13-Sep-2002 -- Flight to North 21° West 157°:
All 12 confluences in Hawai`i [ha wai’ ee]* are located in the ocean. Except for the confluence near the remote island of Ni`ihau [nee ee hau’], the confluence N21° W157° is the closest to shore and is located in the Kalohi [kah loh’ hee] Channel between the islands of Moloka`i [moh’ loh kah’ ee] and Lâna`i [LAH’ nah ee]. Being a pilot, I chose to go to this confluence in a light plane. Having never flown in Hawai`i before, I found two other pilots to join me: my father (Bill Varner) and a local flight instructor (Gary Layne).
We rented a single engine Cessna 172 from Eveland Aero and departed Honolulu [hoh’ noh loo’ loo] International airport on the island of O`ahu [oh ah’ hoo] at 1:00 pm on 13th of September 2002. Air traffic control assigned us a southerly departure over the City of Honolulu along the H1 Freeway. We passed just to the north of Diamond Head crater as we turned east on the first leg of our flight to the confluence. Between O`ahu and Moloka`i is the 26-mile Kaiwi [kai’ wee] Channel. Crossing over the channel at an altitude of 3500 ft, we came to the northwestern coast of Moloka`i. Along this coast, the shear cliffs drop 400 to 500 ft into the ocean below. On the east end of Moloka`i, the mountains rise from the ocean to an altitude of nearly 5000 ft. Halfway along the island’s north shore is the unusual Kalaupapa [kah lau’ pah pah] isthmus. It is unusual because of its heritage as a leper colony and the fact that it is a large flat plain that has no road access to the rest of Moloka`i.
After flying 30 miles along the north shore of Moloka`i, we curved around Cape Hâlawa [HAH’ lah vah] and started across the Pailolo [pai loh’ loh] Channel separating Moloka`i from Maui [mau’ (w)ee]. At this point, I was feeling confident in my ability to fly a plane across miles of open ocean. However, the lifevest around my waist reminded me that the Pailolo must have been quite a challenge for the early Hawaiians in wooden canoes.
After refueling the aircraft at Maui’s winning airport – Kahului [Kah hoo lui’] – it was apparent that a deviation from my flight plan was required. Flying south to Mc Gregor Point was considerably easier than flying over the pu`u [poo oo'] called Kukui [koo kui]. A pu`u is a hill. Kakui is nearly 6000 ft high and was covered with clouds. By the south route, we came to the `Au`au [ow ow] Channel – a 15 mile stretch of ocean between Mc Gregor Point on Maui and Kamaiki [kah mai’ kee] Point on Lâna`i. This shallow channel is part of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Though Gary saw a whale, he could not confirm that animal had come to `au`au (bathe). Continuing on, we passed steep cliffs along the south shore of Lâna`i. After a practice landing at Lâna`i airport, we were finally on course for the N21º W157º confluence in the bright and sparkling Kalohi channel.
Our aircraft was equipped with a GPS navigation receiver. The panel of this receiver showed the N21° W157° coordinates of the confluence as a user (USR) defined waypoint called CONF. Beneath the coordinates, the panel also showed the bearing and distance (in nautical miles) to the CONF waypoint. The resolution of the display for the receiver is 0.1 nautical miles (nm) – meaning that the displayed position is within +/- 85 m of the true position in WGS-84 coordinates.
As we passed the waypoint, we entered a right hand circling pattern for a second pass. On our first pass, we flew within 85 m of the confluence. On the second pass, the display showed '0.1 nm' at our point of closest approach -- meaning that we flew within 170 m (+/- 85 m). The picture of the receiver on the picture called 'Cessna 172 Flight' was taken at the point of closest approach on our second pass. The best pictures of the confluence were taken while on an Aloha Airlines Boeing 737 flying from Honolulu to Kona [Koh nah] at approximately 22,000 ft on the 16th of September. This visit only counts as an 'attempt', primarily because of the Aerial Disqualification clause (FAQ #1.7). The Kalohi channel is 360 ft deep at the confluence, so a successful visit is best done with a boat.
Leaving the confluence, we continued North for some practice landings at Moloka`i and Kalaupapa airports. Finally we reversed our course across the Kaiwi and arrived back in Honolulu at 4:30 pm.
*Hawaiian Pronunciation Note: Dual vowels form a diphthong. 'ai' [eye] is a diphthong formed from the two vowels 'a' [ah] and 'i' [ee]. More information on the Hawaiian language and its pronunciation can be found at the website: www.hawaiianlanguage.com.