Hawai’i

Now, other than Kiruna, I do not have to explain where Hawai’i is or why you would want to there, do I? So this will be more like a travel blog. Before we start with “travelstuffs” its time for some SCIENCE, so bear with me.

Hawai’i as a region subsists of several islands emerging out of the water in the middle of the pacific. The leading and widely accepted theory on stationary hotspots proposed by geophysicist Tuzo Wilson as late as 1963 explains the existence of the Hawai’in islands. Another well-known example of a hotspot is Yellowstone. Imagine hot magma moving upward from the lower part of the earth’s core up to the lithosphere which is the region just below the earth’s crust.

source: wikimedia
source: wikimedia

These hotspots are stationary; the crust above though moves ever so slowly (about as fast as your fingernails grow), creating a line of volcanos behind the current location of the hotspot.

Hwaiin seamount chain source: wikimedia
Hwaiin seamount chain
source: wikimedia

The whole Hawai’i seamount chain is almost 6000 kms long! Of course the old volcano islands are worn down by erosion and eventually disappear below the waster surface.

Although this explanation should be enough for now, I do need to point out that there are many open questions and different theories concerning this topic.

The two most popular and populated islands are Big Island and O’ahu. I will be concentrating on O’ahu.

Before we begin here, I would like to mention your chance of seeing at least one rainbow per day is pretty high (not the license plate of Hawai’i, the real ones). Rainbows are fascinating! So after you have red how and why they occur you can boast about your knowledge whenever you see one on Hawai’i.


So, for a beginning we can start with some classical stuff: Surfing. Chances are, you haven’t tried this “exotic” sport. If you are ever going to try, you should when you’re on O’ahu. Depending on the time of year, you can learn surfing on “small” waves on the north beach or on Waikiki beach which is the most famous beach in Honululu. Surf lesson will cost you around 50-80$ per hour so best do group lessons and find some options to get the lowest price. It’s fairly easy to get some first results (cinda standing on the board) after an hour or two. (By the way, did you know that water waves are really complicated to explain and need some extensive theories to roughly model them? Maybe I’ll do an article about that sometime)

 

hanauma-bay
Source: flickr commons

Another classic thing to do is snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. You need to arrive at least before 8 a.m. because the bay has a maximum capacity of tourists in order to preserve the corals. The earlier you come the less other tourists and the calmer the water but more importantly less sun. Snorkeling with your back exposed to the midday sun is not a good idea, believe me, I tried it :/. You may also want to keep the tide in mind. If it is low tide you will have fairly limited depth of water which can cause you to hit the corals while you are swimming. Also, if you buy some snorkeling gear beforehand it may be cheaper than to rent equipment at the bay itself.

You should definitely do some hiking around the island. From Diamond head you have a very nice view onto Waikiki beach. Inland there are several hikes to nice waterfalls through the rain forest. Or you can climb the 1048 steps up Koko head which allows for a great view on non-cloudy days.

Lastly I would recommend npcthe National pacific cemetery and or the pearl harbor museum. I know you probably don’t like museums but these two are a fast way to learn about the WWII pacific war. You don’t need to go on the pearl harbour tour that brings you to the sunken USS Arizona.
It’s just a sunken ship and you can’t really see anything. But the museum part of pearl harbor and the cemetery which is free show the whole marine war against the Japanese. As a European we only concentrate on how bad Hitler was and how the Allies kicked ass in Europe. I knew nothing about the pacific war before I was on O’ahu and it was really fascinating.

To do all the things mentioned above plus some other obvious and easy to find tourist destinations you will probably need around a full week.

So as you see, there is more to do on Hawaii than chilling on the beach and boasting on Facebook about you being in Hawaii. You can still do that, just don’t miss out on the other good stuff.

And as always, stay curious!

Cold beauty of Kiruna

If you are one of those people who don’t like destinies just because it is cold there, please stop reading (no just kidding… a bit). But to be fair: If your kind of vacation includes pools, beaches and pina coladas, then you probably shouldn’t waste the time reading on, unless of course you’re as curious as I am and are therefore ready to try something new.

