Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Trip Around the Island of O'ahu

On our recent trip to Hawai'i we also spent some time on the island of O'ahu. Long maligned as a piece of paradise that suffers from ubiquitous urban blight, this island is a marvelous place to mingle with Hawaiian culture and gaze at spectacular Hawaiian geology. My sister Laura lives on O'ahu and she took took time off from her job at the University of Hawai'i and treated us to a two day adventure around the perimeter of the island.

We started our excursion on O'ahu's far eastern shore. Here the northeast trade winds batter the coast and expose the many tephra deposits found on this side of the island,

This is Koko Crater, a cinder cone that is approximately 10,000 years old, making it one of the youngest eruptive features on O'ahu. This crater is 1,207 feet in height and the slopes of it drop steeply into the Molokai Channel. Note how runoff has created numerous gullies and rills in the volcano's eastern slope.

Nearby is the fabulous Hanauma Bay, where a shoreline crater has been breached by the incoming waves. This has formed a protected cove that is quite popular with snorkelers. The last time I was here was in 1983 and the increase in visitation is staggering.

Wikipedia offered this aerial view of Koko Crater and Hanauma Bay and gives you a birds eye view of the scenic splendor of Oahu.

The afternoon waves batter the eastern coast of O'ahu

Around the corner to the north is a spectacular coastline with the famous North Shore pali (or sea cliff). Note the out-wash debris that protrudes out into the sea here. The northeast trade winds bring immense storm systems that slam into the islands, causing phenomenal runoff events that progressively (or catastrophically) create these features - a real estate brokers dream when it first happens but a home owners worst nightmare when it happens again.

Another view of the same pali further west along the North Shore drive. This pali formed when a huge chunk of O'ahu slid away to the north.

This map, used courtesy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, shows the two islands of O'ahu and Moloka'i (shaded in dark green). The other colors represent the depth of the seafloor, progressing from nearshore (white) to deep (dark blue). The light green and light blue areas depicted north of the islands are interpreted as large areas of debris that originated from catastrophic landslides from these two islands. The pali's originated when these landslides occurred. Note how the largest chuck of landslide material, located up to 70 miles away from O'ahu, lies parallel to the North Shore. Imagine these slides when they occurred and the tsunami's that likely resulted from them.

To learn more about this spectacular pali and how it formed, see the link here for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

Rabbit Island is another tuff cone along the North Shore that has been beaten by the sea on its eastern (right) side.

The Chinaman's Hat on O'ahu's North Shore. Read more about it here. It is composed of layers of lava that are erosional remnants from the main island flows (to the right off of the photo).

Another spectacular view of the pali as we wind our way west on the North Shore drive. Note how the runoff from all the rain here has created the pattern on the cliff wall.

Although Honolulu is what most people think of regarding O'ahu, we found this North Shore to be every bit as Hawaiian as any other place we've been in Hawai'i. It is rural, slow-paced, and very scenic.

The Waimea Valley looked very interesting to us, with a botanical garden and numerous trails. The entrance view from the highway was very enticing and we may return one day to check it out.

Next we saw a small crowd that had gathered and upon inspection found some green sea turtles hauled out on the beach.

As we watched, even more turtles came ashore. Volunteers stand nearby and move ropes that keep people from getting too close to the turtles.

The bridge entering Haleiwa on the North Shore.

Haleiwa is a delightful town where we strolled for about an hour.

In the graveyard of a Haleiwa church was this headstone - that of a missionary. It is always fun to walk around graveyards but this one made me wonder why some brow-beaten missionary thought Hawaiians needed to be "saved". How strange humans are sometimes.

On a lighter note were the many hippie shops located along the roadway. Seems other, later arrivals came here to be saved from the drudgery of mainland life.
This may look like a tourist shot of Helen and me on Waikiki Beach but it's actually a geology shot of Diamond Head in the background. (Note: We did enjoy Waikiki and always do when we are here. It is a great beach with a lot of history). Diamond Head is another tuff cone that was erupted about 150,000 years ago.

This is my sister Laura in front of the entrance to Diamond Head, where we hiked to the top.

The trail begins as a concrete sidewalk through the small forest on the crater floor...

but soon turns to an asphalt lane that swithbacks up the inside of the cone.

The view from the top is spectacular. You can see the floor of the crater where the hike begins. Note the tunnel one drives through to access the trailhead. The outer view is to the east and takes in the features shown at the start of this O'ahu roundabout - Koko Crater to the left and Koko Head to the right. The neighborhood of Port Lock where my sister lives sits below these two.

Here is a view of the lighthouse that faces the south on the Pacific Ocean.

And a final view of Honolulu to the west of Diamond Head. Note the gap in the high rise buildings along Waikiki Beach. You might see the pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel there where the picture of us on the beac h was taken. On the skyline is the Waianae volcano, the oldest of the two shield volcano's that made the island of O'ahu. It was active between about 3 and 4 million years ago.

Helen and I really enjoyed our time on O'ahu and there is much more to this island than shopping and surf.

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