May 2008 Log

A photo diary of life in Hilo Hawaii






We spent last week driving around the Big Island. We have become so engrossed in Hilo that it has been a while since we had seen the rest of the island.

The thing thing that shocked us the most, was the vog. I mean there are articles and posts and it is discussed, but we thought that they were being wimps over there in Kona. Oh my goodness were we wrong.

Once we drove past Waimea heading towards Waikoloa - the ocean was complete obscurred by the vog.

Vog over Waikoloa

Driving into Kona, the normally gorgeous blue ocean was missing.

Kona drive vog

The airport was barely visible.

Kona airport vog

Vog in Kona

Once in Kona, the vog was still there. This is a picture of the pier.

Kona Pier in Vog

The vog was much worse in the afternoon than in the morning. The warmth seems to draw it in from the ocean. It feels like you are oxygen deprived, similar to being at a high altitude. With the volcano spewing off more and more, we wonder how much longer these levels of vog will last for for Kona and Kohala.

We haven't realized how lucky we have been here in Hilo with blue skies and refreshing cool breezes.

Hilo Bay

On the few days when we have gotten vog, it was early in the morning and moved out by 11AM. We weren't nearly sympathetic enough about the vog elsewhere on the island.


Over Memorial Day weekend, Hilo had an inter-tribal Powwow. The Powwow was hosted by the Federation of American Natives and numerous other State funded organizations, corporations, and individual contributors.

They took up residence in Wailoa Park, a beautiful park across from Hilo Bay.

Hilo Powwow

Unlike other Indian markets, powwows and celebrations that we have attended in the southwest USA, this event was an inclusive dancing event allowing anyone that wanted to in the circle to dance. There was an unusual colletion of costumes and dancers enjoying the drumbeat and movement. Each dancer did as they pleased moving around a circle. Hula dancers were there to show off Hawaiian dance.

Powwow dancing Hilo

Powwow Hilo Hawaii

Powwow Hilo Hawaii

Drumming groups pounded and wailed.

Powwow Drumers Hilo Hawaii

The Wapto Indian Club were guests; their purpose was to promote cultural understanding through the art of dance. It looked like everyone was having a great time.

Here is a video of the dancing and drumming.


Saturday Farmer's Market was really crowded this weekend for Memorial day. Although there was no cruise ship in town, folks arrived from around the island to get out of the vog and breathe Hilo's fresh clean air.

Hilo Farmers Market

In addition to the farmer's fresh fruits at the market, there were lots of home baked goods available.

Hilo Farmers market

Hilo Farmers Market

And then there are the beautiful flowers!

Hilo Farmers Market

Hilo Farmers Market

Hilo Farmer's Market


The Liliuokalani Gardens were packed on Sunday afternoon.

Crowded Hilo Park

The kids were having a great time jumping off the bridge to Coconut island into the cool water below.

Jumping off the bridge in Hilo

The hotel in the background is the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel (a great place to stay).

The view from Coconut island of Hilo town across the Bay is clear. The weather is glorious.

View of Hilo from Coconut Island

We have heard the lack of tradewinds has inundated Maui and Oahu with vog. But here in Hilo, the other winds have blownthe volcanic emissions away.

Clear Hilo Day

The ocean is a deep blue and the temperature is about 85 degrees F. Perfect for lazing around and practicing the fine art of couch napping.

This weekend has been very busy in Hilo. The University of Hawaii and Hawaii Community College in Hilo both had their graduation commencements. The town is filled with parents and friends visiting and there are parties and frivolity around the town. Saturday was Armed Forces Day and the air guard had airplanes on display at the airport for the kids to check out. We saw an F15 zooming around and a C17 (which are a common sight here since the pilots use the long runway at the Hilo airport to practice landing and taking off as a part of their C17 pilot school on Oahu).


May 15, the morning started with even more vog than yesterday.

voggy Hilo view

We drove around town to see the impact of the vog. This is a view of downtown Hilo from the Liliuokalani Gardens.

Voggy Hilo

This is the view out to Coconut Island.

voggy Hilo Bay

By 11AM the vog had completely cleared out of Hilo.

clear Hilo

The output from the vent up on Kilauea looks like it is increasing.

Hawaii volcano

Compare the above picture from today's live USGS CAM to the picture below we took a month ago on April 11. There seems to be two vents going off in the crater.

Hawaii volcano


May 14 our trade winds stopped today and Hilo Bay is filled with volcanic fog (vog). It burns our eyes and makes our throats scratchy. The vog is so thick we can't see airplanes or the bay in front of us.

Hilo Vog

Hilo Vog

Fortunately, we have an SO2 detector, so we know this vog doesn't contain SO2.


