Observatory Workers, Cultural Practitioners Allowed Access Up Mauna Kea
Updated: July 29, 5:51 p.m.
Some workers have been allowed access to observatories on Mauna Kea in an agreement that also permits Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners to make their way up the mountain, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources said Monday.
“In order to enable at least some access by observatory technicians, limited access has been granted to cultural practitioners blocking the road. The observatories are not parties to this conversation," according to a DLNR statement.
There were no other details provided.
Earlier, protests against construction of a giant telescope halted work at existing observatories on the Big Island, a report said.
Workers at other facilities on the dormant Mauna Kea volcano have been denied access by demonstrators opposed to the Thirty Meter Telescope, Hawaii News Now reported Sunday.
The Mauna Kea Observatories house 13 telescopes that have led to astronomical breakthroughs for more than 40 years, including the first photo of a black hole and the discovery of the first interstellar object in space.
"All we're looking to do is to go up the road and resume what we've been doing for 50 years," said scientist Dr. Doug Simons from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope.
The two-week closure of the access road leading to the summit has resulted in the potential loss of a year's worth of discoveries, said Simons.
The demonstrations have also affected the scientists' interactions with family and community members.
"They have these great bonds within their family and their friends, and now there's a big rift there," said Dr. Jessica Dempsey from the East Asian Observatory and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope.
The lack of access has taken a toll on the telescopes, which need continuous maintenance.
"The technicians who take care of the equipment on a daily basis really care for those instruments like their babies," said Rich Matsuda from the W.M. Keck Observatory. "And so the inability to access the equipment, take care of it on a daily basis, is frustrating, disappointing and difficult for them."
Demonstrators oppose construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope they say could further damage land considered sacred by some Native Hawaiians.