zolac_no_miko: (after twenty months at sea)
Today I got paid $16/hour and free dinner to drive a bunch of NYU students around in a van. And like, see the Gemini North telescope control room, and go up to Mauna Kea summit, which are things I would do for free.

And it was just. Perfect. To slowly climb the switchbacks while the sunlight turns golden high on the cinder cones, with the whole earth and a sea of clouds dropping away beneath us and Mauna Loa growing larger and impossibly larger to the south, and the peak of Hualalai erupting into view, then Haleakalā—"Look, there's Maui!" "Whaaaaaaat, no way!"—and pulling over at the top with the swollen, luminous full moon rising just above the limb of the summit cone in the east, and the observatories gleaming like jewels in the glory of the sun to the west, and the kids gasping at the view and laughing at the way the thin air makes their heads spin, and the sky going red and indigo, and Venus, then Jupiter, then Regulus igniting above the horizon, and driving down in the dark with the full moon too bright to look at, casting shadows and illuminating objects in color vision, the sea of clouds glowing nearly as bright, the sky black and starry and the hulk of Mauna Loa even blacker, and the smudge of glowing orange cast by Kīlauea's lava against the clouds. And parking at 9000 feet with the moon too too bright but still with so much hanging above us in the sky, the Big Dipper and Polaris, Scorpius about to devour Saturn, and taking them to see the silverswords gleaming ghostly alien in the moonlight, tall flowering stalks standing silent shadowed sentinels. All the kids lying on their backs, shouting in astonishment as meteor after meteor slash across the sky, Timo asking, "Well, it's getting late, should we go?" And one girl yelling, "Noooooooo, I'm going to live here, I want to stay on this mountain forever!!"

Yeah, girl. I know exactly how you feel.
zolac_no_miko: (‘I‘iwi)
As already discussed, my long weekend at Hakalau sort of messed up the consecutive thing. I've decided to pick three things from the whole weekend and call that my Day 2.

THING ONE! Yesterday morning I had the most INCREDIBLE encounter with an ‘Io, or Hawaiian Hawk. These hawks are listed as endangered, but they're quite common on my island, and you see them flying above Hilo all the time. Hakalau, however, is the environment they evolved for, a dense forest full of their prey, Hawaiian forest birds. I see several hawks a day up there, on the hunt, quiet and intense as they glide swiftly between the trees. ...ANYWAY, I was setting up a mist net for our day of bird banding when out of the corner of my eye I saw a branch shake. I looked up to see what bird had landed, and in a low ‘ohi‘a branch about 35 feet above my head was a gorgeous light phase hawk! (‘Io come in a range of colors, categorized into "light phase," or a white chest and face, or "dark phase," mostly dark brown.) The hawk sat there for quite some time, alternately peering at me and into a tangle of ferns on the hillside, while I gaped up at it, wishing I had my camera on me. After a few minutes, it flew off, demonstrating its skill as a forest hunter by passing through a gap between two tree trunks that couldn't have been more than 6 inches wide.

THING TWO! This morning, for what I believe is the first time ever in my life, I laid eyes on the planet Mercury. I woke at 5:15 a.m. and at 6500 feet the pre-dawn sky was glorious, a dome of dark, dark blue still set with bright stars overhead, and a ring of brilliant, flaming scarlet at the horizon. The clouds were below us, and set just above them, in the middle of the fiery band of red, the small, pale face of a planet too small to be Venus. ...I wish my phone had been up to the challenge of photographing the scene, but the stars and planets were too small and unfortunately there was just no capturing that gorgeous red.

THING THREE! Just now, tiny baby gecko on my wall. :)
zolac_no_miko: (Pele says hello)
So, I need to be awake in *squint* five hours, but I wanted to tell y'all about my illicit volcano adventure I had on Friday night when [livejournal.com profile] look_alive was visiting.

So, in Halema'uma'u Crater within the summit caldera of Kilauea, our actively erupting volcano, there's an open vent with a lava lake in it that's been steaming away since 2008. Before 2008 you used to be able to drive down into the bottom of the caldera and drive right up to Halema'uma'u and walk to the edge and look in, but since the vent opened up the entire bottom of the caldera has been closed to the public because of Danger. You can stand on the edge of the caldera and see the steam coming out of the vent and at night it makes a gorgeous glow, but you can't actually see the lava lake.

So we decided we wanted to see the lava lake.

I've actually done this before, about six months ago, but I don't think I talked about it anywhere other than Twitter, and I'm not sure I posted any photos. That time, we crossed the caldera at night without flashlights (to avoid detection) on one of the old hiking trails, and let me tell you, even with a half moon it is a pain in the ass to follow a trail over black lava rock marked out by black lava rock cairns in the dark without flashlights. But we got there and back and I feel pretty badass about my navigation skills, actually.

