Q & A with THE BIG ISLAND
The Big Island has been an integral part of the Ironman World Championships beginning with the third running of the event, in 1979. Prior to that the race was held on Oahu, but the BIIMWC Organizing Committee put on a full court press to bring the prestigious event to the island of Hawai’i, based on the supposition that this is where God intended it to be all along and the pupus were better. The Big Island had, of course, been around well before that, and had hosted such notable events as the 1824 Holualoa Slip ‘n’ Slide and the 1742 beating death of Captain Cook.
LG: First thing our readers want to know is whether you’re male or female.
BI: Can’t believe you’re even asking me that.
LG: Well, there’s that whole “Madame Pele” business…
BI: Listen, that ornery gal is just my girlfriend, savvy?
LG: “Ornery” is a little mild, isn’t it? I mean, aren’t we talking—
BI: Worst case of PMS in the history of the Pacific Chain, yeah. This one time? When she put on Hilo and asked me if it made her look fat? Guess I gave the wrong answer because— [gestures to the North]
LG: You mean Kohala Mountain?
BI: [nods ruefully]
LG: What about it?
BI: Used to be seven thousand feet higher. Hadn’t been for that little bit of thoughtlessness nobody would ever make the bike turnaround at Hawi.
LG: She really blew her top, eh?
BI: Very funny.
LG: Anyway, I see what you mean. So all that stuff about not taking home lava or coral…?
BI: OMG! Don’t even say that out loud!
LG: Sorry. But let’s get back to you. Where were you born?
BI: Bottom of the ocean. Started out like every other little steam vent, no big deal, destined to be just another breeding ground for micro-organisms to be eaten by exotic deep-water vent-dwellers.
LG: But something was going on that made you more than just another mid-tectonic plate hot-spot. Tell us about that.
BI: Turned out that little steam vent was actually just the opening shot of upwelling plumes of lava from the base of the lower mantle.
LG: So you turned into an undersea volcano.
BI: Couple of ’em, in fact. Kept growing and growing…did you know UNLV tried to recruit me right out of high school?
LG; Yes, but I heard you couldn’t go to your left or grab a rebound to save your—
BI: Whatever. Point is, the more lava that spewed out, the taller I got, and somewhere around 800,000 years ago I popped up out of the water. So one day I was a volcano, and suddenly I was an island.
LG: Kind of like a geologic bar mitzvah.
BI: Such a party we had, you wouldn’t believe it.
LG: Now, most islands have a single primary volcano.
BI: A “shield” volcano, right, with gently sloping sides resulting from very fluid lava flows.
LG: But you have…
BI: Five of ’em! [preens immodestly] And Mauna Loa is the biggest mountain on earth!
LG: You mean biggest volcano.
BI: Listen to Mister Smarty-Pants. I said “mountain” and that’s what I meant. Don’t forget that it starts at the ocean floor, not the surface. Bottom to top, we’re talking over 30,000 feet, pal, and that means she’s looking down at Mt. Everest. And in terms of volume, it’s not even close: Mauna Loa’s base is over 1,800 square miles. She could eat Everest for breakfast and not even burp. Although, I must say, her burping is something to see.
LG: But the other four volcanoes are dormant, right?
BI: Don’t look so smug: You know what “dormant” means?
BI: No. You’re inactive. Dormant means “sleeping.”
LG: As in…
BI: Not dead. just out for a while. Could wake up.
LG: Yeah, but how long does it have to be dormant before you write it off?
BI: How long was St. Helens snoring before you people started building snack bars on her?
LG: Well, let’s see: Last major eruption was in 1800.
BI: Okay. See that there? [points to the mountain east of Kailua-Kona that rises above the Ironman course]
LG: You mean Hualalai?
BI; Yep. Know the last time she jumped the shark?
LG: Don’t tell me…
BI: 1801. So the next time you’re blithely sipping cappuccino at Lava Java, make sure your laces are tied.
LG: You mean…?
BI: Just sayin’.
LG: What about Kohala Mountain?
BI: You’re safe. That was mostly an accident.
LG: What kind of accident?
BI: I don’t like to talk about it. We worked it out and the records were sealed. Hey, what are you writing there? That was off the record!
LG: You should have said something earlier.
BI: You and the paparazzi. A hundred years I’m posing for postcards and do I get a royalty check once in a while? No, I do not!
LG: Is that why you threw a fit three years ago?
BI: You mean the earthquake. That was nothing.
LG: Nothing? The guy in the place next to me lost a Sony big screen!
BI: Sorry about that. Fact of life when you’re sitting on top of an active tectonic plate.
LG: You mean there are going to be more?
BI: You better hope so.
BI: Because the longer you go without one, the worse the next one’s going to be.
LG: Kind of like when I’ve been eating barbecue and go for days without going to the—
BI: Whatever. Point is, it pays never to forget how I got here. Did you know that I’m the youngest bit of earth on this entire planet?
LG: Way you’ve been behaving, I wouldn’t doubt it. Probably why you’re also the most remote bit of earth on the planet.
BI: Hey: Did I come to you or did you come to me?
LG: Fair point.
BI: Thank you. When’s your flight home?