“Maunakea, the astonishing mountain that stands in the calm.”
One million years ago, thru a rift in the pacific plate that had already created an archipelago several thousand miles in it’s wake, a new plume of magma arose from our planet’s molten interior creating Mokuokeave, aka the Big Island of Hawai`i. Today, at over 200 km in diameter, and 10 km from base to lofty summit, together the cluster of volcanoes that make up the ʻBig Islandʻ of Hawai`i; Mahukona, Kohala, Hualalai, Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Kilauea & Loihi is the tallest and most massive mountain on Earth.
Nearly a mile taller than Everest – and still growing – this 34,000 feet pinnacle (twenty thousand feet below the sea, and fourteen above to it’s tropical-yet-perpetually-snow-clad summit) Mauna Kea (kea meaning ‘white’ in Hawaiian), soars above 40% of the Earth’s atmosphere. Here, the air is so rarified, and still, stars don’t just sparkle, they shine.
Surrounded by the vast expanse of the largest open body of water in our solar system – the Pacific Ocean – and carressed by the light- and pollution-free smooth laminar flows of an unimpeded, desiccated, and attenuated atmosphere, as well as a tropical location that affords views of 90% of the entire sky, Western Science has finally been able to confirm from observational data over the last four decades, that the Summit of Mauna Kea is far and away the most stellar location on Earth from which to view the heavens. But then, the Hawaiian people have known this for more than 1,000 years.
The numbers themselves are mind-boggling, but hardly tell the tale. The crown of this mountain is held by the Polynesians as the umbilicus or piko, the point of origin, place of first contact between Earth Mother Papa, and Sky Father Wakea. The place where heaven and earth first came together to create lofe on this world. The fuller name of Mauna Kea is Mauna a Wakea; Wakea’s Mountain.
Even on our staggeringly serene blue planet, just exactly the right distance from a stable middle-aged yellow star, it would be difficult to discover a place even remotely so magical as the Hawaiian Islands, a string of tropical volcanic islands, surrounded by thousands of miles of salt water, deluged with rain, and bursting with ecological vitality. Even after more than a century of debautched euroamerican capitalism and cultural pillaging, the incredible mana (power) and beauty of this place still takes your breath away. Heaven on earth? It sure can be, if we simply Malama honua — take care of the earth, and for more than one thousand years, Hawaiians have been doing just that.