Plunge into the Pacific with researchers and cinematographers and see the ocean’s rare and dazzling creatures in a way never before seen on television. The series examines the ocean that covers a third of the Earth’s surface. Actor and producer Daniel Dae Kim narrates.


Understand how the Pacific, surrounded by the Ring of Fire, is the epicentre of natural mayhem. Violence is part of life in the great ocean, and creatures that live there must choose whether to avoid conflict – or rise to meet it.


The National Geographic Bee

The National Geographic Bee


The annual National Geographic Bee returns for the 29th consecutive year. The 2017 Bee features fourth-to-eighth-graders vying for the crown and the top prize of a $50,000 college scholarship and lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society.




Plunge into the Pacific with researchers and cinematographers and see the ocean’s rare and dazzling creatures in a way never before seen on television. The series examines the ocean that covers a third of the Earth’s surface. Actor and producer Daniel Dae Kim narrates.


In the 21st century, explorers are only beginning to plumb the depths of the Pacific, yearning to unravel its mysteries…but the ocean doesn’t give up secrets willingly.


Moose: Life of a Twig Eater


High up in Canada’s Rockies, by a crystal-clear lake rimmed with old-growth forest, a moose is born. At the best of times, the odds are stacked against this leggy 35-pounder surviving its first year. Now, with moose populations across many parts of North America in steep decline, scientists are trying to understand what happens in the first year of a moose’s life. This stunningly intimate episode, filmed over 13 months in the spectacular wilds of Jasper National Park, takes viewers deep inside the world of a moose calf.


Teotihuacan’s Lost Kings


Follow a team of scientists exploring royal tombs beneath the ancient Mexican city of Teotihuacan. After decades of research, these imperial burial chambers may reveal clues about the long-lost Teotihuacan culture and its mysterious people.


Ed Ginoza


Ed Ginoza has dedicated his life to educating Maui’s public school students in science – in the classroom and beyond. His personalized approach to education has made its mark on countless young minds, earning him several top teaching awards throughout his career, including Hawai‘i State Teacher of the Year. Now retired, Ginoza coaches Maui High School’s team for the Hawai‘i Science Bowl, which they have won six times under his mentorship.


This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Dec. 4 at 4:00 pm.


Ed Ginoza Audio


Download the Transcript




Mom kept it pretty secretive as to the hard times. But the hard times were more a result of not having maybe what some of the other kids did. Like a few of the families had cars, some of ‘em had telephones, eventually they would get television. Like we never got a television until … no, we never got a television until … I don’t think they ever bought a television, to be honest with you. We didn’t get a phone until I was in high school.


This Maui native, who struggled as a student in his early years, would go on to win Hawaii teaching honors. Retired public school chemistry teacher, Ed Ginoza, next on Long Story Short.


Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaiʻi’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.


Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Ed Ginoza didn’t realize he could be a good student until a teacher encouraged him. He became a teacher, who in turn, encouraged many students to excel, introducing them to the world of science. For nearly three decades, Ed Ginoza of Kihei taught chemistry, math, and physics at Maui High School. Many of his students have gone on to study science at top colleges, including MIT, Yale, and Stanford, and they’ve had successful careers in the field. And Ginoza says it was important to treat everyone equally, because he knew what it was like to feel less-than as an Okinawan kid growing up on a plantation in West Maui.


I was born in Puʻukoliʻi. It’s a little plantation village. I wouldn’t say little-little, but it was … actually, at one time, it was quite a large village. And we had six children; three boys, three girls. I was the fourth of the six. And Dad was an irrigator, and that’s all I knew him as, an irrigator. My mother … she was a housewife, pretty much. And so finances were real tough. We never got a car until after I left.


So, did it feel like you were getting short-shrift? ‘Cause sometimes people learn they have abundance, even when the money is low, and sometimes it just seems really hard.


I don’t think we felt that deprived, because most of us were pretty much in the same situation. I mean, you’re on a plantation, and all the kids are almost in the same situation. Some people are worse off than others.


What was it like small-kid times on the plantation? You talked about how the family had trouble, you know, with hard times. What else?


You know, grammar school up to the fourth grade was okay. Fifth and sixth grade was kinda bad. I’ve already said that. Seventh grade was bad. Eighth grade was okay. But actually, living in community in some ways was good, because you know, we were all pretty much friends. But being Okinawan had some drawbacks, made you feel a little bit insecure.


Weren’t there a lot of Okinawans on the plantation?


Not where we lived at. There were just three families of Okinawans.


And what was everybody else?


From all over the place. They were considered Japanese; we were considered Okinawans.


And you were always very conscious of that?


I’ve always been conscious of that. And with ourselves, we weren’t treated badly, but my sister was. She suffered some prejudice.


How so?


Because we’re different.


They teased her?


