Thursday, September 1, 2011

Why Haleakala ?

The first time I heard about Haleakala was from Professor Ken Deffeyes, who attempted to convince me to study volcanoes because of my name (re-arrange the letters in Ale Hakala and out pops Haleakala). We were on the FRS 139 seminar trip to California during my freshman year in college, hiking around to see some awesome geologic features like the San Andreas fault roadcut and the Long Valley Caldera (even stayed at Mammoth Mountain during the trip, which is located along the southwest edge of the caldera). Although I ended up becoming an environmental geochemist instead of a volcanologist, Haleakala volcano is totally fascinating, and I’m reminded of it daily when passing by the Ansel Adams print hanging in the entryway of my apartment. When coach Jb suggested developing a team name for boardercross racing, Haleakala seemed appropriate.

Crater of Haleakala by Ansel Adams

Hawaii typically is considered a place for a variety of activities other than snowsports, but with the right mix  of temperature and precipitation the volcanoes are able to accumulate a decent amount of snow that some claim is the finest snow in the world.

Snow on Haleakala
Haleakala is a shield volcano. These types of volcanoes develop through repeated accumulations of fluid basaltic lava, which end up looking like a warrior’s shield. Basaltic lava moves – it has less silica content relative to andesitic and rhyolitic magmas, which makes it less viscous. The lower viscosity (less goopy) basaltic lava can flow pretty far, and depending on how hot the lava is during an eruption, it can come out in chunky jagged blocks (“aa” = cooler lava) or smooth surfaces (“pahoehoe” = hotter lava). Wikipedia has a nice description of the evolution of Hawaiianvolcanoes, and the United States Geological Survey has detailed information and maps for the state of Hawaii.

So Haleakala = accumulations of (formerly) hot, mobile lava. Some snow.

I’ve not yet traveled to Maui, but definitely plan to go someday. Top items on my list: 1) experiencing the Haleakala sunrise, and 2) longboarding down the volcano’s curve-filled roads. (And possibly bringing my board and sneaking into Haleakala National Park when it’s closed due to too much snow…)

The sunrise as viewed from Haleakala:

Other people riding longboards down Haleakala:

And another video of longboarding:

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