Black sands and green sea turtles

The main task we needed to accomplish today was changing sides of the island, going from Volcano on the leeward side and about 3,800 feet elevation to Kailua-Kona on the windward coast. We were following Route 11, but made s short side trip to visit the Punalu’u Beach Park.

It is one of the famous black sand beaches, formed when hot lava met the ocean, became brittle, and shattered into grains. Trinity showed me that among the black grains were green crystals of olivine, which is prevalent in the flows of Kilauea, and also a few yellow crystals. On the inland side of the black sand is a ring of coconut palms and beyond them a freshwater duckpond filled with flowering plants. Between the sand and the surf were black lava rocks, some with algae clinging to them, and some trapping little pools of water on or among them that sheltered shellfish and tiny fishes. In other places, the black sand stretched beneath the waves with no intervening rocks.

Best of all, in two areas of the beach, partitioned off by arcs of what looked like a giant jump rope, were several large green sea turtles, sunning themselves in the morning light. The sea turtles are endangered and people need to stay 25 feet away from them, which is why the ropes are placed in an arc around them when they come ashore. There was also a section roped off more permanently where eggs had been laid, so that people would not inadvertently disturb their nests.

I was so glad that we got to see them with Trinity. She has loved sea turtles for a long time and years ago we “adopted” one for her through the Sea Turtle Conservancy. She named her adopted turtle Merryl, which means “bright as the sea.” Here were Merryl’s distant cousins, three to four feet long and weighing several hundred pounds, slowly pulling themselves up the black sand beach to sun themselves, leaving ridges in the sand leading back to the Pacific.

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