Sunday, June 22, 2014

Mauna Kea

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Audrey, sitting in the grass near the trail to the Douglas Monument
Today our friends took us on a beautiful tour of the Mana Road near the summit of Mauna Kea. We met them at the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station, and continued in their 4-wheel drive vehicle on a difficult road, ending at the David Douglas Memorial.

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Len and Peter at the monument to David Douglas who died near this spot in 1834.
He fell into a trap for wild cattle, which unfortunately already had trapped a wild bull. 
Our friend Peter is an expert in the history of 19th century land use in the area, so he told us the David Douglas story in detail, along with much other fascinating material. Douglas, a expert botanist (whose name is on the Douglas fir) was exploring the area. A man named Ned Gurney lived nearby with his Hawaiian wife and children. It was he who had set the traps -- and warned Douglas to be careful.

Gurney was a convict, born the same year as Douglas, 1799. Some years earlier he had been convicted of a minor crime and transported to Botany Bay in Australia. Gurney had been assigned as a ship-builder and sailor in Australia. He eventually escaped from a ship built with his and other convict labor in Australia and sold to Hawaiians. When he found Douglas's body, he arranged for it to be taken to town, and he explained what had happened -- so there really seems little chance he had been guilty of murdering Douglas. Though never charged or accused by the authorities, he was accused in the public mind of this crime.

The monument dates from 1934, when members of the Burns Society in Hilo decided that there should be a memorial to a fellow Scot who had died 100 years earlier. They also planted some Douglas fir trees nearby, where they still stand in a most picturesque and beautiful wooded area around a 10-minute walk from the very rutted road.

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On the Monument
Our friend and host Peter told us many stories of the former inhabitants of this fascinating area on the slopes of the volcano while driving us along the extremely challenging wet road.

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We were enveloped in the clouds for much of our trip, and
saw the wisps of mist drifting past the trees as we looked for native birds.

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