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TREX 2018 Day 14: Moving Day #3 and Mauna Kea

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TREX 2018 Day 14: Moving Day #3 and Mauna Kea

By Joey Noszek ’20

Today saw the final relocation of our trip. We uneventfully packed up and left Hapuna Beach by 10:00 AM. While our new home was not so far away, we would not arrive there until the night. Before settling, we visited Mauna Kea.

Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world if you measure from base to summit. However, much of Mauna Kea is underwater. Therefore, Mt. Everest wins when measuring from sea level to summit. Regardless, the 14,000 foot altitude of Mauna Kea is still impressive and driving to the top is nowhere near as grueling as climbing Everest.

On our way up, we stopped at 9,000 feet. First of all, this was a necessity as we had to acclimate to the thinner air. In addition, we met our guides here for our visit to the Submillimeter Array (SMA), a system of telescopes near Mauna Kea’s peak that detects very small-wavelength light. They gave us a talk on the workings of the array and then we continued our way up. When we reached the array, we were shown the telescopes and the control room. We even went inside one telescope. After our tour we continued upward.

The Submillimeter Array

A view from near the summit of Mauna Kea

Now, we did not technically go to the summit. Mauna Kea’s summit is considered a sacred place, so we were not allowed to go up there. We did, however, get as close to the summit as we legally could. We then waited for the sun to set.

The low oxygen of high elevations has some effect on everyone. But different people feel different effects, both positive and negative. I was one of the lucky ones. During most of my time on the mountain, I was incredibly happy. As we were sitting in cars, waiting for sunset, I decided that I wanted to see the sunset with my own eyes and not through a windshield, so I left the car about a half hour before the big event. The temperatures were freezing and the wind was raging directly into my face, but I did not care. I stayed outside and I enjoyed every moment out there. And, yes, the sunset was beautiful.

A crater on Mauna Kea after sunset.

Afterwards, we left the mountain and arrived at a Holiday Inn Express in Kona, where we will spend the remainder of our time in Hawaii.


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.