Life of the Land
Part 3 of 7
By G.T. Larson
In the early 1960s in the North Atlantic Ocean an island was born. Witnessed by millions via the media, it rose from the sea in an explosively spectacular birth. Within weeks the newborn land – rough, craggy rocks, black sand, steam and sulfur fumes – began to show signs of life. Tiny green leaves appeared in crevices watered by the mists, fog and rain of its nourishing host. Surtsy, south of Iceland, emerged from the womb of the sea in the same manner as our island home, volcanically. The short recent history of islands such as Sursty is a microscopic view of our history.
As soon as Molokai cooled enough to support life, life supports established themselves. Some of our diverse plant life traveled, as the Polynesians would later, by sea. Many more, probably most, came the same way modern day visitors come, by air. Except instead of Boing 747s and Airbus A300s, they probably arrived by `Iwa (Frigate bird), Kolea (Pacific Golden Plover), and Koloa Maoli (Hawaiian Duck), to name a few. Seeds specifically designed to travel attach themselves by spurs, sticky fibers, etc. or are eaten in berries and seed form to be deposited later in another location.
As the seeds of our original “locals,” such as the Koa tree and Hapuu (Tree Fern), arrived, they found an ideal climate, rich soils and few enemies. Being so isolated from other landmasses, our flora and fauna developed in a relatively limited scope. Even our reef fishes and invertebrates, though similar to other tropical Pacific regions, are not as diverse. Our climate is also affected by our unique location and our location is affected by our unique climate.
Typically, the weather in Hawaii is dominated by the trade winds; these winds of moderate to fresh speeds, mainly favor coming in from the northeast to east. A high pressure center of air called the Pacific Anticyclone, spends most of the year to the northeast of the islands. The air circulation of this high pressure center is clockwise funneling cooler northern Pacific air over us hence, Hawaiian air conditioning. When the trades weaken and “break down,” our winds usually become variable and light. In the winter, this “break down” can be accompanied by a hot, moist airflow from the south usually bringing high humidity and rain. At times these conditions develop into quite a stormy period called Kona conditions or a Kona storm. Our weather is quite interesting and we have just scratched the surface; considering it is one of the most important factors in Hawaii’s uniqueness.
As we travel around our island home we see many beautiful trees, flowers, and grasses, but most of these are as foreign as pizzas and Toyotas. We will look at this “invasion” in a later article. For now, enjoy the world around you, and take care of it. When the life of the land is gone, the land and its life soon follow. Aloha nui loa.