Life on Mauna Kea

March 2004

A little climb above the Hale Pohaku mid-level facility shows Mauna Loa in the background across the saddle.


One of the reasons that the sky is so blue is that there's a brisk wind blowing (right to left) as we go for a walk to wake up.

Lunch in the summit lunchroom on setup day.  The temperature is about freezing outside (and the wind was blowing at about 40 mph), but it is somewhat warmer inside.  Not so warm that we take off our coats to eat, though.  This is the old generator room for the UH 88" telescope, which gives the room some interesting decorative plumbing.  Old exhaust pipes make for a high-tech look.


The lunchroom looks even more like an old generator room from the outside.  One of the cooks drives up every day in the red SUV with lunch for the crews working on the telescopes.

dining room

The dining room at Hale Pohaku is much more comfortable.

dining hall

The dining room is in the main building at Hale Pohaku, which contains offices, a library, pool tables, and a laundry room as well as the dining area.  The Hale Pohaku mid-level facility is at an elevation of 9,500 feet, and is where we spend our time when we're not at the telescope. 

The entry hall to the main building, with flags from all of the countries involved in the observatories (and, for good measure, the State of Hawaii on the far right.).  The offices are upstairs, the dining room directly ahead.


The dining room, with the kitchen at the far end.  The big windows to the left open on a porch with a nice view of Mauna Loa. 
Stairs toward the far end on the right side lead up to the entry hall.

Here's the CSO office, up on the second floor, with Attila and Jonas busy at work.  Free internet!

dorm b

There are three dorm buildings down a set of stairs from the main building.  At Hale Pohaku's 9,500 feet elevation most of us puff up the stairs for the first few times.  But that's the point: it's good to get used to the altitude.

The dorm rooms are just like little motel rooms: bed, desk, bathroom, and closet.  The room-darkening blinds on the windows are a big help, too.


What tour of Hale Pohaku would be complete without seeing exciting things such as the water tanks, gas station, and road maintenance equipment?  This may well be the Big Island's largest collection of snowplows -- here are three of the five or so at the depot, plus two big road graders that keep the dirt road tidy.

From a bit up the mountain you see the whole cluster of buildings at Hale Pohaku. Clouds cover the saddle between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.

Up the road to the summit, a drive of nine miles or so.  At least it was less dusty on the road between Hale Pohaku and the summit.  The first half of the road is unpaved, dusty in dry weather, but much preferred to the paved part near the summit in icy weather.

A few days into the run, the weather had changed from very windy and very cold to snowy and cold. 
Here we come for a summit visit with Richard, the telescope's technical manager, and Richard, the telescope's NSF program officer.


On the last day, on the way back from packing, we are treated to some sun, fog, and light snow, all at once.  
In the background, the Maxwell Telescope, the top of the roof of the SMA's assembly building, the CSO, Subaru, and the twin Keck telescopes. 


This sign actually refers to a previous ice age, a real ice age, and has nothing to do with the miserable weather on this run.  We hope.

Questions or comments?  Please contact Andrew Harris.