Life on the Big Island of Hawaii
Red pineapple (Ananas bracteatus) is an ornamental that originates in South America. It looks like a spiny red plant, but it really has three things going on. The red spiny parts are bracts. Between them are the equally red, but rounded inflorescences. Finally, from the inflorescences emerge small purple flowers.
The long green leaves are also spiny, so it’s no surprise to learn that these plants, which can grow up to four feet tall, are often grown as security hedges.
This white-spotted surgeonfish is one that I see regularly when I’m snorkeling. It’s quite distinctive as something has taken a chomp or two out of its back. It’s not unusual to see fish like this, with chunks missing here and there, but if they survive the encounter, they seem to fare as well as the other fish. This one though seems, perhaps understandably, to be more skittish than most.
These two photos are of statues of King Kamehameha I, the king who first united the Hawaiian Islands under one leader. On the left, draped in leis from last Monday’s Kamehameha Day celebrations, is the statue at Kapaau, here on the Big Island. On the right is the statue in Honolulu. It sits in front of the Aliʻiōlani Hale, which housed the government of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi and the Republic of Hawaiʻi, and is currently home to the Hawaiʻi State Supreme Court.
Back in 1878, a statue of the King was commissioned for display in Honolulu. The commission was given to American artist Thomas Ridgeway Gould, and in 1880 his plaster model was sent to Paris to be cast, before being shipped to Hawaii. Alas, it never made it. The ship transporting the statue caught fire and sank off of the Falkland Islands.
Fortunately, the statue was insured, so a replacement was ordered. While this process was underway, the original statue turned up! Salvaged by fishermen, it was sold to a British ship captain who recognized it. He, in turn, sold it to the Hawaiian government, which now found itself in possession of identical twin statues. But the statues weren’t identical. The replacement statue was pristine and resplendent with gold detailing. The original was missing a hand and had a broken spear, and had suffered a good deal of fire damage.
The government decided to erect the replacement statue in Honolulu and the original was restored and sent to Kapaau, near Kamehameha’s birthplace. However, the original was corroded from its time in the sea so, in the early 1900s, local residents began to paint the statue, both to prevent further corrosion and to make it more lifelike.
By the end of the century, the statue was in bad shape and in 1996 conservator Glenn Wharton was hired to assess its condition. In his book, The Painted King: Art, Activism, and Authenticity in Hawaii, he recalls being startled by what he found, ‘A larger-than-life brass figure painted over in brown, black, and yellow with “white toenails and fingernails and penetrating black eyes with small white brush strokes for highlights. . . . It looked more like a piece of folk art than a nineteenth-century heroic monument.”’
For the next few years Wharton led a community discussion about how to save the statue, including the tricky question of whether it should be restored to its original bronze and gold finish or continue the painted alternative the community had grown up with. In the end the community voted to keep the painted finish and in 2001 the statue was restored in this way and rededicated.
A third statue of King Kamehameha I was commissioned after statehood in 1959, for installation in the U.S. Statuary Hall in Washington DC. However, this statue wasn’t cast from the original molds, but from molds taken of the Honolulu statue.
Posted in response to this week’s Sunday Stills challenge on the theme of ‘Twin.’ See more responses here.
Over the last few weeks, several people have asked me how I’ve been affected by Kilauea Volcano’s latest eruption in a subdivision in Puna. I’ve been happy to respond that, where I live, I’ve hardly been affected at all.
I live near the northern tip of the Big Island and the current eruption is taking place in the southeast corner of the island. This eruption is also not like the recent one in Guatemala, with a deadly explosive element. Instead, it has settled into a steady, if prolific stream of molten lava, burning buildings in its path on the way to the coast. This behavior makes the direct impact of the eruption a more localized affair. If a person lived in the vicinity of the lava flow path, they’ve probably been forced to leave their home with no indication of when they might be able to return. But for the rest of the island, the lava itself poses no threat. What does affect, not only this island, but also others in the Hawaiian chain, is vog.
Vog, a blend of the words ‘volcanic,’ ‘smog,’ and ‘fog,’ is the result of gases from an eruption reacting with moisture and sunlight. It varies in intensity depending on the output of the volcano and it varies in who it affects depending on the wind.
Vog has been around a while, since the volcano has been erupting, pretty much continuously, since 1983. That 1983 eruption was at the Pu’u O’o vent. Then, in 2008, a new vent opened in Halemaʻumaʻu Crater, within the summit caldera. With two active vents, the vog got noticeably worse. This year’s new eruption has added to the output and also thrown in some ash deposits on areas within range.
The northeast trades are the dominant winds here and when they blow, the vog is blown along the south coast of the Big Island and then up along the west coast. Typically it will reach Kailua Kona, about halfway up, or a little farther north.
Up here on the northern tip the trades blow strong, too strong for many people who find it too windy. But the advantage of those winds is that they keep the vog at bay. Ironically, this past winter, the winds were more variable and we had more vog up here than usual. But since this current vent opened, the trades have been fairly consistent and have kept this part of the island mostly vog free.
Yesterday was an exception. The winds weakened and the vog crept north, which is what the photos are about. The top one, I’ve run before. It shows Hualalai Volcano seen from the water off the north Kohala coast. The bottom photo was taken yesterday from roughly the same area (though without zooming in). Hualalai is gone! That headland is about 400 yards away and I’d estimate that visibility was around 2 miles. I couldn’t even see the horizon. The water just faded away into the vog.
Even when it’s voggy, it doesn’t bother me too much, but some people are more affected. The air becomes acrid and sore throats and noses are common. Luckily, the winds picked up during the day and conditions improved, so we’ll see what happens.
Raccoon butterflyfish are one of those fishes often seen in small groups. Other fish tend to clump together, but raccoon butterflyfish always seem to be traveling in formation as though they’re taking part in some kind of synchronized swim competition. Perhaps they are, in which case this group would have scored high points.
The wandering glider (Pantala flavescens) is a fairly common dragonfly with a worldwide distribution, but it’s not one I’ve previously photographed. This isn’t for lack of trying.
I like dragonflies, so I’m always lured in when I see them flitting around. I figure that, even though they’re in motion, I should be able to get a photo because they often fly back and forth over small areas looking for food. So I’ve taken hundreds of dragonfly photos, many of which have a bit of dragonfly in them, some of them a whole dragonfly, a few where the dragonfly is fuzzy but identifiable, one or two that look pretty good.
This was another of those days. There were three or four dragonflies in the area and I was shooting photos with my usual success rate when I saw one of them settle. This one was clearly not familiar with dragonfly rules of conduct, which state: 1. Remain in constant motion if photographers are present. 2. If you must rest, make sure you aren’t observed.
Cashing in on my luck, I got several photos before the dragonfly flew off. I took a few more futile flying shots and was about to leave, when the same dragonfly landed again in almost the same spot. I particularly like the single yellow-brown cell in each of the wings, which is a handy identifier.