Hawai'i - The Big Island

Watching the Red Rock Flow

Hawai'i, or the "Big Island," possesses the most active volcano on Earth, Kilauea. There are abundant reminders of the interaction between man and volcano (below). During our stay here, we focus on the features of this active volcano, including rift zones, craters, gas vents, lava tubes, and flow types.


Dusk hikes bring us as close as safely possible to flows and craters of the active Kilauea vent Pu'u O'o. Although students have been lucky enough to stand next to slow-moving lava flows (below), there are many more geologic, ecologic, and cultural highlights on this island.


Standing at 13,796 ft above sea level, Mauna Kea (White Mountain) commonly has a  thick snow cap and bears signs of past glaciation. We drive up this huge volcano as close to the summit as the snow permits, to experience the alpine atmosphere at dusk, to see the research observatories, and to view the heavens from telescopes at the visitor's center.


South Point (the southernmost place in the USA) provides another unusual destination. Hawaiians also have used this windy point as a wind turbine farm for the production of energy. Alternate energy sources is also a theme investigated on this island, from use of biodiesel rental cars to geothermal energy to ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC). Nearby Mahana Bay also hosts an unusual green sand beach made of wave-winnowed olivine crystals (below).


As the home of Hawaiian King Kamehmeha the Great, Hawai'i is rich in places of cultural and historic importance. We visit the City of Refuge (Pu'uhonua o Honaunau), a preserved Hawaiian village, and several temple sites, such as Pu'ukohola Heiau (below). We also learn about volcanic glass and historic methods of land stewardship at the Pu'u Wa'a wa'a Ranch.