Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Day 6 - GeoThermal, Volcano Trees, & Hilo Town

It was a light day and so very fun. What a joy to be on an extended field trip with these incredible Calvin College students.

We started the day at an orchid farm and saw the amazing variety and challenge of growing these amazing plants. After 6.5 years of care and growth, we have one of these:

Angel Moon 'Love Letter' Orchid

Then off to see the geothermal plant on the east rift zone of the Kilauea volcano. The geothermal plant uses the heat at depth to bring briny water vapor under pressure up from deep in the earth to turn turbines to produce electricity and then send the water back to its source in a closed system. This plant at full capacity can produce 38 megawatts. HELLO!

Puna Geothermal Venture plant and note the drilling bit to drill a hole with a rig to 6500 feet down!
Although we could not take pictures inside the facility, our tour was really impressive. We asked tons and tons of questions and the three kind employees on our tour, Bob, Cliff, and Abe generously answered all of our questions. For most of us it was the first time at a geothermal plant. We saw the operation from the control room and had a really special time learning about he architecture of the system and about the challenges of this sustainable energy source in the Hawaiian context. After the visit and still on the grounds, Calvin College student Braden gave a fantastic talk on geothermal energy and the development of its history on the site we stood on.  You can see the overhead on Google maps at 19.477314,-154.889295.

Nearby the site to the west was our next stop - Lava Tree State Park. In 1790, a significant flow covered this area. Over time it has grown back and now the State of Hawaii maintains the site. It seems quite popular as we saw many a tour bus come through while we stopped for some lunch and a devotional talk by Leah.

Leah gives a devotional as we finish up lunch

A good reminder for all of us

Looking down at one of the cracks we were warned about. This is a former lava vent.

Volcano tree lava remnant

Staying on the path

Amazing that this is still standing after 223 years!

Tall Albizzeas (over 80 feet tall) surround much of the park. They were introduced to Hawaii in 1925 to control bank eroision and are members of the mimosa family.

Then we drove to the coast to a lighthouse and the lava extent of the eastern rift zone of Kilauea. At the end of the rift zone you can find significant amounts of olivine in the basalt rocks. We found so much olivine, it was hard not to come away with several souvenirs. :)  (no worries - not on national park land).

Lighthouse @ 19.516368,-154.810828
Braden trying to capture the perfect coastal picture on the basalt rocks

Loving the crashing waves!

Whoops! RUN!!!   Yep a couple of these folks (especially Jaclyn) were soaked by the waves! (Note - taken on day 4 at the top of the 40 foot cliffs of Mackenzie State Park @ 19.437249,-154.864288). This one surprised everyone!

After collecting olivine rich basalt we headed to Hilo to meet with Paster Brian Welsh of Haili Congregational Church. He was kind enough to share with us the rich history of the islands from points of view of missionaries and shared his thoughts on Christianity, local beliefs and church life. Answering many of our questions we spent about 1.5 hours with him and then prayed together for him and his church. It was really an amazing time and personally I was really impressed with how much our students continue their engagement with people and place on this interim. In the twitter world that would be #veryimpressedbyCalvinCollegestudents.

Grabbing dinner in Hilo for some local food wrapped up our day.

Tomorrow we hope to go to the ocean entry for the lava and see some flowing lava close-up if safe conditions permit.

I am not sure I can ever get tired of the ocean, so I leave you with a poem I have written on this trip that combines my thoughts and my religious convictions.

Title: The Ocean Awe
Author: Dr. Jason VanHorn

Reflecting next to the ocean evokes a wonder of awe,
Azure blue rolls turn to drops of white turn to foamy froth then gone,
Again and Again

Who are you God that you made this?
Who are you God that you made me?

The sea reminds me of you God.

Rolling waves and immense
Power and majesty

Still waters and sea creatures
Peace and life

And yet you know the number of hairs on my head. And yet you call me your own and remind you will never leave. And yet you will never say, "You are not important to me."

You love me? You like me?

Yes. The ocean shows that. The oceans shows you, if only as a dim reflection.
That is enough for me.

Thank you so much God.
I love you too.


  1. Amazing pictures. Love that geothermal!
    What an awesome trip this is turning out to be, and it's only day 6!

    And, beautiful poem. -- it got me to remembering my own "extended field trip" by the sea... the ocean inspired me when I was on my semester in spain, too :) http://emma-en-espana.blogspot.com/2010/03/god-in-salt-water.html

    1. Thanks so much Emma D! The ocean and volcanoes are really amazing!!!

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