No; I really don’t remember what, you know, exactly what she went through. But I remember my mother or my sister saying, yeah, she had some prejudice against her by certain individuals. So, it was pretty much of a normal life, as far as growing up. We went to the Methodist church and we were part of a youth group, so all our friends were there. But it was a segregated place. I mean, Japanese Camp, Filipino Camp, the Portuguese. And the segregation, a lot of times, came out in fights with the kids,. Because I remember some of my friends would fight with the Portuguese kids.


Because the Portuguese kids’ parents were the lunas.


Right; right. And I don’t know why, but it was just—yeah; yeah.
With kid stuff, it could be anything.




It doesn’t have to have a reason.






Right. And there would be fights with some of the Hawaiian kids. But prejudice was kind of widespread at that point.


And you were a small minority, with only three families who were Okinawan. Now, what would be the discrimination against Okinawans?


In Puukolii, the boys didn’t suffer that. But I know that on Oahu, actually, it was worse, where people would get divorced if they married an Okinawan.


And that was because Okinawans were … country folk?


The Japanese were really almost—you know, their culture is a very homogenous type of culture. Right? They don’t approve of Koreans. Even the great baseball player, he was Korean, actually. But they’re very prejudiced against outsiders. They call them gaijin, or hakujin, they call the foreigners, they refer to them as. But we growing up, I never really felt that with most of my friends. With my friends, anyway. But I remember my dad had some feeling about Filipinos, because my sister was thinking about going out with a Filipino boy, and they objected. Which was always very fascinating, because I have a Portuguese uncle, and you know, he seemed to be all right.


After high school, Ed Ginoza went to college in Colorado, where he graduated with a degree in chemistry, and later earned a master’s in education. Ginoza says his parents initially balked at sending him to college, but ended up sacrificing to make it happen.


Fortunately, Dad and Mom had an endowment insurance policy for about eighteen hundred dollars. The endowment policy doesn’t exist anymore; they made it illegal. But they would get a cash payout after, you know, twenty years or something like that. And they finally agreed to send me to college with that endowment. I look back now, and I think, Wow, they spent their entire life savings to send me to college.


That’s amazing. Where did you go?


I went to a small school in Colorado, Adams State College.


Did you know you wanted to go into science when you started in college?


Actually, I wanted to go into engineering. Don’t ask me how I knew about engineering, but I said, Okay, I like math, I like science, so I wanted to go into engineering. So, I went there with the idea of taking the pre-engineering course, and then after a year, they offered me, you know, National Defense Loan. At that time we had this NDA loan which was three percent interest. And so, they offered that to me, and then my chemistry teacher said, Why don’t you just stay here and major in chemistry, physics, and math, instead of going to engineering school.


And so, what did you get offered? It was a scholarship or a loan?


I had a scholarship for the first quarter, which paid my in-state tuition. Then, during the third quarter of walking down the aisle and the dean of the college—you know, small school, so he asked me how things were, and I said, Oh, it’s going pretty good, I think I’m gonna get a 4.0 grade point average this quarter, while working fulltime in a Chinese restaurant.


Oh, you didn’t mention the fulltime in a Chinese restaurant.
Yeah. Yeah; I worked, well, pretty close to fulltime. I would go in at four o’clock, and I wouldn’t get back until ten o’clock. And so, I reduced one course; I carried twelve credits, and then did that. And so, the dean said, You know, if you want to go to summer school, I’ve got this money that you can have. So I talked to my parents, and my parents says, Go ahead. And the loan actually covered my tuition, my books, and living expenses.


Because you did well in your early days in college.


Yeah; yeah.


Socially, what was it like?


Socially, it was different. There weren’t too many Hawaiʻi kids there. In fact, when I got there, I think there was three of us. Yeah; socially, it was little difficult, because we were different.


And it must have been confusing to people, ‘cause you’re a Japanese guy working in a Chinese restaurant. When did you decide you were gonna be a teacher?


After I graduated, I decided. By then, I had most of the credits to be a teacher. So, I just needed like student teaching, so I said, Okay, maybe I’ll just complete that part.


Now, I’ve heard that you were actually offered a couple of jobs teaching, but you wouldn’t take them, even though you were unemployed, because you felt strongly you wanted to work at a public school.


Yeah; that was after I came back. I went to Baldwin, and we have what they call vice positions, which is a one-year … you know, you’re only obligated for one year. And after 1972, all of us who were probationary teachers were released. So, a friend of mine and I—Peter Martin, he’s now a big developer on Maui, were up at USIU, which is United States International University. And so, we were at the site taking a class, and the head of USIU asked me if I ever considered working with the university. Because they were trying an experimental school, where they were taking high school sophomores, kids after their sophomore year, they were trying to put them in the university. And I also met Dr. Melrose’s wife, who was the head of Seabury, and she asked me if I would consider working at Seabury. But I decided that wasn’t the route for me. I wanted to go back to the public school.




