On the day we drove the scenic road to Hana, the National Weather Service issued a weather bulletin. A storm with sustained winds of 30-45 mph with gusts up to 60 was expected to create wind swept waves of 15-20 feet along the east and southern shores of Maui. The public was advised not to surf or swim, and to stay back from the shorelines in these areas.
As we drove along the Road to Hana, we could see big waves crashing into the rugged shoreline creating giant plumes of spray. We would get a up close look at these waves on a dramatic half-mile long finger of lava rock sticking out from the cliff line of the Hana Highway called the Keanae Peninsula. The waves here were enormous. An underwater cliff just offshore allowed these waves to nearly reach the shoreline before rolling and crashing upon the shore. To my wife it was frightening. All she could think of was tsunami. I thought she was being a bit over dramatic. Then later I read a story of a disaster that occurred right where we stood.
In this photo I am standing about 30 feet back from the rocks in the foreground. Normal sea level is lower than those rocks. I cannot overstate how difficult it was to get this photo. The sustained winds in my face were 30-45 mph. The conditions were too dangerous to set up a tripod, so I hand held the camera, trying to keep it steady, while I kept a wary eye out for the rogue wave that would sweep me out to sea. The photo is taken at eye level, but to get the full impact of the height of this wave I should have kneeled down. It was by far the largest waves I had ever witnessed.
Later a read a story of a tragedy that happened on the very strip of land where we were standing.