Hapuna Beach, Big Island of Hawaii’i

The pounding waves, the relentless tides, the winds, the shape and geology of the shoreline give us the unrivaled beauty and diversity of the Hawaiian beaches . Their ever-changing nature is breathtaking: black, white, green, rocky or sandy, quiet or roaring, they are magical. Their dynamic personality is rivaled perhaps only by Pele and her home, Kilauea, the place where fluid magma becomes solid earth.

A visit to the Hapuna Beach on the Big Island of Hawai’i during low tide on a beautiful day in May turned into an invitation to explore the space at the intersection between the native Hawaiian knowledge of the place and the approaches of Western science.

Hapuna Beach at low tide, looking towards South.

Hapuna, a crescent shape, white sand beach located on the NW shore of the Big Island, is one of the best known beaches of the Hawaiian chain.  It was named ‘#1 Beach in the US’ in 1993 by Dr. Beach, the coastal research scientist from Florida International University. Hapuna makes a good location for research because it is close to Kawaihae, a place steeped in Hawaiian history and tradition wonderfully captured by the Pacific Worlds at their comprehensive website.  Kawaihae is also one of the two NOAA data collection stations on the Big Island.

NOAA observation stations at Kawaihae, north of Hapuna Beach. Image captured with MotionX GPS iPhone App.

NOAA collects tide and current data at an offshore station (HAI1128), and meteorologic measurements at an onshore station (161 7433). The only other NOAA station on the Big Island is located in Hilo area, on the east side.

The Winds

Usually in the morning, wind comes from the East. Then at a certain time, around noon, it turns around and comes from the West. So these two winds, they just circle in like this. (William ‘Papa’ Akau, 1959 – courtesy of Pacific Worlds/Kawaihae)

The kama’aina (local Hawaiians) careful observations document two dominant wind directions: Apa’apa’a is a very strong wind that sweeps over the top of the mountain and down the slope. The Naulu is a convection wind, caused by heated air moving up the slope.

Rose diagram showing wind direction during the month of April, 2017. Data from NOAA Tides&Currents, plotted with Stereonet9 developed by Rick Allmendinger)

The NOAA wind data from April 2017, displayed using a rose diagram, shows the Apa’apa’a WNW wind and the Naulu easterly, convection wind. The speeds are typically up to 13 m/s, with gusts up to 20 m/s.

The currents, tides and waves

Water current direction varies with depth.  Measurements by NOAA from March 2011 show near surface currents (6m water depth) with directions similar to the tides, winds and waves, while the deeper currents (38m water depth) are parallel to the the coastline.

Curent directions measured during March 2011 by NOAA, in Kawaihae area. Data from NOAA tides and currents

Hapuna Beach is a micromareal environment, with tide ranges typically below 2m.

Tides at Kawaihae NOAA station during the month of April 2017. Data source NOAA Tides and currents.

But see, all the three waves out here and the shore line, you hear people talk. Because when they hear what kind of surf’s happening, they quick know which place. Ka‘ewa is a heavy, rough, pounding. Pua ka ‘Ilima is a nice soft. And Kukui is a nice long, starts from way out. That’s where Kamehameha surfed. Kukui. They surfed at night time. So this is the story. (William ‘Papa’ Akau via Pacific Worlds/Kawaihae).

Wave direction is predominantly from the north-west, with wave heights up to 15 m.

Map showing the mean (white arrows) and variability (red ellipses) of wave directions and heights, in meters, during the 2010–2011 NOAA winter experiment for the Kawaihae area, Big Island of Hawaii. All of the sites showed a predominant wave direction from the northwest, with the largest wave heights measured in the more-exposed central portion of the bay. Image from USGS Report

The rocks

The host rocks at Hapuna Beach are Pleistocene basalts of the Hamakua Volcanics series.  They are 250-65 thousand years old and were sourced by lava flows from the Mauna Kea volcano. These basalts are obviously not the source of the sand on the beach, given that the Hapuna sand is white and most likely transported by currents from the coral reefs to the north (and south?).

Geologic map (left) and close-up picture of the basalt rocks cropping out around the Hapuna beach area. Olivine crystals are easily visible in the basalt, and they form small pockets of green sand.

Some of the questions to address in future posts are: what is the sand composition and what controls the sediment transport? Are there seasonal variations in beach configuration? What is the effect of storms on the beach geometry in comparison to the fair weather processes?

Healing the forest

Maili stream, Big Island – Hawai’i

I moved to the Big Island of Hawai’i in June 2015 on a seventeen-acre property west of downtown Hilo, on the slopes of Mauna Kea. A hundred or so years ago this property was a lush rain forest, dominated by Ōhi’a, Koa and Hapu’u ferns. Then the sugar industry came and went, the forest was decimated, and the native vegetation was gradually replaced by strawbery guava, ginger, Koster’s curse and other invasive plants.

