Saturday, December 24, 2011

Hawai'i - Natural Highlights (12/24/2011)

Saturday, December 24, 2011
Now for the rest of the day!
We were picked up at our hotel at about 1:30PM by Lance in a van for the Natural Highlights of Oahu tour led by Oahu Nature Tours. There were already 9 other people in the van. We headed east of Waikiki.
We passed Koko Head on our right:
It seems that when there is a volcano, it leaves the usual crater, but then its lava flow towards the sea creates a "head" or headland. Koko Head is itself a tuff cone, made up of volcanic ash. The volcanic eruptions of Oahu occurred 32,000 years ago.
To our left is Koko Crater:
Koko Crater is a separate volcanic tuff cone and is the tallest in the Hawai'ian Islands at 1,028' in elevation.
As we passed Koko Crater, we could see the old military railway tram bed leading straight up the south side:
The railway was used during WWII to haul supplies to the bunkers at the top. There are supposed to be 1,048 railroad ties that act as steps along the 0.7 mile trail, and avid runners run up the mountain. Who needs a Stairmaster?
Our first stop was Hanauma Bay:
This bay sits in a tuff ring left from one of the vents from Koko Head: 
Hanauma Bay is most famous, and perhaps a bit over-rated as the best snorkeling on Oahu. You could see snorkelers in the shallow water filled with coral: 
Kent & Brynne: 
Brynne & Tamiko:
Kent & Tamiko:
We were on the eastern shore of Oahu, known as the Windward Side. Yes, it was windy!
Lance pointed out some of the flora, including the Scaveola taccada/Beach Naupaka:
Note the "half" flower. The legend is that the goddess Pele became attracted to the male of a pair of lovers. She tried to woo him, but he remain devoted to his lover. Angered, Pele chased the young man into the mountains, throwing molten lava at him. Pele's sisters changed him into the mountain naupaka to save him. Pele then chased the young woman towards the sea, and the sisters changed her into the beach naupaka. The beach naupaka has what appears to be the lower half of the flower, and the mountain naupaka has the upper half.
Wikstroemia uka-ursi/Akia/Fish Poison Plant:
Apparently the roots, bark, leaves and stems of the plant were placed in a porous container and placed in the water, where the toxins would stun the fish to allow them to be easily caught. The toxins are said not to be harmful to mammals.
The fruit of the Pandamus:
This plant has aerial roots and the leaves are used in thatched roofs that will last 15 years.
We also saw Zebra Doves, Spotted Doves and Mourning Doves. As we were leaving, those in the front of the van were able to see a mongoose. (Kent was sitting in front next to the driver, and Brynne and I were in the very last row of the van...)
The hillsides were covered with shrubbery including Prosopis sp./Mesquite:
and Leucaena leucocephala/Haole Koa/Lead Tree which was introduced to the islands as cattle fodder and now has spread everywhere. It is easily spotted because of its "bean pods."
Koko Crater from the Windward Side:
Rather arid on this part of Oahu.
Our next stop was at Halona Cove to see the blowhole. I do not know how ancient these "cairns" are:
The Halona Blowhole is active when the tide is high and there are strong winds:
Is that it?
Facing the ocean and to the right is the beach where the most famous movie kiss between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr was filmed in From Here to Eternity:  
This is Halona Cove.
Much erosion:
We searched the horizon of the Pacific Ocean for waterspouts, but did not see any humpback whales or sea turtles today.
You can rent these three-wheeled vehicles:
Looking back at eroded lava valleys:
Looking north towards Sandy Beach:
Sandy Beach is known for body surfing (Barack Obama partook in this sport here) and boogie boarding:
Next stop was Makapu'u Lookout.
Jacquemontia ovalifolia/Pa'u o Hi'iaka:
The legend of this vine is that the goddess Pele was enjoying the surf, and forgot about her baby sister, Hi'iaka, lying on the beach. This vine grew to cover the baby to protect her from the sun.
Sida fallax/Beach Ilima:
View north from Makapu'u Lookout:
You can see the Kaupo Lava Flow and the low flat black island to the right is an extension of it.
Kaupo Lava Flow:
 and the islands of Manana and Kaohikaipu:
Manana or Rabbit Island is a State Seabird Sanctuary, an important seabird breeding site. It once was home to introduced rabbits, but they were eradicated for destroying the ecosystem and endangering the birds.
Makapu'u Point:
An old bunker: 
The next stop was on the Kaupo Lava Flow, where we could look back and see the lighthouse on Makapu'u Point: 
Here we had the illusion that the level of the ocean was higher than where we stood:
We explored tidepools on the Kaupo Lava Flow, which were limited as it was high tide:
Crocodile Rock:
Porous lava rock: 
It's alive!
Perhaps a seaweed?
It's dead: 
Grapsus Longitarsus/Long-legged Rock Crab.
View north towards Makai Research Pier:
This is where parts of the TV series "Magnum PI" was filmed:
We were told the heliport in the TV series was here. At present, this is the U of Hawai'i's Makai Research Pier, with a slip for research submersibles. The "Robin's Nest" in the TV show is an estate farther up the coast.
The next stop was at the Waimanalo Beach.
A red hibiscus:
Waimanalo Beach is a white sand beach:
Backed by windswept ironwood trees:
Casuarina sp./Ironwood Tree:
Those are stems/branches and not needles.
A surprise stop was at the Kaelepulu/Enchanted Lake Bird Sanctuary ( in the middle of a residential development:
The sanctuary is maintained by a resident, and is located on a man-made lake. To reach the sanctuary, we turned onto Keolu Drive off of Kalaniana'ole Highway just past the Bellows Air Force Station. We turned left on Keolu Drive where it circled around and meets itself, and turned right on Kiukee Place. The sanctuary is just on the left.
Here we saw the Gallinula chloropus sandvicensis/Alae'ula/Hawaiian Gallinule, Fulica alai/'Alae Ke'oke'o/Hawaiian Coot, and the Himantopus mexicanus knudseni/Ae'o/Hawaiian or Black-necked Stilt. We may have seen Anas wyvilliana/Koloamaoli/Hawaiian Ducks, but more likely we saw their relatives, the mallards. Also saw Pluvialis fulva/Pacific Golden Plovers.
(Partial Oahu bird checklist:
Next stop, Ulupo Heiau State Historic Site:
A heiau is sacred grounds with a massive stone platform, and here it was dedicated to Hauwahine, a lizard-like guardian spirit who protected the people and assured an abundance of fish.
The site also showcased the agricultural activity of pre-1700 peoples. On our walk down to the garden, we passed a Morinda citrifolia/Noni Tree:
The juice of these fruits is marketed for non-evidence based health benefits.
Mangifera indica/Mango Tree:
Aleurites moluccana/Candlenut Tree:
The State Tree of Hawaii.
Lance said there was a Pycnonotus cafer/Red-vented Bulbul in the treetops above us.
Passing below the heiau stone platform:
Imagine the work to transport all those stones to this site.
Cordyline fruticosa/La'i/Ti Plant:
In ancient Hawai'i, this plant was thought to have great spiritual power, and only high priests and chiefs could wear necklaces of its leaves. Once the roots were used for glossy covering of surfboards. The plant is also said to bring good luck.
Cocos nucifera/Coconut Tree:
Introduced in Hawaii.
Aerial roots of the Pandamus:
Colocasia esculenta/Taro:
Farming several varieties of taro: 
Saccharum spp./Sugarcane:
Musa spp./Banana:
It was getting darker as storm clouds approached, and was raining when we reached our last stop at Nu'uanu Pali Lookout:
Mark Twain claimed the view to be the one of the most beautiful on earth:
Perhaps on a sunnier day!
Brynne and Kent:
It's hard to see how windy it is in this area.
More storm clouds coming:
Windswept trunk/roots:
There's a poor little Paroaria coronata/Red-crested Cardinal hiding from the wind at the lower left (spot of red).
We were returned to the hotel by about 6:30PM.
For dinner we went to the Cheeseburger Restaurant at Waikiki Beach Walk. Nothing but cheeseburgers:
On our walk back to the hotel, we found an alley with an open market:
It's hard to believe it is Christmas Eve!

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