I’ve always been a strong believer in the public school. I’ve always felt that, you know, public schools is where I grew, and I felt that we need teachers in public schools just as much as any place else. And I just, I guess, felt there were certain other benefits that I like about teaching in the public school and working for the State. One was, I knew the retirement system was much better. But at that time, I don’t know why; I just felt like, Okay, I’m going back to public schools.


After one year at Baldwin High School, Ginoza was hired as chemistry teacher at Maui High School, where he wou ld work for the rest of his career, and pick up awards for his teaching. Ginoza firmly believes that being a great educator means helping students in the classroom, and beyond.


Teaching is really almost a creative art that most people don’t realize. You can’t just throw a subject matter at kids. You can’t just stand in front of a class and expect them to love you, or whatever. You have to have, you know, experiences, and you need stories.


So, you need to build a bond.


You need to build a bond. Right; right. And it’s a bond and it’s a trust issue. You need to get the trust of the kids, but you have to develop a relationship with the kids. And this is where I say that most of the relationships I developed, or a lot of it, was after school hours. Like in the 70s, I would take the kids and started a science club, and we’d take the kids hiking all over the island. We actually even went to the Big Island one year. And we would always go through the Haleakala Crater. And what the kids remember is those trips that we took.


So, you you bonded over activities that had to do with—


And classes, too. Because I would keep my room open so the kids would eat lunch there, and they would play chess, or they would ask for homework help. And I actually had classes like on Tuesday nights when I was teaching AP. So, the kids would come. But it was also very social.


That means a lot from you, taking time off from your days off, and taking them to do things, having classes open.


Yeah, it was.


When other teachers might have had some quiet time.


Yeah; most teachers went into the lunchroom, or had quiet time. But I found out, hey, you know, the kids need help, I’ll be there. I gave up my prep period every day after school to work with the kids. Which meant that I would have to do my prep at night, so it was always ten o’clock at night before I’d quit. And weekends, I would be working on their papers. But I also did certain things, I think, that were really powerful. And one of the things I did early on was, when kids took exams, I would always have the results for them the next day, even when I went on a trip.


During the time of mainstreaming, you had a science class, and one of your students was blind.


Yes; I got him when he was a freshman. And I was really very reluctant, because I had to completely change the way I taught the course. And maybe it was good, because now, I had to prepare everything three weeks in advance.


Oh, preparation again.


Yeah; it was. And it forced me to prepare three weeks in advance. Because any written material would have to be first brailed.


Oh …


And I told you about, you know, how his previous teacher had treated him.


How was that?


She would explain something, and then point to the board, not realizing that he was blind. And she had no regard for how he felt. And he was kind of quiet, but that happens a lot with kids. You know, even if they don’t understand, they remain quiet. But then, later on, it would come up. And so, I made sure that everything I said was not only on the board, but I had to verbally give instructions, I had to verbally explain how to do things that would normally require … easiest way to do it is put it on the board. But for example, I remember trying to teach him what they call dimensional analysis. Dimensional analysis is nothing more than doing conversions either from centimeters to millimeters, to inches, or cups to quarts, to gallons. But I had a specific way that I wanted them to do the work. And at first, he had a little difficulty, but the instructions finally took hold. Because one day, he said he was on the bus going home, and he said, I understand how it’s done. Then when he graduated, he came to see me and said, Mr. Ginoza, thank you very much. He said, You made science crystal clear, and I could actually see the universe.


The achievements of Ed Ginoza’s students in science caught the attention of recruiters from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


1971, 72, when I had my first student going to MIT, there were very few people that were going into MIT. And I just so happened to get the recruiter, who was the past president of the MIT Foundation that ran the place. And he told me; he said what we did at Maui High was very, very unusual. Because at that time, they didn’t look at the applicants from Hawaiʻi as, you know, like a primary recruiting area.


But Maui High stuck out on the list?


Maui High stuck out on the list, to the point where my principal came back, and one of my principals said people in Oahu were talking about how we had the key to the back door at MIT, because we started putting kids in on a regular basis.


You said your kids nominated you for Teacher of the Year in 1988, which you won. What did they say about you? Did they say, Whoa, he’s really rough, but he’ll give you a fair shake?


Yeah. Interesting, because yeah, I was considered as a real tough teacher. But apparently, you know, the impact that I had on them was interesting. I wish I had brought my little book with me that one year after I got that, then the kids had a luncheon in Koho’s, a restaurant Downtown, and they invited me. And all the kids were there, and they presented me with a thank-you book.


Why did you win Teacher of the Year? What was it?


Actually … the kids recommended me. I mean, my students; it was actually the students that decided what teacher they were gonna put for Teacher of the Year. And actually, I got put in twice. In ’87, I went for district; I didn’t picked. Then actually in ’87, I got picked. ’86, I didn’t get picked. But I found out why I didn’t get it in ’86. Because my essay was a little bit too negative.


