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TREX 2018 Day 15: Green with Envy

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TREX 2018 Day 15: Green with Envy

By Meghan Reisenauer ‘19

Wednesday was our last full day in Hawaii! We definitely made the most of it. In the morning, our TA Ben asked if anyone was ready to leave after breakfast to head on the lava-searching hike, and I was itching to go. Ju and Joey also volunteered to go in Ben’s car – but the catch was that we’d need to put up sulfur dioxide and air particle sensors at a few locations along the way to Volcanoes National Park.

We helped Ben place some sensors and made it to the Park around 2 pm, but we got some bad news: the lava changes rapidly, and the hike to see it would now be about 8 hours! Since it was so late in the day, our car and the others decided to make some new plans on the fly.

Ocean waves crashing onto the rocks on our hike

While we decided to head to the green sand beach at the southern point, the others went on a drive through the National Park instead. We knew the hike would take about an hour, so we got started right away. It was a bright, sunny day, but that made the hike three very hot miles in the sun! The views of the ocean spray were beautiful as we walked right along the southern coast of the island. When we finally turned the corner into view of the green sand beach, we could see how beautiful it was! There was a steep decline, so we were worried at first that we’d need to slide all the way down. But, we soon found stairs cut into the rock along the side.

The green sand beach from above

When we reached the sand, we tore off our socks and shoes and dove into the water. It was so refreshing after a long, hot hike! The views of the steep rock inclines were gorgeous and majestic from the ocean. After cooling off, we began to head back around 5 pm, knowing the sun would set just as we arrived back at the car. As we put on our shoes, we saw a dark mass in the water, and realized it was a sea turtle! (We decided that counted as swimming with the turtles, even if we found it out retroactively.)

Olivine-heavy green sand

Our walk back went by quickly, and we headed to South Point to catch the last rays of the sunset. It was like a 360-degree painting, the sky and ocean and cliffs were all so perfect. We watched until the sun dipped into the ocean, then made our way back to Kona to meet the others for dinner. It was an adventurous, long, and tiring day, but it was an absolute blast. We’re all excited for canoe paddling tomorrow with MIT alumni and even some attendees of our Monday public talk!

Sunset at the southernmost point in the USA

Every year, a group of MIT students and professors travel to the Big Island of Hawaii to gain fieldwork experience through TREX (Traveling Research Environmental EXperiences). The first TREX trip was held in 2000, and since launching has taken students on research activities in domestic and international settings. For more undergraduate opportunities, click here.