23-Dec-2009 -- Ever since discovering the Degree Confluence Project in 2008, a goal of mine has been to be the first person to document a certain point. Sadly, there is now not a single land-based confluence that hasn't been documented on the mainland of the USA, where I reside. This winter my mother and I planned a vacation to the Big Island of Hawai'i, where we would attempt to visit a degree confluence.
All 21 Hawaiian primary confluences lie in the ocean by geographic coincidence, and the Big Island itself is bracketed by the 4 confluence points not too far offshore. Although not the closest port to the confluence of 20N and 156W, the Honokohau Harbor has a assortment of boats and we were able to rent a fishing boat from Kona Boat Rentals that had the range necessary to get to the point roughly 25 miles away in a reasonable amount of time.
The day we visited this point began fairly clear but we could tell by around 10 am that it would be a fairly hazy day on West Hawai'i. Nevertheless, I knew that land should rise well above the horizon from only 12 miles out. we left the harbor and piloted our boat starting at about 10:40 am local time. Just north of Point Keahole, the westernmost point of the island, we stopped hugging the shoreline and headed directly for the point, roughly 20 miles away on a heading of roughly 15°. For a while, we began to worry that the haze would be so thick that we wouldn't be able to see any part of the island. But having come this far, turning around just wasn't an option. We reached the vicinity of the confluence just after noon and were relieved to still be able to make out the coastline along the Eastern horizon. After the initial celebration and picture taking frenzy, I was amazed to discover that I still had cell phone service (3G!) this far away from the coast. Coming back to harbor we managed to catch a glimpse of a whale that was halfway between us and another boat as well as some dolphins.
Although EXTREMELY faint, one CAN make out the shoreline in several of the pictures I took. The pictures are of the Kohala Coast to the Northeast, Mauna Kea to the Southeast, and the open sea to the West. The GPS photo and MapSource track verify that we made it to within several meters of the degree confluence 20N 156W. I did digitally enhance the images to improve contrast and color.
For future visits to this or other Big Island confluences, these boat rentals seem like the way to go. We were able to complete the round trip well within the half-day (4 hour) time block offered by Kona Boat Rentals. Any outfitter will likely be able to help you design a route that avoids hazards like coral beds or other shallow areas. Only thing we did wrong was to attempt this point on a hazy day. Starting early may also help.