About what? About the DOE, perhaps?


Yeah, it was about the DOE. I said that it’s unfair for kids to leave in all these classes because of student activities. So, when I got picked again in ’87, then I decided, okay, that didn’t go over too well, so I wrote another essay on a more positive side.


Political adventure there.


Yeah; you know, it’s how you approach. You know, I learned from that first experience that, don’t be negative.


Can you tell when you’re helping kid, that this is going to mean something to them? Or is it not clear at the time whether it’s taking sometimes?


That’s the interesting part. You can tell not by what they say, because a lot of times, the kids will look at you and say, Yeah, yeah, I understand. But you know if it’s not taking hold. I know when it’s not taking hold, so I have to take a different approach to it.


So, at some point, can you see a little light bulb go off?


Oh, yes.


Can you actually see that?


Oh, yes.


You’ve had some students go on to some terrific science positions. Can you recall any of them for me right now?


Yeah; the one I remember, the one that always fascinated me was, I had this girl when she was a junior and senior. And I had taught her, again, dimensional analysis, which is a very powerful tool in teaching physics and chemistry. And she went on to the University. She wasn’t very confident that she could handle engineering. But she wrote back to me and she said, I went to the University, I took chemistry, and I maxed the first exam. And then, she said from there, she went on to Stanford for her master’s in electrical engineering, and she wrote to me from Intel.


Ed Ginoza retired in the year 2000, but he continues to share his passion with students. As a Hawaii Science Bowl coach, Ginoza mentors Maui High School students who are vigorous contenders and high performers at the competitions.


There’s so much time and effort put into that. What does it mean to the students who participate?


For them to participate, and the ones who really take it seriously, it really builds their backgrounds. It really solidifies their background. And the one thing sometimes that I don’t mention is that I actually have them doing the teaching.


They teach themselves?


No. You know, when you teach the kids, some kids are gonna progress much faster than others; right? And like right now, I’ve got a procedure where if one kid is answering all the questions, then I hand him the questions, and he runs the session. Like for example, I have one kid doing it right now, and he’s using the techniques that I taught him. So, they become the teacher. And the interesting part is, these kids come back, and they love to teach. The graduates a lot of times will come back and help me with the math, or whatever. Like, I have kids from MIT coming back and actually doing the teaching; they will teach them some advanced stuff.


You’re not getting paid for it; right?




And it’s not part of school credit, so it’s a labor of love, but it’s also very hard to make it happen.


Yeah; and we’re having actually our twenty-fifth anniversary. But I think sometimes, you know, we look at reward by monetary means. But I felt that there’s things that I did that money can’t buy, because of the success of the kids. I mean, you can’t buy that type of gratification that you get. Money doesn’t … yeah, it would be nice to get paid. People always ask me, Why do you do it? You’re not getting paid for that? And you know, I say, everything’s not about money. I mean financially, I guess, I’m set, so it’s not a problem too. Yeah.


But being a math guy, have you ever computed how many hours you’ve spent training Science Bowl competitors?


I have.


Okay. So, what’s the deal? How much money would you have made if you got paid?


I have never figured out how much money I would be paid.


So, how many hours?


Well, you can figure at least two hours every day, minimum. And not counting prep time, vacations. We go summer, we go Christmas vacation, we go Easter breaks. I don’t know; maybe five, six hundred hours, maybe more. Twenty-something years of doing that.


You mean, not five hundred per year?


Oh, yes; per year.


Five, six hundred per year, times decades.


Pretty close to that; yeah. Maybe not quite five hundred. Yeah, I would say maybe four hundred.


Wow. And it was worth it; it’s all been worth it?


It’s all been worth it.


What about when Punahou beats you?


I’m not too happy.


Well, you beat Kalani, my alma mater.


Well, we beat Kalani, we beat Punahou, we beat ʻIolani. Yeah. ʻIolani’s not too happy when we beat them. And since 2002, we’ve taken six science bowls, so you can figure that we’ve probably won as many as the private schools. You know, any private school.


Makes you feel good to say that, doesn’t it?


Yeah, it does.


Ed Ginoza met his wife in a college physics class. They raised two daughters. And at the time of our conversation in 2016, they’d been married for fifty-one years. Mahalo to Ed Ginoza of Kihei, Maui for sharing your story with us. And thank you, for joining us. For PBS Hawaiʻi and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, a hui hou.


For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes store, or visit


There must be something about having taught on an island for so many years, and then you see not only your students, but your students’ kids, and their kids, and relatives. I mean, what’s that like?


I found it to be actually kinda nice. I had an optometrist, and he gave me a free pair of glasses. He lost the bill. Sometimes, I see one of the students I had in high school who I was very close to, and she’s a pharmacist at Kaiser. So, it’s kinda nice in a way, because when you do a good job, the kids also respond in a like manner.




