Tour of the Mauna Loa Observatory

Before I get started I just wanted to remind everyone to check out my YouTube channel to see my Big Island video!  Or just click here to watch 🙂

And now for the entire reason I was on the Big Island in the first place: the Hawai’i Environmental Education Association conference!  It was held inside Volcanoes National Park, on the Kilauea Military Camp.  Day one of the conference was actually an offsite field trip to Mauna Loa observatory.  Conference participants could choose what field trip they went to, and I thought the observatory was the coolest.  I woke up in Hilo bright and early to check out.  As I was walking to the bathroom I experienced my first every earthquake!  It was a 5.2 magnitude quake right in Hilo!  I actually thought the roof of the building blew off and was so confused what the noise was, but the owner assured me it was “just a quake” so obviously I googled it to make sure an active lava flow wasn’t racing down towards Hilo, safe to say no lava incidents!

I headed to Mauna Loa, which was pretty close to where I watched sunset on Mauna Kea the night before. It was a pretty long but beautiful drive.  The landscape was beautiful lava, no trees, with a background of Mauna Kea.

View of Mauna Kea from the road to Mauna Loa

The road to the observatory was absolutely insane.  You could only see about five feet in front of you due to the hairpin turns and lava rocks, but it was an adventure to say the least.  In addition, I thought I was late so of course I rushed to the top of the volcano, ignoring advice to stop at 9,000 ft to acclimate.  No worries, I am young and somewhat in shape I thought…oops (mistake number two of the trip…number one was wearing flip flops hiking over a lava field)  Anyways I met some really kind woman at the top near , the observatory who talked story for a bit. The tour was super eye opening.  The research there is all about collect climate data, and it is terrifying to see how much carbon dioxide is being pumped into our atmosphere every. single. day.  Here is a graph to demonstrate this.co2_data_mlo

The small ups and downs in the graphs are seasonal changes.  In the summer, CO2 in the atmosphere decreases due to trees that produce oxygen and consume carbon dioxide.  In the winter, these trees go dormant and no longer consume the CO2.  The 400 ppm threshold is the important part of the graph, and is not the most promising trend. I don’t want to be negative about this so if you felt like educating yourself go here.  And if you were looking for ways you as an individual could reduce your carbon dioxide emissions check out here. Hint: the best way is to go vegan, or at least reduce your meat consumption, more helpful info here at this link


Due to the fact that I drove directly to the summit of Mauna Loa in a rush without following the email’s instructions to “acclimate” I nearly passed out in the middle of the tour..oops. This involved me losing all blood from my face and then feeling like I was going to pass out.  I exited the tour and walked directly to my car (which was unfortunately about 10 minutes away) and got into my car, ate a granola bar, and reclined in my seat.  A few minutes later one of the kind ladies I had met earlier in the day came and checked on me letting me know it was time for lunch and reminding me that I was supposed to acclimate to the elevation (…too late but thank you).  As soon as I ate and drank water I felt much, much better.  The rest of the tour I could actually listen and enjoy what was going on.  Here are some photos from the rest of the tour.

The drive from Mauna Loa to Volcanoes National Park was pretty long, but with some music and my amazing rental car it wasn’t so bad.  With the conference pass I got free admission to the national park , which was exciting!  And then I got situated into my adorable cabin. The military camp in the middle of the national park was way different than I had anticipated.  There was a grocery store, bowling alley, restaurants, and awesome housing at this place! I took a nap as soon as I got there (very typical) and then met my roommate around 5:00.  She was super cool and nice, working at the Four Seasons Resort doing environmental education with the guests, what a cool job!  We went to dinner together (included with the conference…wooo) and she went to the screening of the movie Chasing Coral, as I drove down to the Jagger Museum to watch “the glow” from the lava, not a bad sight!IMG_5680[1]

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