited coastline of Hawaii, 80 miles, exists from south of Naalehu to Pahala and up to the Volcanoes National Park.  Which is where I next drove.

I first stopped by the Volcano Golf Club, for on 3January1983, I was golfing here, the ground shook and we saw, no more than a few hundred yards away, spurting lava.  It turned out that the actual eruption began earlier that morning, but the first fountains were what we saw.  In less than a month, it will be thirty years of essentially constant activity.  To the left is a "fire hose" of lava entering the sea, taken by J.D. Griggs of the U.S. Geological Survey in 1989.  I show this shot because is was just about later that day I was on a helicopter with Mark Foreman of Senator Dan Inouye's office and the pilot took us right up to this point, where volcanic ash spattered onto our craft.  I have several spectacular photos, one enlarged and part of my energy collection on the wall of my Manoa Campus office.

I then found my way to the Volcano House, which I heard might now be closed, hopefully only for renovations.  My room had the following view of Halemaumau Crater, where the floor rises and falls as part of that same Kilauea eruption.  I had a ceremony for Pearl here.  Note the rainbow.

While the Volcano House began hosting in 1877, the present structure was built in 1941.  Halemaumau is where Hawaiians made offerings to fire Goddess Pele.  I guess because of the volcano and some remembrance of jumping into a crater, I associate this scene with Bird of Paradise starring Debra Paget as Kalua.  See her doing the hula to this song.  

The crater itself is about a half mile in diameter and a 100 yards deep, which can drop to almost 400 yards.  Just two months ago there was a fear that the lava level would sufficiently rise to overflow out.  In 1866, Mark Twain hiked to the floor, something I wouldn't do.

NEXT:  #7 will be Pearl's sunbursts and #8 the Taj Majal.


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