This time we walked down the road, which is a MUCH SMARTER WAY TO GO.

Anyway, I can't... I can't properly describe to you what it's like. I've been getting up close and personal with molten lava my whole life, but where watching lava trickle into the ocean is fucking amazing, standing on the edge of a cliff and looking down the throat of the volcano into the molten lifeblood of the Earth is FUCKING AMAZING. It's this whole other level of astonishing. It's the closest thing to a religious experience I've ever had. It reduces you to idiotic babbling.

The lava lake was even more exciting than the last time I saw it, too. It was much closer to the edge of the vent, and much more active. Louder, a constant low rumble, and constantly bubbling, and at one end a spatter fountain kept flinging lava into the air and onto the surface of the lake with audible splashes.

Pictures don't do it justice, but here's one anyway. I took video also (still doesn't do it justice) but I haven't had time to upload and knowing me I NEVER WILL so here's one of [livejournal.com profile] look_alive's.

I'd like to thank Pele again for being gracious and hospitable and allowing us to admire her in all of her fiery magnificence and walk safely away again. Mahalo nui loa, seriously.

...Anyway, off to Hakalau again tomorrow. For the past three weeks, and for the foreseeable future, I'm spending three days a week up on the refuge harassing birds for science. I spend all day in the beautiful forest, and then drink a lot of beer and eat amazing food. I fucking love my life, you guys.
zolac_no_miko: (Pele says hello)
Well, here you go, guys, you've been waiting for this one long enough. I'll make another post at some point with a picspam of Everything Else I've been doing since, like, February, but here's the bird stuff at least.

First off, I should summarize the Nauhi Experience, since I've never really gone and done that. )

PICTURES )

Not that anyone would notice if I didn't tell you, but my ‘okina and kahakō are ALL OVER THE PLACE in this; can't be arsed to worry about it overly much, too exhausted. @_@
zolac_no_miko: (WHEEEEEE~!!)
Okay, so in case anyone hadn't already figured it out, my internet presence is going to be somewhat diminished for the next several months. I will only have the possibility of internet when I'm not in the field, which, as I go further into my internship, will not be a lot of the time; when I'm not in the field I will only really have internet when I make the time and effort to go seek it out (only one of the volunteer houses has wireless, and it's not mine), or when I come down to Hilo for a bit. I will have internet on my Droid when I'm not in the field, so emails and LJ comment alerts will still get to me on weekends and office days, and who knows, I may even have time to respond. :P

I am going to give up all attempts at actually keeping up with my Friends list. I'll check in occasionally but I'm realistically only going to catch like 10% of what goes on there. I'll make posts when I can to keep you guys abreast (haha I said breast) of what I'm up to, and I'll really make an effort to post pictures occasionally, so you guys can see my beautiful forest and gorgeous adorable birdies.

...So yeah, anyway, this is me just squeezing in a quick update while I devour some breakfast. First week of the internship is going great. The other intern is this guy named Sean from North Carolina; he's quiet and somewhat shy and totally pleasant and amiable and we're getting along great. We live with Matt from Ohio who does insect stuff, and he's cool and friendly and we like him and I think we're all going to be great housemates. I think there's supposed to be a couple of Eban's bird demography volunteers moving in with us this weekend, but there's this whole big drama right now with Eban's crew and who's going to live where and whether or not his techs will get housing even though it's against the rules and blah blah blah, so I don't really know what the situation will be like when I get back on Monday.

Matt and Sean and I usually all start work at the same time in the morning, except for when Sean and I are going into the field and therefore have to wake up at ass o'clock (we have to be at the office at six a.m. on Tuesday. SIX A.M.), so most mornings we walk to work together. Guys, this is fantastic; I've gone from a 45-minutes-by-car one-way commute, to a 15-minutes-by-foot one-way commute. And also it's the nicest commute ever, a pleasant stroll on a path through the rainforest with the birds waking up all around us. T_T It's a great way to start the morning.

We spent a few days doing office stuff, thrilling work like disentangling mist nets and checking them for holes, and disinfecting mist nets and bird bags, and aliquoting lysis buffer into tiny vials, and getting First Aid/CPR/AED certified. We did go up to Hakalau on Wednesday to check out Nauhi Cabin, which is where we'll be staying when we're in the field for the next... a lot of time, and set up a bunch of poles and played tour guide for a visiting malaria expert from Penn State, a dude named Andrew with an awesome New Zealand accent.