Episode #802


Students from Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy in Waimea on Hawai‘i Island tell the amazing story of their school’s “Come Fly With Me” program that teaches middle school students how to pilot actual helicopters. The program takes students from classroom instruction (where they learn about the different parts of a helicopter and what they do) to actual flight-time. From the experience, students learn the value of remaining calm under pressure and how to think on their feet. The program is also used to get students to think about aviation as a possible career path.


–A student from Wai‘anae High School in West O‘ahu tells the very personal story of how her father, who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident, copes with intense pain every day.


–Students from Seabury Hall Middle School on Maui feature a local teacher/writer who brings Hawai‘i’s plantation days back to life on the printed page.


–Students at Hawaii Technology Academy on O‘ahu demonstrate how to tie a bow-tie and, as a result, add some flair to one’s wardrobe.


–Students at Ke Kula Niihau O Kekaha Public Charter School on Kaua‘i tell us of their school’s special relationship with Saint Thomas University in Minnesota. And students from Hawaii Mission Academy on O‘ahu introduce us to the grandson of one of the most beloved Hawaiian cultural icons of all time: Mary Kawena Pukui.


This program encores Saturday, Nov. 26 at 12:00 pm and Sunday, Nov. 27 at 3:00 pm. You can also view HIKI NŌ episodes on our website,


James Kauahikaua


James Kauahikaua has witnessed some of the planet’s most awe-inspiring spectacles as a geophysicist at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory on Hawai‘i Island. While his research frequently leads him dangerously close to molten hot magma, a dire cancer diagnosis may have been his most humbling encounter yet.


This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, Sept. 81 at 4:00 pm.


Download the Transcript




I always liked puzzles, figuring out how things worked, why they worked, and I like the outdoors. Although, I was encouraged by my parents to do things like collections. You know, stamp collections and coin collections, and things. I tried to collect rocks for a while, but that got kind of boring in Hawai‘i, because there are not that many different kinds of rocks. And at that time, if you bought a book that identified rocks, they were all mainland rocks, and maybe one would be a basalt from the volcano. And you say, Ah, that’s what we have.


You might say James Kauahikaua’s passion for collecting things as a kid became a foundation for his profession. Today, he gathers data about Hawai‘i’s volcanos. Volcanologist and cancer survivor, James Kauahikaua, next, on Long Story Short.


Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawai‘i’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.


Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Hawai‘i is home to some of the largest and most active volcanos on earth, and Hilo resident James Kauahikaua is close to the action. Kauahikaua, who studied geology and geophysics, works for the U.S. Geological Survey at the Hawai‘i Volcano Observatory, which monitors Hawai‘i two most active volcanos, Kilauea with its Puu Oo eruption going strong since January 1983, and Mauna Loa, as well as two less active volcanos, Hualalai and Maui’s Haleakala. More than three decades after he started studying lava flows and eruptions, Kauahikaua is still fascinated by what he gets to do for a living. A Big Islander for many years, Kauahikaua grew up on Oahu in the Windward community of Kailua.


What was Kailua like then, as compared to the bustling metropolis it seems to be now?


Yeah; I don’t remember a whole lot about it, except from photos my parents had. And like all new neighborhoods, there was no vegetation, no hedges, no trees or anything. There were just these tract houses. We lived in Kuulei Tract, which is right around what is now, I think, Kailua Intermediate School. And we were a block and a half from the beach or so when I was old enough, we could do that.


Why did your parents pick Kailua? Was there a family connection to that area?


No. It was, I think, just new. My parents, when they were married, I think they lived in Nuuanu. And they moved after I was born, but it was like the first year. But I think it was just a new area opening up, you know, they decided to take the plunge, and maybe they could buy a house. The Kuulei Tract, I think, started in 1950 or ’51, and I was born in 1951.


What kind of Hawaiian background did your family employ? What was that like for you? Did you have a Hawaiian household? You’re of multiple ethnicities.


Right. I’m German from my mom’s side, and Hawaiian-Chinese from my dad’s side. And I’ve thought about that a lot. I think we had basically, your basic suburban household that just happened to have multiple ethnicities. About the only Hawaiian culture thing was, we’d go visit my grandfather out in Haleiwa every couple of weeks, maybe. Long drive, or course, at that time. And, you know, many of my uncles and other cousins would be around, and that was actually pretty interesting. The luau’s, you know, you’d get all the really good stuff, the opihi and many, many delicacies. But yeah, I was never steeped in culture. I never joined a halau, I never felt the need or the desire to join a halau. But I’ve always been fascinated at that field. And so, I kind of think of myself, I guess, as an academic Hawaiian. I love to learn all about what Hawai‘i was like in the 19th century and before, ‘cause that explains a great deal of how we got where we are, I think.


