Hawaiian Observatories

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Tom Peek’s “view” in the Sacramento Bee’s March 9 edition needs another view. His tie of Avatar with current efforts to add to Mauna Kea’s priceless observation benefits for the future of the world and in particular, all Hawaii residents, is clever, but a stretch of the facts.

If any major input to a community can be a benign advantage for local residents, the expansion of Mauna Kea as a world class site for telescopic research may be the perfect example. Telescopes do not make noise or eject harmful fumes.


The mountain was never a site for burials or worship. Kamehameha I, the Hawaiian leader most revered by Hawaiians, set the example for his nation’s use of the environment. He stripped the mountain of its sandalwood trees. While this wiped out the sandalwood, it did demonstrate Hawaiian interes in the practical side of things rather than fanciful claptrap about the overthrow of native concerns. Kamehameha would have loved further expansion of the mountain’s collection of world class telescopes.

”A quick list of other factless views:”

*1. No missionaries were involved in Hawaii’s 1893 revolution. They had been gone for two generations by that time yet the miss-statements continue whenever needed to embellish a distortion.

*2. Bulldozers, from their inception in Hawaii, have been careful not to smash Hawaii’s revered places. Mauna Kea was never on the list. A small outcropping of beautiful basalt is the only sign of native usage of Mauna Kea’s assets—and that was in its stone age period, ending in the 18th century. No places of worship exist near its freezing summit.

*3. His reference to a family with “deep ancestral roots to Mauna Kea,” would win a prize for most fanciful phrase in the mountain’s defense. it’s very cold at the top of Mauna Kea and the Hawaiians, with no woolen jackets, were not foolish enough to hang out up there.

*4. His reference to the 14,000-foot summit as “the burial ground of their most revered ancestors” and the site for today’s “traditional spiritual and astronomical ceremonies” is the stuff of dreams—not true. the revered ancestors were tucked away in secret caves thousands of feet below, not on one of Mauna Kea’s wind-swept cinder cones. And like any major mountain, any surface above 10,000 feet has no jungles.

Please send Peek back for another look. Or better, keep him at home where his imginative prose would be more suitable, perhaps even factual. The vast majority of us like those telescopes.

‘Twigg-Smith, a fifth generation resident of Hawaii, was for 40 years the publisher of Hawaii’s largest newspaper. He climbed to the summit of Mauna Kea several times before the telescopes began arriving.’