Wednesday, 17 February 2010

A stroll at 9,000 feet and Murphy's Law again

I'm sure most of you are aware of Sod's or Murphy's Law which states that if anything can go wrong it will. Some of you may not be aware of its corollaries, two of which are similar and I'm not sure which to pick:

a) The first corollary to Murphy's law: Anything that is to go wrong will do so at the worst possible moment.

b) The unspeakable law: As soon as you mention something, if it's good it goes away, if it's bad it happens.

Well, I can certainly blame Andy the e-Astronomer who, in his recent post "Emmets at Sunset" wrote "UKIRT was always ground breaking and world leading, but now it is a kind of flawless machine as well." Literally hours after he had posted this we broke UKIRT, and at the worst possible moment. High winds meant we had to close the dome at around 3:30am last night but it wouldn't close. After many attempts and a lot of swearing we managed to get it closed and safe but at the expensive of pulley cable and a nasty feeling we might have done further damage.

Today the engineers went up to fix the problem but since it involved opening the dome to test their work and the fact that winds were gusting over 50 mph, they were unable to complete the fix and so we are closed tonight and I get to stay in my favourite place in the world for the night - Hale Pohaku (HP) at the 9,000 foot level of Mauna Kea. (Yes, I'm being very sarcastic).

So Andy, you owe me a beer!

Not having the opportunity for more photos at the summit this evening, I took a short hike east of HP to a place I hadn't visited before. It's a small rise a few hundred yards from HP and I wanted to see if the views were any good. Turns out they're certainly interesting if not as spectacular as higher up. I have plenty of shots to process but here are a few quick ones (and you can click on them for larger views):

A lava bomb. These are formed in volcanic eruptions when a blob of molten lava is expelled from the crater high into the air and cools rapidly as it falls to the ground where it lands in a very hot but fairly solid state. You don't want to be underneath one of these! The area east of HP is strewn with them and it makes walking difficult - no admiring the view while moving!

The wonderful Vacation Resort Hale Pohaku from an angle I rarely see (and you can see I'm standing in a field of lava bombs). Oops, I think I left the window open in my room...

A little later looking to the east and Hilo, which is hidden behind the slope. The sky is becoming dark as the sun sets and the shadow of the earth is plainly visible above a distant cinder cone.

The summit of Mauna Loa with vog in the valley.

I have no idea what this building and surrounding fencing is, I have never seen it before! It's just to the west of the Visitor Information Center and out of site from there I believe - I certainly didn't know it was there. An electrical substation?


Zuzana said...

Beautiful pictures. Thank you for not posting snow pictures, as i have had it with snow.
As a scientist I am more than familiar with Murhpy's Law. I get to experience it almost every day.;))

dragonwithin said...

Lovely pics, especially the last one. About murphy's law, I've long forced myself not to believe in it because when I did back then, it came true.

Keera Ann Fox said...

Well, I'm happy Murphy stepped in. Now we all have had a chance to see something different. I like those lava bombs.

WesIsland said...

You've probably heard of O'Shea's law too. That is that, "Murphy was an optimist!"

Beep said...

I'm sorry about UKIRT and hope it gets fixed soon.. The pictures are beautiful. I don't know if you are getting my email but I had some good news recently. xox

Andrew Cooper said...

Sometimes astronomers and other scientists need to be educated about things us engineers implicitly understand. You do not tempt Murphy!

I hope the damage isn't to bad and you can get back on sky-soon!

Yes, it is an electrical substation.

Andy Lawrence said...

I knew I shouldn't have put pictures on my latest post. They look so feeble compared yours !!

Err... how come I owe you a beer ? Werrent me wot bust it.

Kirigalpoththa said...


Tom said...

Zuzana - on snow at the summit so no pictures of snow I'm afraid!

Dragonwithin - are you aware of another corollary?

NON-RECIPROCAL LAWS OF EXPECTATIONS. Negative expectations yield negative results. Positive expectations yield negative results.

Actually, I'm an optimist but I do enjoy using Murphy's law from time to time!

Keera - I had no idea the lava bomb field was there. I think I'll be returning soon!

Wes - I've heard the phrase, didn't know it was called O'Shea's law though!

Pam - great news about your news! I'm trying to figure out flights as I write this.

Andrew - thanks for the confirmation and fortunately the damage wasn't too bad, just a broken cable. The noise was horrible though and I really feared the worst.

Andy - it was your fault and you will be sent a bill. As Andrew will confirm, you don't claim a place works flawlessly without condemning it to disaster within a few hours!

Kiri - thanks for popping by!