Mauna Kea is a special place — sacred to Hawaiians because of its significance to their culture, and sacred to astronomers because of the exceptional seeing conditions. A trip to the Hawaiian Islands by anyone with an interest in astronomy should include a visit to Hawaii (the Big Island) in order to see the observatories and to experience the observing conditions at the summit of Mauna Kea.
Mauna Kea: A Guide to Hawaiis Sacred Mountain is an excellent resource for planning such an adventure and for understanding the mountain. The authors of the Guide are locals to the Big Island. David A. Byrne is the manager of the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station that is located about 1.4 km below the summit at Hale Pohaku. Leslie Lang is a writer who lives on a slope of Mauna Kea. The Guide is divided into nine chapters: Visit Mauna Kea, The Sacred Mountain, Natural History, Recreation, Visitor Information Station, Astronomy on Mauna Kea, Maunakea Discovery Center, The Future, and Resources.
The first chapter carefully outlines all that a traveller needs to know about conditions at the summit and how to get there. It lists and describes natural and historical sites that one can see and/or explore along the road leading to the summit. The importance of the mountain in Hawaiian culture is sensitively treated in the second chapter. It is important to appreciate that the Hawaiians are truly generous in permitting the astronomical community to use the summit for research.
The Guide is filled with many photographs, of which some are magnificent examples of what awaits. There are four maps: Island of Hawaii, Summit Area, Cultural and Religious Sites, and Observatories and Facilities. The maps are useful in finding many of the locations mentioned in the text. Unfortunately, the Cultural and Religious Sites map is very sketchy and extremely difficult to relate to the other maps and to the text. Perhaps a future edition of the Guide will improve the map since much of the discussion in Chapter 2 relates to it. Overall, the Guide will be very useful for visiting Mauna Kea. I wish that it had been available during the year that I spent living on the Big Island. It would have enriched my understanding and appreciation of Mauna Kea. I plan to use it during my next visit to locate the Adze Quarry near the summit that I did not even know existed. --Richard Bochonko, ""Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada"" (copyright 2006)
You will seldom see so much information in such a little book. Amazingly, it is also both useful and enjoyable.
Mauna Kea on the Big Island is a majestic volcano that rises a full 40 percent higher above sea level than our own Haleakala. Like most imposing features of these islands, the mountain is intimately associated with a deity — not Pele, but Poliahu, and in another sense Wakea the father of the known world. The mountain is also known as Mauna O Wakea, and as a world-class astronomy center.
The Hawaiian Islands have been important to astronomers for a long time. Captain Cook came into the Pacific to observe a transit of Venus, in fact, and telescopes were set up in Honolulu to observe another Venus transit (passage across the sun) in 1874. The population of telescopes has steadily grown ever since, with many of them built on Mauna Kea.
This book is a thorough and comprehensive biography of Mauna Kea.
Mauna Kea: A Guide to Hawaiis Sacred Mountain is a guidebook with all the usual elements that make a good trail guide, but it has so much more. By the time youve read the preface, foreword and introduction, youll have learned a lot about the mountain and the natural history of Hawaii.
Heres a fast-forward through the subjects as I recall them by flipping through the pages, stopping only on a few color pictures: calderas and craters, shield volcanoes, snow and winter recreation, hiking and hunting, the visitor center complex, the unusual cloud formations and weather, tours and drives, the sacredness of the place and the science accomplished there, shrines and natural wonders, ancient burials and modern astronomy, the Discovery Center and finally, the future of the mountain predicated on the big question: Will Mauna Kea erupt again? Answer: Almost surely, but no one knows when.
Just as I finished reading this book on Dec. 21, an article appeared in the paper. The headline read, Young star gives clues about the birth of life. The subhead was, From atop Mauna Kea, astronomers get to see a sort of holy grail.
The book strives constantly to balance Native Hawaiian spirituality and culture with science, and it seems to suggest that balance can be maintained without injury to either. Of course, some scientists might want to ignore all else in the pursuit of knowledge, but not the scientists represented here. It is equally true that some practitioners of Hawaiian culture would like to eradicate all traces of science to make way for the reestablishment of traditional veneration and worship, but not the practitioners in this book. --Joseph W. Bean, ""Maui Weekly"" (copyright 2006)
About the Author
Leslie Lang is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Pepeekeo on the Hilo Coast. David A. Byrne is the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Manager.