MAUNA KEA, Hawaii – Lake Waiau, the tiny lake that sits at 13,000 ft. above sea level near the summit of Mauna Kea on Hawaii Island, is almost entirely gone.
The Aloha State’s only alpine lake has been shrinking at an “alarming” rate since 2010, say scientists with the United State Geological Survey. Rangers with the Office of Mauna Kea Management, working with the Department of Land and Natural Resources’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife – which manages the Mauna Kea Ice Age Natural Area Reserve where the lake is located – have been monitoring the lake closely and have tracked this remarkable reduction in the lake size with repeat photography. The changes have also been documented by cultural practitioners and environmentalists. The images of the unique lake slowly disappearing have been startling to long time visitors to the top of the mountain.
In its weekly Volcano Watch article, scientists with the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory discuss the vanishing lake, reporting that they have recently been watching these changes, as well. After all, Mauna Kea was once an active volcano.
Some Native Hawaiians who frequent Mauna Kea and feel spiritually connected to the sacred mountain have wondered if the shrinking lake is a sign that the mountain is in peril. Many of the practitioners who visit the lake oppose the development of the summit for astronomy purposes. Pua Case and her ohana have been visiting the lake on a near monthly basis, photographing the changes and posting to Facebook.
In one message, Case wrote:
|words written by my cousin Kanoe that I too believe in and will stand by, words of truth:Extreme decrease of our waters upon our Mauna, at lake Waiau, began in 2010. In three years time it has been rapidly dissipating, disappearing. Revelation was given that our kupuna who reside there would be leaving for there is no way that the spirits can dwell in this kind of capacity of overwhelming development. I believe in our kupuna, I believe! I will not leave them. We will stand with them until the time comes when they tell us otherwise! Me Ke aloha nui nui!Perhaps All will be restored when the mauna is in balance once again! I have much hope and I believe!|
The USGS is considering the shrinking lake as a symptom of a another change on the mountain.
The USGS asks that if you have historical photos of the lake that you are willing to share, please contact HVO (askHVO@usgs.gov).