The native Hawaiian forest is beautiful and harmonious, the forest covering my property today is anything but.  My longterm goal is to re-establish the habitat that once existed on this land.  I initially thought of this project as being about  ‘tropical forest restoration’.  For the past month or so, however, while exploring the property, I find that many of the native species are still present but struggling to survive, and so my effort must be directed more towards learning how to help the forest heal itself.

Creativity and social change

Human thought and action have the ability to permeate from individuals or small groups into larger social groups, society and even into the human race.  If there is any truth in this statement, I have great hopes and optimism that the Romanian youth of today, with their altruism and positive energy, will change the country for the better when they will have the opportunity to do so.  I experienced that fresh altruism, energy and passion for making a difference during a summer weekend in June, in a small city north of Bucharest.  A good friend of mine, Corina, has conceived, obtained necessary funding and is currently leading a social project in Târgovişte, Romania.  This is the project I witnessed in June; this is the project that gave me the optimism and hope that today’s creative young people will one day change the social environment in Romania, an environment that has been in need of change for a long time.

The project – “The Creativity Map of Dâmboviţa County” – with guidance form educators, mentors and creative minds is designed to engage high-school age students and enable them to understand and experience their own creative spirit and to acquire a skill-set that will assist them to map the creative landscape in the area they live.

Several generations gathered in Târgovişte City Square on a beautiful summer evening to celebrate the joy of creativity, inspired by a group of enthusiastic high-school students and their mentors. ©EarthRelated

The project website is located here, it is still work in progress and  the content is in Romanian only.  For the English-speaking audience here is a quick summary:

The project was initiated and is being led by the  “Friendship Ambasadors” a non-profit organization from Târgovişte.  The principal goals are to teach highschool-age students  the antreprenorial spirit in the field of creative industries, and to map the creative landscape of a small comunity, which does not have the ability and internal resources to plan its own creative industry. The project benefits from the help of the Association of Creative Industry from Iaşi, from the support of the  “I. Heliade Rădulescu”  library and the Dâmbovita County Cultural Center.  The success of the project is ensured by several charismatic and competent mentors  who work with a group of about 20 students.  The students, with training and guidance from their mentors, will map the principal creative industries in the County  and will present the results of their work to a large audience in Târgovişte and in Bucharest.  In this practical manner the designers of the project encourage the creation of cultural, intellectual, moral and material values, and their intelligent consumption at the level of an entire community, while also emphasizing the relationship between education, culture and the achievement of  success and meaning in ones life.

Improvisational theatre taught by Dalina Costin, at the June workshop. The students are given the opportunity to experience, learn and practice a variety of creative skills, which will not only help the success of this project, but will unravel their authentic creative spirit. ©EarthRelated

Students are being taught creative skills during a June workshop in Târgovişte. ©EarthRelated

Dalina Costin, actor, drama teacher and casting director, teaching creativity through improvisational theatre and other techniques. ©EarthRelated

The creative spirit is a fundamental characteristic of humans – we all have it, but our ability and knowledge of how to express it varies depending on the environment we lived in and our life experiences.  Creativity is a deliberate act, is a courageous act that leads not only to personal expression but also has the capacity to effect fundamental social change.  This is what was so inspiring about witnessing a small part of this project.

The participating students are making a deliberate choice to engage in something that will lead to change – change in themselves, which will certainly lead to change in their environment and community.  They spent a weekend, and will spend many more, engaging their hearts and minds in something with a potential to alter the status quo in a positive way.  And there was so much joy in what they were doing…  It was the joy of learning something new, the joy of being out of their comfort zone and to feel the creative growth associated with that experience, the joy of being with peers who have similar passions, the joy of learning from educators who believe in what they do.

Corina Leca, the initiator and leader of the project. ©EarthRelated

Corina is the heart and mind of this project.  I know her since University, when we both learned about rocks, geology and time that is measured in millions of years, not only in “human-years”.  After graduations we took different paths, I am still practicing geoscience, while Corina is heavily involved in work that leads to social change.  She is and will continue to be an inspiration to me: grass-roots action, social engagement and civic education are not easy endeavors in a young democracy like Romania’s, or in any young democracy across Eastern Europe or anywhere around the world.

People like Corina are trail-blazers who get their energy from core values transcending the individual and operating in a sphere where the greater purpose is the ultimate and only goal.

During a weekend in June I experienced greatness in Târgovişte.  That feeling will stay with me for a long time and the experience became an inspiration to get involved and give back.