James Kauahikaua was glad for the chance to be exposed more to the Hawaiian culture when he transferred in the seventh grade to the Kamehameha Schools in Kapalama. But when he reached high school in the late 1960s, he found himself at odds with a different kind of culture on campus, the ROTC military environment, and strict requirements for boys.


At the time, I think they had just gone co-ed in high school. But for the boys, there was still mandatory ROTC. So, we all had to wear uniforms every day, had to parades couple times a year. And it was a military institute, they were very proud to say. We had to wear these little red pins that said it was a military institute. It was not just like your regular ROTC. I guess it’s because we had to wear the uniforms, and we had to always be in uniform, you had to had to polish all your brass, had to keep your hair—you know, all that sort of stuff. Polish your shoes. None of those things interested me, and I was not good at any of them. And so, throughout my four years in high school at Kamehameha, I was never even probably considered for promotion once. You know, it’s like the military; you get to be a corporal, then sergeant, or whatever. And I just stayed a buck private the entire time. But you also got demerits if you didn’t polish your brass, or you didn’t wear your hat outside, or you wore your hat indoors. You know, all breaking rules. And I got a lot of demerits.


Were you trying to, or were you just hapless?


Hapless would be a kind word for it.


But were you trying to get into trouble? Were you making a statement?


No; it wasn’t important to me.


But you weren’t used to suffering consequences. You’d been a good student, and a good kid.


Yeah. No; academically, I was good. But at that time … in fact, I think they called my parents in a couple times, ‘cause I was doing so poorly on the military end that I could have been kicked out. But I wasn’t. But for every demerit that I got, I had to march around the ball field for twenty-five minutes after school. And so, ultimately, I couldn’t do anything else after school.


‘Cause you were busy doing your—


I couldn’t join sports or anything.


You were serving your sentence.


I think you could march four of them an afternoon, so only two hours’ worth, you know.


So, I don’t understand. So, after you’d done that a few times, wouldn’t you stop getting the demerits? Wouldn’t you say, I’d better, you know, polish my brass, or … no?


It just wasn’t that important. That’s all I can say.


Despite all of those demerits, James Kauahikaua graduated from the Kamehameha Schools with good grades. He went on to college at the University of Southern California, and later Pomona College, where he majored in geology. He moved back home to Hawai‘i to earn his master’s degree and doctoral degree.


Geologists look at what’s on the surface, and infer what’s happening at depth from that. And geophysicists can do a bit better than that in terms of determining what’s under the surface. So, I decided to do that. When I went to graduate school, I went as a geophysicist.


So, you’re closing in now on volcanoes. How did you close that gap?


So, I went to school as a geophysicist at UH Manoa at a time when you had to get a master’s first, and then a PhD. And so, I got a master’s working on this big project called The Hawai‘i Geothermal Project. Their goal was to try to discover likely resource areas within the state, and one of the ways we were doing that was with electrical geophysical techniques. So, we did that mostly on the Big Island, but some on Maui and Oahu. That got me interested in that, and then when I finished my master’s, I was offered a minority internship with the U.S. Geological Survey. And that’s at the time when they were still doing affirmative action through hires. And so, I worked with them in Denver in a group that was doing electromagnetic studies. They were working out methods to use the techniques and all that.


So, did you have trouble catching on there at first?


No, actually. I just came in at a time with a set of skills that was what they needed at that time, you know, being interested in electromagnetic methods of detection of subsurface. And at that time, they were studying how the lava lake in Kilauea Iki was cooling. It erupted in fountains in 1959, and it filled up an old crater, so there was quite a good thickness of molten lava that was just sitting there and cooling. And so, electromagnetically, we could watch it shrink, sort of guide drill holes into the lava to take samples and things. And because I’d had that computer background from college, I was able to write computer programs that were able to interpret that data in a way that hadn’t been done before. So, it was just a good fit. I was very lucky.


A few years later, James Kauahikaua was hired as a staff scientist at the Hawai‘i Volcano Observatory at Kilauea on Hawai‘i Island. As a volcanologist, he studies past and present eruptions and flows, mostly on Kilauea, where an amazing bountiful eruption has been sending out lava since 1983. Kauahikaua’s job sometimes puts him dangerously close to the molten flow.


Often, we want to get pretty close so we can, you know, say, measure the velocity or something, the speed at which the lava is flowing in the tube.   And you never do that by yourself. You always have somebody around watching you, making sure you don’t slip or, you know, something.


You’ve seen in the field those fountain domes. I’ve only see pictures of them. What is that like?


