In commemoration of Jose: a night atop Haleakala

August 2nd, 2011  

For Jose: Spending the night in a car at the summit of Haleakala (13:40 min)

(Click here to go directly to the clip on YouTube)


Reporting July 29, 2011, at sunset, faintly over tremendous wind noise, Ursula Bennett (TURTLE TRAX and “The Book of Honu”):

There it is!


Sunset, in the car, Ursula:

We got a little bit of that sunset and then we had to run back in the car. And the question is whether to stay the night, it is really cold.

And not only that, that wasn’t rain. That was almost like, uh—

Peter Bennett (TURTLE TRAX and “The Book of Honu”):



Sleet, yeah.


A little after sunset in the car, Ursula:

It is July 29th, 2011. There’s Haleakala there. It’s completely dark. And we’re the only ones here.

I’m at the stage where I would like to go back. I don’t especially— I’m getting a little bit…

It’s kind of wintry and can’t see anything. Kind of, I know I can see where the edge of the summit is there. The sun set over in that direction. But I can’t imagine us seeing stars today.

And the plan was to at least have Peter get a really good photograph of the night sky. But you can’t set up a tripod in this.


Approximately 8:15 PM, Ursula:

It is July 29th, 2011. It’s, I don’t know, maybe around 8:15 maybe.


Something like that.


Something like that.

We’re here to spend the night. Haleakala. And you can kind of hear the wind. And I can open the door and you can actually hear what it sounds like. But we’re actually going to spend the night.


Later, in the fog, Ursula:

…and looking out and I don’t see any stars. So that means we are in fog. See that?


Ho yeah.


Still  very much in fog. That’s not— our window is not cloudy, it’s fog.

But! We do see stars. The stars are out again. See them, Peter?


Oh. My goodness.


Oh, wow!

[Audio affected by car fan noise.]

10:15 PM, camera on dash aimed at us, Ursula:

It is July 29th, 2011 and we’re here atop Haleakala. And we decided to spend the night.

And I guess it’s maybe what— 10:30 now?




Quarter after 10.

And we Googled, or at least I Googled to see how one goes about spending the night in a car atop the summit of Haleakala. And there really wasn’t anybody who wrote anything about it.

And I can kind of see why— aside from the odd truck or something that goes by, there is nobody else, it’s just us here.

And it’s a wonderful experience. When we turn off the lights we can see—  a kind of shrouded right now in fog. And every once in a while, the stars come out. And they are outrageous.

Over here would be the Big Dipper, sort of setting, down by the summit there. And over on this side is Maui’s Fish hook and we’ve been trying to get some pictures.

We came up here because we want to honour a dear friend —Peter’s very, very close friend. And this was the best way we thought of doing it, just to be up here. Just spending the night.

And I just want to say that if there are people who do want to spend the night at the top of Haleakala, it’s comfortable enough. Just make sure you’re dressed warmly.

And in our case, we’ve got a blanket here and then on top of it, a comforter. And it’s quite pleasant and we’re going to, we saw, we came up here just in time to see the sun set. And we’re going to spend the night and then also see the sun rise.

And it’s quite an experience, it really is.

At the beginning when it started to get dark, a part of me wanted to leave and I have to thank Peter for staying and saying, no, let’s stay a while longer. And the “while longer” stayed until —it’s such a fantastic experience that I want to spend the whole time.

So, you know, it’s possible —we’re both in our 60’s. I’m 62, 63, I forget, 63 and Peter?


64. 64 next month.


So, 64 next month, so, you know, not a problem. In the meantime this is about the only place to be on Maui for thinking about— the loss of a really special person.

Certainly for me, he was the most brilliant person I ever met. No offense to you, Peter.




So, anyway, going to conserve the energy here. By the way— there we go.


1:37 AM July 30, Ursula:

It is 1:37 am. This would be July 30th, 2011. We’re here at Haleakala, the summit. And outside are the most amazing stars. And Peter’s setting up a new battery here. So he can take some more pictures.

And we’d fallen asleep for a while and I woke up because it was cold.

And turned out that when we started the heater for a bit, the— this all became clear. And there was just stars. And we thought that there was only fog. And that’s I guess we fogged up the inside of the— yeah, you can see it right, well, maybe you can’t but—

We’d fogged up the car.

You ready to go?


I think so.




