Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

South Point

October 10th, 2011

At South Point, Hawaii. Notice the rock wall behind us, and the lighthouse in the background. I forgot to bring my hat on this trip, thus the bandanna–which worked quite well in the extreme wind.

The farthest point south in the United States lies at latitude 19°–slightly south of Mexico City, on the parallel that passes through the lower Yucatan Peninsula and Haiti/The Dominican Republic. This is the southernmost tip of the Big Island of Hawaii, and is known simply enough as “South Point,” though sometimes it’s called by its Hawaiian name Kalae which is an equally simple nomenclature meaning “the point.”

Over the weekend the husband and I visited South Point as another “bucket list” item. Getting to South Point isn’t a difficult trek–the road from the main highway is narrow, but it’s smoothly paved most of the way. Part way down there’s a “rough road” sign. Being from Maui, this made us laugh. At the end, the road is “patch paved” but it’s still not bad.

This is me, about as far south as I could go:

The area is hot, dry, and extremely wind-blown with severe offshore currents.

Farther down the coast there’s supposed to be a green sand beach. We didn’t venture that far, but we did see patches of green sand strewn on the shore. I can only guess that the density of the olivine particles is different enough from the lava and coral bits that they tend to drop out of the waves at the same time to make these patches. At any rate, I’m fascinated by the close up view of sand:

Several people were fishing from the top of a cliff, using scaffolds to (I presume) raise and lower the lines. The lines are held by floats, which seem to be pulled out to sea by the current.

The wind blew powerfully from the shore out to sea. Standing at the top of the seacliff, the ocean did not look flat, but looked much higher just a tenth mile offshore–a very strange effect.

Posted on: Monday, October 10th, 2011 at 6:57 pm
Categories: Hawaii.
Tags: , ,

2 Responses to “South Point”

  1. Glen Says:

    You lucky! But in this case I refer to your “southness”. As one travels farther toward the pole, the more circumpolar constellations are revealed, and the fewer remain visible in the opposite celestial hemisphere. Being southernmost of the States gives _you_ the deepest view into southern nights. If you set an alarm… , next June 19th (New Moon) around 11pm (don’t know whether Standard or Daylight Savings…) you’ll see the best globular cluster visible from earth, Omega Centauri straight south and in transit (crossing the north-south line that passes overhead). That will give it the greatest altitude, which Stellarium (I highly recommend this open-source planetarium for Win/Mac/Linux) tells me should be about 21_deg above the flat (ocean) horizon. Here are a couple of photos to intrigue:

    A small telescope would be nice, but even 7X35 or 7X50 binoculars would be useful. Globular clusters generally look like fuzzy balls of stars with indefinite edges (I can see the next-best choice, M13 in Hercules). Just dark-adapt your eyes for an hour before, then keep your eyes moving, use averted vision, and slowly accumulate the image in your mind. The external optics make the image brighter, bigger, or both, but only the eye-brain-mind pathway can “see”.

    FYI: Omega Centauri (_aka_ NGC 5139) is well below Spica in the spring constellation of Virgo, and between Menkent & Gacrux on the 1.3_MB downloadable PDF at (useful for planning, but not detailed enough to actually find Omega Cen).

  2. Linda Says:

    Long ago, we trekked to the 10,000-foot summit of Haleakala to see Halley’s Comet–which was a disappointing little blur–but also saw what I gather was the Southern Cross, and I was hugely impressed by that. The horizon is huge from that high up.