So yea, Kiruna is kind of cool considering its location. Never underestimate distances in Sweden and Norway! The domestic flight from Stockholm to Kiruna took longer than the flight from Hamburg to Stockholm. Kiruna is considered the northernmost town in Sweden and is lies just a bit north of the polar circle. That is the boarder at which one can experience at least one day of total darkness and respectively one whole day of “sun”.

The temperature in October, November, March and April, which are the optimal months to go to Kiruna for obvious reasons explained soon, is about -5 °C on average (23F for silly people). It will be dry, so all you need is maybe two layers for your legs and 3 layers including a good jacket for your upper body.

Getting there is pretty much only possible by plane, with a 90 min flight from Stockholm. About two planes a day arrive and leave in Kiruna. When I went there in 2015 I flew in a propeller plane. So definitely get the right seat and take your camera, you wouldn’t want to miss out on these kind of photos.

330px-Turboprop_Rolling_Shutter
photo credit: wikimedia.org

If you have no Idea what is going on here, you should learn something about the Rolling-shutter-effect before moving on.

Now I must admit I have been a bad storyteller and have been blabbering about this cold place in the middle of nowhere. So why would you even go there?

 


Polar lights, aurora borealis (opposed to aurora australis at the south pole), appear due to charged particles erupted by the sun hitting our atmosphere. They excite atoms as high up as 150 km (93 miles) creating lights that can be seen by the human eye from below. These wonders of nature are strongest in the months I mentioned above. If this hand waving explanation isn’t enough (and it shouldn’t be), check out my in-depth explanation on polar lights.

aurora borealis

Before I had gone to Kiruna I had never taken more than a handful of photos for myself. I used to believe special moment in life shouldn’t be perceived trough a lens but through our naked eye, and I still believe this. But polar lights are actually slow enough to do both!

It is surely not the easiest object to start taking photography serious as a hobby but if you’re fascinated by natures beauty, then you can use that as a stepping stone for photography. If you’re already into photography but have never played around with night-time photos, then you should definitely do that! All you need is a decent reflex camera, optimally with a good light-sensitive chip, a tripod and a shutter release cable (so you don’t move the cam as you start the exposure), then you’re ready to play around with ISO, aperture width and exposure time. As a last notice, always try to integrate some ground into your picture. Our stupid brains need a reference point otherwise no one will know what they are looking at.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This picture has just a “small” strip aurora and yet several people have asked me if they could use it for their purpose in magazines. So obviously it isn’t only about getting many bright lights into your camera. (Nice brag I snuck in back there, huh?).

Fortunately for us Kiruna has a lot to offer when it’s too bright for polar lights:

The “Institutet för rymdfysik” (don’t just skip that word, try to pronounce it!), the Swedish institute for Space Physics, has its headquarters is Kiruna. They can display a wide range of research subjects from Polar Atmospheric to Solar Terrestrial Physics and are one of the leading providers of Ion thrusters! Actually if you’re looking into doing your SpaceMaster here would be a great place to study. I mean come on, that’s almost as good as Master of Disaster.

220px-Skylark_launch
photo credit: wikimedia.org

Moving on to the next space related topic. ESRANGE is a scientific rocket range and research center for high altitude balloons and small rockets such and BEXUS and REXUS, which are projects that are only open to university students! The unique part about ESRANGE is, that they can reclaim the rockets with the experiments because they landcrash on a big area north of Kiruna (yes there is even more land up north) instead of crashing into water. Usually they also tell the Russians before they launch a fast rocket into the stratosphere.

Last but not least you should end your trip with a visit to the biggest iron ore mine in the world. The reason why someone would even consider building a town up there in the beginning of the 20th century is, well… iron. Today they extract gigantic amount of ore from deeper than 1300 meters. If you ever wake up at night or are still awake taking nice photos you may experience some tremors due to the explosion in the mine. The iron ore lies under the city of Kiruna if you go deeper. Thus the company running the ore has to pay half the city money to relocate to a safer part of the city, what iron(y)!


So to sum things up, I hope you could see from the few photos how beautiful it is. I would highly recommend going there as an excursion with your university buds (or anything similar). If you love an adventure, a change in climate and are mildly interested in space science and/or nighttime photography, then this is definitely a place to check out!

Warm travels and stay curious!