Saturday, October 29, 2011

Tsunami Wreckage heading toward Hawaii

Twenty million tons of wreckage from the March 11 tsunami in Japan is heading toward the beaches of Hawaii. Last month a Russian ship, the STS Pallada, sighted the wreckage just past Midway Atoll on the northern end of the Hawaiian Archipelago. The massive patch of wreckage has traveled 2000 miles from Japan’s coast in six months and based on its speed will wash up on Hawaii beaches as early as Spring of 2012. Nikolai Maximenko, an oceanographer, created a model of the drift of the tsunami debris from the movements of thousands of buoys, which the sighting in late September confirmed.

From Midway, the tsunami wreckage will hook up with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or Pacific Gyre. This patch of 3.5 million tons of concentrated trash floating between Hawaii and San Francisco will be overrun by the 20 million tons of tsunami wreckage. Giant hunks of debris will break off from the Pacific Gyre, drift west, and wash up on beaches in the South Point area of the Island of Hawaii. Kamilo and other beaches on the southern coast of Hawaii Island are already covered with plastic and trash that have dislodged from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Tracking the tsunami wreckage is an overwhelmingly sad reminder of the lives lost and the houses, businesses, and belongings of millions of people that lived along the coast of Japan that were swept out to sea. The wreckage consists of, among other things, over 200,000 houses and buildings, more than one building for every resident on our sparsely populated Island of Hawaii.

Below are links to videos with more information about the Tsunami Debris Patch and the Hawaii Island beaches that will be impacted.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

When is winter in Hawaii?

While enjoying the 85 degree (Fahrenheit) water in our condo complex pool last week, we met a visitor from northern Canada. He was marveling at how warm it was for October and asked, “When does Winter start in Hawaii?” That got us to thinking, since it never really gets cold, when is it Winter in Hawaii?

September is the “hottest” month in Kona with an average high of 88 degrees during the day and the coldest month is February when it gets down to a chilly 82 degrees on average during the day. That’s a difference of only 6 degrees between the hot Summer days and the cold Winter days. Phoenix, Arizona, where our visitor has a second home to escape Canada’s cold winters, has a difference of 40 degrees between the hottest month of July with an average of 106 degrees during the day and the coldest month of December with an average of 66 degrees during the day. Winter in Phoenix is on average 32 degrees colder during the day than the daytime temperatures we experience during our Hawaii Winter.

So when is Winter in Hawaii?
It turns out that the big changes in temperature happen at night in Hawaii. During the Summer, the temperature falls to 74 degrees at night in Kona and in the Winter it falls even lower to 67 degrees at night. That is cold enough for us to have to turn off the ceiling fan. The 15 degree drop in temperature between night and day is over twice as much as the drop in daytime temperatures from Summer to Winter. This leads us to conclude that night is Winter in Hawaii.

Since we have come to this conclusion we now joke that in the morning, when tropical bird songs wake us up, it is Spring. During midday, when the fans are turned on, it is Summer, and the beautiful sunsets and cool evenings are Autumn. Every day in Hawaii we have a full cycle of the year.

Sunset in Kona, Hawaii

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ironman 2011 taking over Kona

Once again Kona has been taken over by the Ironman World Championships.  Thousands of athletes and their families and fans fill the streets and sidewalks.  They ride their bicycles in groups on Ali’i Drive and the Queen K highway blocking traffic everywhere they go. One minute they are talking causally as they cycle along and the next minute they are zipping between huge pick-ups that can’t even see them. We can only guess that they don’t grasp how invisible they are to the drivers. Or maybe they just love taking risks since they are willing to run a marathon in 110 degree F heat on a lava field after a 112 mile bike ride and 2.4 miles of ocean swimming. We are big on being healthy and fit, but the Ironman race is extreme.

Eighty-five of the competitors are pros racers vying for the $560,000 purse distributed among the top 10 male and 10 female finishers.  You can spot the pros because they have vans with pictures of them that follow them around the town.  Their bicycles are usually one of a kind, custom made with price tags of $30,000 and more.

Like the pros, many of the 1500 qualifying age-range athletes are covered from head to toe with advertisements from their sponsors.  The remainder of the 1935 entrants got lucky in a lottery or paid up to $55,000 for the privilege of going through the brutal ironman experience on Ebay.

Fed Ex and UPS trucks are busy delivering boxes of food and liquid goo to the athletes, because Ironmen don’t come to Hawaii for the fresh produce, fish, and grass-fed beef. They eat only pre-made sugar-loaded energy gels with names like Hammer, Gu and Clif Shot.  They not only don’t eat out much, they hit the sack early so they can wake up at 5AM to swim to the King buoy from Kailua-Kona pier.

Today the pier was crazy with hundreds of athletes checking in, swimming the race route, and posing for their adoring fans staring at their skimpy outfits.  Camera crews rushed from athlete to athlete to interview them as they came out of the water.

Saturday, October 8, at 6:30AM the race begins at Kailua-Kona pier.