The Snow Goddess Poli’ahu gently caresses the summit of Mauna Kea with her pure white cloak in the winter and beautifies the mountain with her pink and gold cloak in the summer.
The fascinating summit of the dormant volcano is at 13,803 feet the highest point in the State of Hawaii. Measured from its base on the ocean floor, it rises over 33,000 feet, making it the tallest mountain on earth. Mauna Kea last erupted about 4000 years ago.
This majestic mountain is only about one million years old. In the past glaciers covered the summit of Mauna Kea. Glacial features and a few rock glaciers have remained on the summit until today.
Mauna Kea’s high altitude, dry environment, and stable airflow make it one of the best sites in the world for astronomical observation. The world’s largest collection of international astronomical observatories is located on the summit of Mauna Kea
Mauna Kea also is home to many endangered plants and animals, including the Wekiu bug, the Palila (a rare bird), and the Mauna Kea Silversword.
In Hawaiian mythology Pele, the Hawaiian Fire Goddess and Poli’ahu, the Snow Goddess were said to have been fierce rivals. One well known Hawaiian legend tells the story of Poli’ahu winning a race against the Volcano goddess Pele at the Hawaiian sledding sport called “he’eholua”. Pele was so angry at being defeated that she threw streams of glowing lava at Poli’ahu who calmly brought down storms of snow and froze the molten rock into place. Pele surrendered and never again stepped onto Poli’ahu’s territory on Mauna Kea. The power of fire was pacified by Poli’ahu’s calmness.