They’re quite loud, actually. They’re coming out under gas pressure. And I think the one I’ve worked closest with is when Puu Oo was sort of split on one side, and there was lava coming out in fairly large amounts. But it was all confined, you know, where it was very clear it was downhill at that point, so we could watch it at a fairly close distance and make measurements. There was another time where the whole lava supply kinda stopped for a while, but then, it abruptly started again, and lava came back into this tube. And it came back in, in such a large amount that lava was coming out of the skylight in a very nice dome fountain. And so, once we got back out there, the dome fountain was going, it was clearly a much larger amount of lava going through there than before. So, I had to measure it. So, I got up there right at the edge of the fountain. Itt was upslope of the fountain, so everything was flowing away from me, and I was able to get that number, and it turned out to be some incredible amount, like eight or ten times what it had been before the lava supply had shut off. And you know, it eventually, died off within a few hours. But that was incredible. That was very noisy, the ground was vibrating the whole time.


What are some of the stories you have of being out there with those fiery elements?


Before I became scientist in charge, one of my specific projects was trying to understand lava tubes, how the conduit forms within a flow, and then how that evolved. And so, I would spend a lot of time around skylights, places that collapsed into the lava tubes. You can watch the lava flowing in there. It flows pretty fast, sometimes few tens of miles per hour, depending on the size of the tube. But it’s very quiet. And there was one time I wanted to make observations over three days, three days and nights. And so, I was out there with the bats at night, and it was just so quiet. It was sort of like watching paint flow, you know, ‘cause it’s slightly viscous. But it was just really quiet, but obviously, very hot. Beautiful; just incredibly beautiful. And at other times, you’re in a position around, say, an aa flow or something, where you do need to pay attention to what it’s doing very carefully, ‘cause you want to be making some measurements close to it, but you have to figure out what the lava flow is going to do before, you know, while you’re up there.


And you’re out there alone?


Well, I’m out there alone sometimes. But usually, I try to have somebody else there.


Is there any downplaying how dangerous this is?


It’s dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. And you wouldn’t walk up to any of these flows if you didn’t know something about what they’re gonna do.


So, while there certainly are hazards that come with being a volcanologist, James Kauahikaua’s scariest moments in life have had nothing to do with his job.


One morning, after I’d been up to Mauna Loa, I woke up, and all of a sudden, I had double vision. And so, you know, obviously, I went to see a doctor. But in the meantime, I still had to do my job, and so, I had to drive around for a while an eye patch on, like a pirate, you know, so I only got one eye and see one image. And it took a while. I saw a couple of doctors, got an MRI of my head, and all that sort of stuff. And after a few misdiagnoses, in January of 2003, I was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer. There was a tumor just under the brain, behind the nasopharynx, which is how your nose connects with your throat. I had a lot of support of one or two neighbors who were doctors were, you know, kind of advising us. ‘Cause you’re getting a cancer diagnosis, you’re immediately overwhelmed. It’s scary, you don’t know exactly what to do, what’s the best thing to do first, and all this. And there were a lot of people that really helped us out. And so, almost immediately, started chemo and radiation.


What stage was the cancer in at that point?


It was uh, 4A. It had …


Advanced; it was advanced.


It had metastasized, but way in the like, neck area, I think. So, there was still hope. I fortunately got to see Dr. Clayton Chong, who’s also a Kamehameha graduate, and John Lederer, who’s a radiologist, and they prescribed … well, the chemo almost killed me, as Dr. Chong likes to laugh about.


So anyway, they did I don’t know how many chemo treatments and forty or fifty radiation treatments, and they finally licked it. I’m in remission. I’ve been remission since late 2003. And you know, my chances even then were pretty good to last for five years, but now, it’s been, you know, eleven, twelve years, and I’m still feeling pretty good. I don’t get checked nearly as often, which is kind of nice. But you never get rid of it, as Dr. Lederer told me. I asked him one time, Well, how do I know, you know, when I’m over cancer, when I’m done with cancer? He said, Well, you’ll know for sure when you die of something else.


Scientists have a way of saying things.


Oh, that’s really positive.


Did it do some damage in your body? The cancer.


Well, the cancer didn’t, but the treatment did. It damaged my hearing, my hearing nerve. It wasn’t obvious. They told me it was gonna happen. And it wasn’t obvious at first, you know, the first six or seven years. But then, I slowly did start to lose my hearing. And so, at this point, I have to wear hearing aids, and even then, it’s a pretty profound hearing loss in the higher frequency. So, when I’m talking to somebody, I have to watch their lips to get the consonants. ‘Cause like S and F sounds the same. Even when I say it, it sounds the same. But you know, I’m alive, I survived, I’m happy. I just can’t hear very well.


After getting past cancer, James Kauahikaua applied for the top job at the Volcano Observatory. He became Scientist In Charge in 2004. During nearly eleven years of management before stepping back to refocus on his research, Kauahikaua installed a lot more technology, including webcams that show flows and eruptions in real time. He also improved communication with the community, and was the go-to guy for timely updates when the Big Island town of Pahoa was threatened by a long traveling lava flow in 2014 and 2015.


You were called on to predict when it would stop.


