Geo-coding with John

My days off in the settlement are usually spent at the beach or hiking the pali (cliffs) to go to topside for groceries and errands. Today, however, John invited me to the coast to assist him in photographing rare, endemic Hawaiian plants that are being reintroduced into the landscape. I have heard about “geocaching”, finding treasures with gadgets but never experienced first-hand how it works.


John has a wrist device that looks like a watch with a large red dial. This gadget is a GIS unit which reads the satellite broadcasts and outputs it via Bluetooth to his tablet. Thus, with an inexpensive device, any tablet or phone can know the exact location of where we stand. On his tablet, he has a mapping application which displays where we are on the map along with the location of the plants. Getting to the plants is easy because as we walk closer to the plant, the dot on the screen that represents the plant gets closer and closer to where we are on the map. This allows us to walk right over to the area, within a few feet, of where the plant is. Without the equipment, it is a painful process to walk around in circles looking for small plants on the rocky, wind-swept coast that is covered with many other plants. Once we find the plant we are looking for, I photograph the plant and call out the tag number. He enters the tag number and time into a notebook. Some of the plants have flourished while others have perished in the harsh elements. It takes several hours to record the data which is similar to going on an Easter egg hunt except the prize is a healthy, thriving plant.


What I enjoy about the day is being outdoors on the beautiful wind swept peninsula and searching for and recording endangered species plants. The coast reminds me of the tundra in Rocky Mountain National Park; the harsh conditions providing hospitality only to plants and trees that have adapted to harsh winds. Late in the day, we see a juvenile monk seal resting amongst the lava rocks and carefully bypass her siesta as we search for shells. Joining John in his volunteer work for the National Park has been rewarding and fun, and a great way to spend the day in Kalaupapa National Park.

Sesbania tomentosa

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