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Diamond Head is the name of a volcanic tuff cone on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Its English name was given by British sailors in the 19th century, who mistook calcite crystals embedded in the rock for diamonds.
The name "Diamond Head" in Hawaiian is Le'ahi meaning "brow (lea) of the yellowfin tuna (ahi)." The trail to the summit of Le'ahi (A.K.A. Diamond Head) was built in 1908 as part of O'ahu's coastal defense system. The 0.8 mile hike from trailhead to the summit is steep and strenuous, gaining 560 feet as it ascends from the crater floor. The walk is a glimpse into the geological and military history of Diamond Head. A concrete walkway built to reduce erosion shifts to a natural tuff surface about 0.2 mile up the trail with many switchbacks traversing the steep slope of the crater interior. The ascent continues up steep stairs and through a lighted 225-foot tunnel to enter the Fire Control Station completed in 1911.
Plan 'B' is to simply go "up the down staircase" and ascend the newer concrete stairs ascending to the left at the base of the forbidding tunnel. I highly recommend this route as it is much, much easier than going through the tunnel. It's lighted now, but still a strenuous climb. As we get older, we usually get wiser too, at least this time I did.
Built on the summit, the station directed artillery fire from batteries in Waikiki and Fort Ruger outside Diamond Head crater. At the summit, bunkers and a huge navigational lighthouse built in 1917 were easily visible.
Copyright 2013 Jon Burch Photography
January 21st, 2013
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