House of the Sun – the Mars-scape of Haleakala

Haleakalā

Haleakalā: the House of the Sun

Early in the morning we started the journey.  It’s only 27 miles to the top, but the road, completed in 1935, is narrow and full of switchbacks. And bicyclists. And buses. And cars and trucks… all straining against the thinning oxygen.

The road to the summit

The road to the summit

Haleakala is huge volcano, 10,023 feet above sea-level – if you measured from the ocean floor, you’d need to add about another 16,000 to that.  According to Hawaiian tradition, Maui, the demigod, not the island, was concerned at his mothers complaints that the days were too short for people to do the work needed to survive, and were always racing against the daylight.  Taking pity on the world, Maui, imprisoned the sun within Haleakala, to make the day longer.

Haleakala Visitor Center

Haleakala Visitor Center

U.S. Geological Survey currently classifies Haleakala as “Normal” on it’s Volcanic Alert Level, meaning the mountain does have some volcanic activity – deep, deep, deep below – but is non-eruptive.  Although, it is believed that the mountain has erupted within the last 500 years, all appears quiet – and extremely cold, remember, it is over a mile-in-the-sky.  Still, the mountain is home to a sparse, but beautiful ecosystem of endemic species.

Haleakala Observatory

Haleakala Observatory

The Haleakala Observatory is an impossible-to-miss feature of the visit.

The, seemingly, barren landscape of Haleakala

The, seemingly, barren landscape of Haleakala

Mars-above-the-Clouds

Mars-above-the-Clouds

The actual craters are on the flanks of the mountain and built up the summit, perhaps as high as 15,000 feet, between them, which then eroded into a valley that we call the ‘crater’ of Haleakala.  There are volcanic vents in the valley, but eruptions have come from the north, and more recently – geologically speaking – south sides of the mountain.

Valleys at the summit of Haleakala

Valleys at the summit of Haleakala

Above you can see some of the vents in the valley facing the southern gap, or Kaupo.

Clouds breach the Kaleakala summit valley

Clouds breach the Kaleakala summit valley

Haleakala is barren, but there are signs of life if you look closely.  It is a stark, cold, unforgiving, but hauntingly beautiful place.

At the top of Maui

At the top of Maui

Mike Knotts

Mike Knotts was born in 1968 in a small town in southern Indiana. Even when very young, Mike showed a love for all-things technical and sci-fi. Moving with his family to California in the early 80’s, he eventually graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in History. Rather than put that to good use, Mike continued to pursue his passion for technology by working for early, regional ISP’s in the mid 1990’s. He currently resides in the Pacific Northwest, where he works as a project manager for an Internet startup. Mike is a co-founder of Geekometry.

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