Life at housing is neat. Thursday was pizza night, so we all went over to where Caitlin and Keola are living and contributed pizza ingredients. We had a vegetarian pizza with white sauce (spinach and mushrooms and garlic and onions), and a pepperoni, spaghetti squash, garlic, onions, and basil pizza with red sauce (I contributed the spaghetti squash and the Italian-style stewed tomatoes for the sauce), and I brought tortilla chips and Matt brought salsa and Caitlin busted out the SCARY INTENSE hot sauce Laurèen sent from Réunion and Brent brought cheesy bread (AMAZING) and Keola made some intensely delicious shoyu chicken and Caitilin busted out the kim chee and someone brought wine and Matt brought spiced rum and there was a lot of beer floating around. It was super fun. And I had a lot of stuff to take care of that evening, but I had a beer and some wine and a swig of the rum and then I took a hot shower and all of a sudden my head was REALLY HEAVY, so I went to sleep at like 9 and woke up early to do stuff instead. XD;

I am at home in Hilo at the moment, and for at least like another couple of hours, and then Don and Mom and I are headed up to Kapa‘a, which is a beach campground in Kohala, a little ways north of Kawaihae. We're getting together with a bunch of friends for the weekend and there will be music and singing and whale-watching and soooooo much potluck food and I had planned to invite Alex but he broke up with me so he doesn't get to come, nyahh~. And it's a three-day weekend in this great nation, so Sunday night we're sneaking away and going to the Blue Dragon and the Olliephonics are playing and like at least fifteen Hepcats are showing up and we're basically going to take over the whole place and dance dance dance.

And then on Tuesday it's out to the field for a couple of days, catching birdies whee~!

So yeah. I'll, uh. Be in touch when I can.

I LOVE YOU ALL!! ♥♥♥
zolac_no_miko: (authentic Hawaiian coconut tree)
Yesterday Alex and I went to Makalawena Beach, which is a gorgeous white sand beach in Kekaha Kai State Park on the Kona side, that can only be accessed by either a) walking a long way in the hot hot sun over sharp, rough ‘a‘a rock, or b) taking your life in your hands and a 4x4 vehicle that you don't like very much down the access "road". Alex has a Nissan XTerra and is the best kind of lunatic, so we went with option b. (No seriously, I can't even tell you how fucked up this 4x4 track is, I mean, I've driven in some pretty effing gnarly places for my various internships, but jesus, that road gave us a thrashing! :DD)

Anyway, skipping past all of the very excellent things about Makalawena and going straight to the WHALES, OMG SO MANY WHALES, HOLY SHIT WHALES~!!! It's humpback season in Hawai‘i, and I've been looking and looking and hadn't seen any until yesterday just before sunset, when HOLY SHIT SO MANY WHALES showed up. I can't even, I've lived in Hawai‘i my whole life and I've traveled to Alaska and I've had some pretty freaking excellent whale sightings, but in terms of the combination of sheer number of whales, proximity to the whales, and whale activity, this was THE BEST I'VE EVER SEEN. There had to have been a dozen of them, at least, maybe more, hard to tell, they're under the water and they move around, so. There were definitely one or two babies. The closest whales, a group of I think three, including a baby, was FOR SERIOUS ONLY A HUNDRED METERS OFF SHORE. We could have swum out to them easily if that wasn't a) illegal, and b) dangerous. There was a lot of spouting and we had a couple nice views of tails, and then there were the two whales further out that just WOULD NOT STOP BREACHING, they were having a freaking BREACHING PARTY, oh my god, just flinging themselves bodily out of the water OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

BEST. WHALES. EVER.

...Okay [livejournal.com profile] platoapproved, it's safe now.

So anyway, this beach. Not too crowded due to the effort it takes to get there, and it's beautiful and there are fun sea creatures and the waves are nice for bodyboarding or surfing, and there were moa (those Polynesian chickens) wandering around entertaining us by boldly stealing food from people's unwatched bags. And surrounding the beach there are a series of rare anchialine ponds and ʻŌpaeʻula Pond, a wetland area that's a National Natural Landmark and is one of the only remaining breeding and nesting areas for rare Hawaiian wetland birds such as the āeʻo (Hawaiian Stilt), the ʻalae keʻokeʻo (Hawaiian Coot), and the ʻaukuʻu (Black-crowned Night Heron). There were SO MANY STILTS, which was super exciting, you almost never see those, and I've never seen so many at once, oh my gaaaaaawd I really wished I'd brought binoculars, and oh my god this place is totally going on my list of Awesome Birding Places to take [livejournal.com profile] shichahn to when she finally comes to visit me.

Also, check out how cute this bird is, seriously. )

...And the vog wasn't bad and the sunset was FUCKING BEAUTIFUL and asghsla;hfklsahgkfs it was a Perfect. Freaking. Day. TT_TT

Also tomorrow is a holiday so tonight a bunch of us are driving up to Kawaihae for dinner at the Blue Dragon and SO MUCH DANCING to the very excellent Olliephonics, OMG YAY I AM EXCITE.

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