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SEA Currents: SSV Corwith Cramer
June 18, 2015
Field Trip to Hulopo’e Beach
Heeeeeey Main landers! I am writing this as we fly back from Hawai'i to O'ahu to board our lovely ship, the SSV Robert C. Seamans. We cannot wait to meet her! Yet as we fly out of Hawai'i we get one last glimpse of Mauna Kea who reminds us of all that we lived yesterday.
As every other day here in Hawai'i we started bright and early. We ate breakfast got into our "mini van squad" and began our drive to the summit of the tallest mountain in the islands. Mauna Kea, or the mountain of W'kea the God of the skies. Making this mountain one of the most sacred places in Hawaiian culture.
However as some of you may or may not know Mauna Kea is also one of the best spots for astronomy in the planet. Making it a prime spot for telescopes, which leads us to the controversy that we experienced first hand yesterday. The TMT or Thirty Meter Telescope is at the very center of this controversy. This would be the largest telescope in the northern hemisphere, it would be the size of 7 football fields, and would tower over the island at 18 stories tall. It would potentially give us the power to look so far back into space the we might even be able to see the Big Bang. Meaning that this telescope could give us the power to understand the origins of our universe!
Although the science of it sounds absolutely amazing there is a significant number of Hawaiians who do not love the idea of this giant structure being built on their sacred lands. These men and women have been protesting the construction of the telescope and protecting their mountain for the last 82 days living in a makeshift tent camp that they built right next to the road. Staying on the mountain to be able to stall the construction and educating the people about their cause.
So as we drove up the mountain talking about the big controversy (which is also the topic for one of our papers) we were both nervous and excited about this trip. First because we didn't know what to expect from the protestors / protectors / occupiers (depending on who you ask), and second because we didn't know how we would all react to the dramatic change in altitude. At 4,205m (13,796ft) Mauna Kea was the tallest point that many of us had ever been to and believe me it was evident! Thankfully none of us got any serious effects from the altitude sickness but a couple of our shipmates got some severe altitude giggles...and by giggles I mean hysterical laughter and acting a tad crazy. But all in all, the summit was an amazing and breath taking experience and now came the time to talk to the protestors.
A few of us approached the protectors to talk with them and they soon invited all of us over as a group to make a circle and hold a discussion, which was interesting to say the least. They gave us their point of view and their reasoning behind their cause and then we got to ask them questions. The cordial conversation really gave us the opportunity to understand and analyze their points. After the discussion we as a clad all sat and talked about our different points of view, a discussion that soon became heated and impassioned, but ultimately led to some amazingly interesting points and some very thoughtful questions.
Most of the vans left the Mauna Kea Visitors Center after that but one of the vans remained behind, giving us the opportunity to see the moon set and the many stars and planets to rise; a view that Mauna Kea is so famous for. This also gave me the chance to have another sit down with the protectors and talk with them a little longer. We had some amazing conversations in which they helped me understand that this fight was about way more than just a telescope it was a fight for the rights and the voice of the Native Hawaiian people. This also gave me the chance to see the stars from both sides of the story. First from right next to their tent where they pointed out some stars and showed me the mountain casting its giant and magnificent shadow over the clouds and then from the Visitors Center thru telescopes and surrounded by tourists.
It was truly the experience of a lifetime. Although I am still very conflicted about my feelings on the issue of Mauna Kea I definitely admire and respect what these men and women are doing for their sacred mountain and wish them all the luck in the world. Weather the telescope gets built or not we will always be able to say that we were a part of history, we saw it happen in front of our very eyes.
Well that got a little too deep, a little too quick but its just a glimpse of what we went thru yesterday. As we put the final touches on our packing and get ready to board the ship we send you all a big hug and hope that everything is well on the main land! Next time you hear from us we will already be on our way!