1:38 AM, Ursula:

Anyway, just—  it’s 1:38. We’re here at Haleakala, the summit. We slept for a bit. We got cold and we decided to turn the car back on. And it’s nice and comfy right now.

And I just want to report— 1:39 am, it’s beautiful. So. It’s worth it.

Just need to be prepared, that’s all.

Turning camera off.


Near dawn, July 30, 2011, moved from the summit to the visitor center of Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii, Ursula:

It is the July 30, 2011 and we’ve made it through an entire night at Haleakala in our car. And there’s the east. Sun rise. Very obvious now in the camera.

And just above that band of light you can still see Orion. Although that star on the lower right there is gone. But you can still make out—  still make out one, two, three, four, five, six, seven stars there.

And people coming and taking a look.


Wow, some of these people just aren’t really dressed for this. Some are wrapped in blankets. But I’m telling you, even in the car, it’s cold. And we’ve got a blanket and a comforter.

And that looks like the first park ranger there— coming.


He’s been around before.


Has he?


Oh yes.



I want to record right now, this being dawn, that we went up  here to honour Jose. July 30th, 2011. Spent the night on Haleakala.

And at sunset I said the Lord’s Prayer and then, I woke up several times and there always just seemed to be cloud. Fog.

[CROSS DISSOLVE to Peter’s photograph of Milky Way galaxy]

And then at one point Peter woke up and said wait a second, there’s stars out, turn on the car.  And once I turned on the car the inside was all foggy. And once the windshield cleared, there were stars everywhere.

Dedicated to Jose, Peter's photograph of the Milky Way galaxy taken atop Haleakala summit (August 1, 2011 1:55 am)

And we managed to get pictures of the Milky Way and all kinds of things. And it was at that point I said the second Lord’s Prayer.

And when I saw the narrowest band of light right there, I said the third one.


5:31 AM, dawn, Ursula:

Time right now, is 5:31 and we’ve already seen dawn. And cars are still coming. But we’ve survived [sic] a night on Haleakala. We showed up just before sunset. Saw the most amazing stars. And now we’re at dawn of a new day. And—

[Peter sighs. DIP TO BLACK]

After dawn, Ursula:

I have to say that at one point we went, around 2 o’clock, wouldn’t you say? We shifted from the summit to right here at the Haleakala crater visitor center.

And as we were driving we noticed that there was one, a van, wasn’t there? At the, at the summit. And we passed somebody else in an SUV tucked along the side of the road.

So there were at least two other cars that had spent the night.

So people do it.


After dawn, Ursula:

And what I’ll do is I’m going to brave putting down this window for a second. Oh my! It’s not nearly as cold as I thought!


There they are. I give these people credit.

[wind gusts]

Window up! Window up! Window up! Window up!


Approximately 5:40 AM, Ursula:

You know I’m surprised that even though we were there the whole night, nobody from the Park Service stopped by to check in on us. Don’t you think that was strange?


I did think that they would at least at one, you know, some time during the night come by and check. Are you okay? Are you know, not stuck here or anything, are you, or anything, you know.


Yeah. Which is, I guess the message to anybody who’s thinking of spending the night here and that is that you really are on your own.

Of course we had our cell phone.


I don’t know if our cell phone will work up here.


Oh. Okay. We had a paper weight that we brought.



And Peter’s confirmed— where does it say “No service”?


“SOS only”.


Oh yeah. Whoops.




There it is.


There may —I don’t see any bars there. But there might be, you might be able to dial “911”.






So keep that in mind, anybody who wants to spend the night in the car or spend the night period.


The thing is, we use T-Mobile. T-Mobile doesn’t have service up here. Whether another carrier might —Sprint or somebody else, I don’t know.




6:10 AM, a few miles down Haleakala, Ursula:

What’s really lucky is we noticed a sign that said “Slow vehicles pull over” and when I did there’s this beautiful sunrise there.

Peter’s taking a picture with Jose’s camera. And we call it “Jose’s camera” because, well, Jose just out of the blue sent us a Canon Powershot one day.

We flooded it and that’s the replacement. We still call it “Jose’s camera”.

Look at that.

Oh, and I just want to document —this is the picture, bring it closer? This is the picture that Jose’s camera did.

Right there.


Haleakala sunrise August 1, 2011, photograph taken with "Jose's camera"

[two other photographs shot with Jose’s camera]

"Book of Honu" cover photograph taken with "Jose's camera"


"TURTLE TRAX" logo taken with "Jose's camera"


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