We have been getting a lot of rain recently. It has been raining heavily in the morning, then clears up in the afternoon and starts again in the evening. It always seems to be clear when we are ready to take our late afternoon walks in the Liliuokalani Gardens. On our walk, we could see the rain across Hilo Bay.
Hilo Rain pour

The clouds are amazing. They seem to have a personality of their own.
Hilo Clouds

Other parts of the Big Island and other islands in the State are having a drought and are way behind on their yearly rain while Hilo is getting more rain than usual. Perhaps the volcano's emissions are impacting the weather. The upside of the rain is that the air in Hilo is so clean. Any volcanic emissions are washed away. The downside is the moisture keeps me busy making sure no mold or mildew settles in. I have been transfering important scrapbooks and photo albums into plastic boxes with moisture absorbers. It seems to be working well. We use so much "DampRid" that we found a place to order it in quantity.


Mauna Kea has been selected as one of two candidate sites for the planned world's largest optical telescope. The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is partnership between the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA), Caltech and University of California. The scope is currently in its 5 year, $80M design phase planned for completion in 2009. Construction is expected to start in 2010 and be complete by 2018. The TMT corporation has amassed over $300M from universities, the federal government, and the Moore Foundation and is actively seeking additional partners to help fund the construction and operation.

Currently, the world's largest optical telescope is the twin 10 meter telescopes of the Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea. Many other world class optical scopes are also located on Mauna Kea's summit and a huge infrastructure of roads, snow removal and security services, electric service, and a visitor's center with housing for astronomers and telescope workers has been developed over the years to support them. Observatories have trained and recruited workers from Hawaii and around the world to operate and maintain the telescopes. The University of Hawaii manages the Mauna Kea Science Reserve through the Office of Mauna Kea Management (OMKM) based on an agreed Master Plan which takes into consideration the Hawaiian land and culture. Hawaii's astronomy programs have brought in $200 million a year to the state's economy and generated about 600 jobs.

The TMT telescope will be 10 times the size of the Keck optical telescopes. The economic impact would be double the current income to the state, most of it to the Big Island and it would potentially generate another 600 jobs. The prospect is both exciting and daunting.

The University has worked to respect and include the local community with regards to the telescopes and their impact to Mauna Kea.. The 'Imiloa Astronomy Center has become a community center for schools and organizations. In addition to the planetarium, lectures, and special events, they are funded to provide schools with field trips to promote astronomy. Our swim class met their last week to discuss the future of the local Hilo county pool at the 'Imiiloa cafe. Events like AstroDay, Astrotalks, and support of the Observatory staff in many community events in Hilo has created some good will.

The private, highly funded TMT corporation may feel their money and big new science will allow them to plan an assault on Mauna Kea in 2010 and bypass working with the community and UHH. The reality is that money and status are of little use on the Big Island. If TMT is serious about considering Mauna Kea over their other candidate mountain, Cerro Amazones, in Chile's Atacama Desert, then they should start working with the community now rather than assuming that the Mountain is theirs for the taking when their design phase is complete.

To learn more about the Thirty Meter Telescope here is TMT's website


AstroDay is a big event in Hilo in which all the astronomy observatories and telescopes on Mauna Kea participate by having booths, activities for kids, and information about their projects. Universities, local science and astronomy related clubs and other organizations also have booths. Astronomers are available to ask questions and talk about their research. We had heard that Astroday was a big yearly event at the Prince Kuhio Plaza mall, but we were very surprised at the size and attendance. Every hallway in the mall had booths and the main part of the mall had non stop entertainment with dancing, slack guitar and more.

Here is a photo log of our Astroday.

Caltech Submillimeter Observatory Booth
Caltech Observatory Astroday booth

Canada French Hawaii Telescope booth
CFH Booth Astroday

Joint Astronomy Center booth
JAC Observatory booth

Japan Subaru Telescope Room
Subaru telescope room

Gemini Observatory Room with portable planetarium
Gemini room at Astroday

Marie the Robot entertaining the kids
Marie robot display

Big Island Science Club for Teachers booth
Big Island Science Teachers

Astroday T shirts and entertainment
Astroday Hilo

UHH recruiting for the next generation of students
UHH Recruiting

As a part of the event, the Robotics clubs of local schools demonstrated their club activities and successes at robotic competitions.

Hilo High Robotics club demo St Joseph Hilo Robotics club

Kapiolani Elementary Robotics club Waiakea HS Robotics club

Kohala HS Robotics club Waters of Life Robotics club


May 1 is officially Lei day, but there are Lei events planned all month longs. Leis are made from leaves, seeds, feathers and of course flowers.

The Hula Hālau, Na Mohala o Hāla`i held an event today celebrating Lei Day at the Mo`oheau Bandstand in downtown Hilo. They had lei making demonstrations, music, and materials to allow anyone to make their own lei.

Lei Day Hilo

Lei Day Hilo Lei Day Hilo

Keoki Kahumoku, a Grammy-award winning musician and Leilehua Yuen, the woman behind the Wednesday Hawa'iiana performances at the Plaza theater were there dancing and playing wonderful music.

Keoki Kahumoku

Leilehua Yuen

We had a fun time and I made leis (with lots of help).

Lei Day Hilo Lei girl Hilo

Previous April 2008 Hilo Log posts

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