Hawaiian Volcano Chosen as Solar Telescope Site; Controversy Erupts
Controversy erupts over Haleakala. Photo Credit: About
Haleakala is a 10,000-foot dormant volcano accounting for 75 percent of the land mass on the island of Maui, Hawaii. It is home to a national park, a 7-mile-wide, 800-feet-deep crater and the Silversword, a rare and beautiful species of plant that somehow grows on the mountain’s barren slopes. In addition to the spectacular views those vistas already provide, Haleakala has been chosen by the National Science Foundation to house a new state-of-the-art solar telescope.
Haleakala beat out Big Bear Lake in California and a site near Spain on the Canary Islands for the pleasure of hosting the $300-million project. The telescope will offer scientists unprecedented views of the sun. Economically, the project will bring to Maui at least $80 million in local construction work, over 35 new jobs, mostly for local residents, and $18 million annually to Maui’s economy. Construction is expected to begin next fall and should last about seven years. In the meantime, the Hawaiian Board of Land and Natural Resources must approve the project, which is not without its controversy.
Opposition to Haleakala Telescope
Some native Hawaiian activists stand in opposition to building the solar telescope on Haleakala, a sacred site to them. They feel that the project would defile the mountain. It is both unnecessary and disrespectful to native Hawaiian culture. Protesters have even gone as far as asking other Hawaiians to lay down in front of construction equipment.
According to local mythology, Haleakala is the home of the demigod Maui. The legend states that Maui’s grandmother helped him capture the sun as it rose over the eastern side of the mountain, thus slowing its path across the sky and lengthening the day. Hence the name Haleakala, or “house of the sun.”
The new solar telescope, if fully approved, will consume a half-acre of land among 18 acres managed by the University of Hawaii. There are already some dozen or so telescopes atop Haleakala.
Source: Mercury News
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