You know, I’ve been through enough of these things that, you know, I realize that we’re limited. We can say a lot about what the lava flow’s gonna do, or you know, the possible consequences and things. But there’s just a limit to it; we can’t answer everybody’s questions. There were people that would come up to us and say, Well, you know, I was planning to go to California in two weeks, and I live right here; should I go?


You know, we can provide you the information so you can make the decision, but … you know. And we made an attempt to sort of forecast how fast the lava would get to the highway, say. But every time we did that, we would be wrong. And we would be wrong in the public’s eyes, which was very important. The way we would say it is, If the lava flow kept advancing at this rate, it would be at the highway in seven days, or whatever. And all they would remember is, it’ll be at the highway in seven days. And that didn’t happen, therefore, we were wrong. But the statement was accurate. And so, we didn’t communicate that properly, I think. But I’m not sure how we’re gonna do better the next time.


I remember there were people saying, You’ve gotta build some kind of barrier, you’ve gotta stop this thing. And others were saying, No, you can’t stop the flow, because it’ll have other repercussions. Where were you on that?


We did provide a lot of background, ‘cause that’s one of our functions. Hawai‘i actually has a fairly long history of diversion attempts. None of them have been hugely successful. So, you know, we can kinda look at that and say, Well, we don’t want to do that, or do anything else. One of the factors, I think, that went into it was the fact that this eruption had been going on for thirty-three years, thirty-two years at that point. And so, if we divert this flow, this eruption’s not gonna stop, it’s gonna continue. And so, does that change the way the government then looks at it? What about the next flow? Does that mean that kinda guarantee we’re gonna have to divert that? Or you know, I’m guessing that from the County government’s point of view, the question of investment or whatever, you know, what is it gonna cost, is it really gonna be effective? And ultimately, I think the whole thing was decided by a statement from the Mayor, and he said that he wasn’t gonna make any decisions until it was very clear what the outcome would be. And you know, that’s something we can again go back to history and say what has been done in the past, but nobody can be sure of what the outcome would be.


Why has that flow been going for more than thirty years?


That’s a very good question.


You don’t know the answer?


No. It’s been going long enough that the people that I started working have retired, and that’s been their whole career. And in that time, we’ve all guessed. Well, you know, we’ve made guesses about what’s going to shut the eruption off. Could it be a big earthquake, you know, shifts the plumbing around, and kind of cuts the magma supply off. Any number of things. And all of those things have happened, and there’s just been no effect. You know, we’ve had several larger earthquakes, magnitude five and six, and … nothing.


I always feel that everyone in Hawai‘i who can, should go look at it, because you know, even though it’s been going for so very long, many people haven’t made it out there. And it’s something that you may never see again.


Oh, absolutely.


For those of us lay people.


I agree, totally. You know, that’s how our islands were formed, it’s a rare thing to be able to see. And access isn’t great right at the moment, but it has been really excellent in the past. And just to see the glow from the summit vent now, the one that opened in 2008, I see that every morning as I drive in. It’s incredible. This is from a lava lake that’s, you know, glowing so much and putting out so much gas, that you know, you can see that it’s lit up by a lava light. You know, how incredible is that?


What have you learned in your studies about what’s happening with volcanic activity in Hawai‘i now, and what the prospects are for future activity?


It looks like Kilauea goes through centuries of explosive activity, and then centuries of effusive activity. And within the explosive centuries, there may be a few lava flows; within the lava flow centuries there might be a few explosions. But in general. And so, when you realize that, and you think that maybe Hawaiian volcanoes in general do this, not just Kilauea, but Kilauea is important because there’s so much right on and near the summit of Kilauea that it’s possible, and it’s certainly likely that at some point, Kilauea will go back into being an explosive volcano. Which has big ramifications for our building and the Parks Service, and the people that live close by. So, you know, if you’d asked me that question, say, fifty years ago, I would have just talked about the possibility of future lava flows impacting communities and things. And now, there’s this possibility of a resumption of explosive activity. And these are fairly large explosions. It would probably affect air traffic, at least into the Big Island, if not into Honolulu too, because it would throw up ash and things much higher than the volcanoes themselves. They’d be troublesome.


James Kauahikaua stepped down as Scientist In Charge in 2015. At the time of our conversation in 2016, he’s at the Observatory doing research, which he says he enjoys a lot more than managing. And he likes to volunteer, sharing the wonder of volcanos with Hawaiian children in the enrichment program, Na Pua Noeau. Mahalo to volcanologist and cancer survivor, James Kauahikaua of Hilo for sharing your story with us. And thank you, for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, hui hou.


For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit


You know, sometimes, you don’t know how important somebody is in your life, until much later. As you look back, who’s been the most influential in your life? People.


I would be remiss not to mention my wife, Jeri Gertz. She’s very much a people person, always looking for fun things to do and stuff, which I can’t say is my strong suit.


So, we make a good team, I think. But she inspires me every day.


How does she inspire you?


By being happy, you know, and finding the good things in everything.




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